Erdogan biopic to hit Turkish screens
ISTANBUL - Shooting will start next week on a feature film tracing the early career of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from his childhood in a poor district in Istanbul to his rise to become the city's mayor, its producers said Friday.
"Reis" ("The Chief") will star well-known Turkish actor Reha Beyoglu as the Turkish strongman and show his life up to 1999, Turkish media quoted producers Evrensel Medya as saying.
The film will take in Erdogan's childhood in the Kasimpasa district on the shores of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, his spell as Istanbul mayor from 1994-1998 and his imprisonment in 1999, producer Ali Avci said, according to the Anatolia news agency.
It will be shot in the town of Yeni Iskele (Trikomo in Greek) in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where a detailed reconstruction of Kasimpasa is being built.
The director is Hudaverdi Yavuz while child actor Batuhan Isik Gurel will play Erdogan as a boy. According to Turkish media reports, well-known Turkish actress Ozlem Balci will play his wife Emine.
"These days we see characters from global cinema like Spiderman and Superman, who have never lived, on the T-shirts of our children and sometimes in books," said Avci.
"But we have our own heroes who are alive! The process of this film began with the thought 'how did they become heroes'?
"Instead of seeing him as the president, people will see Erdogan as a man who grew up in Kasimpasa and lived in Istanbul," Avci added.
Beyoglu described playing the president as a huge responsibility. "Hopefully I will not put myself to shame, and I will give a good portrayal."
With shooting taking place at the breakneck speed typical of Turkish TV series and films, the movie is set to hit the screens as soon as March 25.
Erdogan has dominated Turkey as prime minister from 2003-2014 and now as president. There are already stadiums and institutions named after him, notably in his ancestral region of Rize on the Black Sea and Kasimpasa.
In 1999, he served four months in prison for reciting an Islamist poem, a conviction which also saw him banned from politics until his own party came to power in 2002 and pushed through legal reforms.