Friday, 31 January 2014

Mental health charity to collaborate with Turkish Cypriot film director

Rhiannon Drake plays Holly Streeter in 'The Girl That Lived' by Türkân Ahmet

A short film by a young Turkish Cypriot from Stevenage will be used by mental health charity MIND as part of its awareness week in May this year. 26-year-old Türkân Ahmet wrote and directed The Girl That Lived about Holly Streeter, a troubled young woman suffering from schizophrenia who ends up living alone on the streets.

Türkân was inspired to write the story after reading an article about schizophrenia a couple years ago. After extensive research and drawing on resources provided by mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, she developed a script for her 17-minute film.

The Girl That Lived 

Working with Apex Studios, a local production company, Türkân filmed The Girl That Lived in Stevenage in September 2013. All the cast are professional actors or who work extensively in amateur dramatics. The film’s narrator, Iain Stuart Robertson, has a long list of credits in film, theatre and TV, including a nine-year stint on The Bill. His voice provides a strong contrast to Rhiannon Drake’s, who plays the main character Holly.

Türkân told T-VINE: “Being from a Turkish background, I’ve often experienced people’s prejudice and stereotyping of Muslims and I wanted to combine this with those who suffer from mental health problems. The first thing I wanted to do was ensure that my main character was not someone who the audience would typically associate with suffering from a mental health issue, which is why I chose the lead actress I did.”
The films narrator Iain Stuart Robertson recording with Türkân Ahmet 

The film starts six months after Holly had received a book titled The Girl That Lived by The Storyteller. Keeping this book by her side as she wonders the streets, she feels her life is being 'dictated' by The Storyteller (the film’s narrator). Viewing the situation as a power struggle, Holly is unable to think rationally: who or what is The Storyteller, and what is the link to her and his motive for wanting to take control? Eventually, overcome by frustration and an inability to comprehend the world around her, Holly makes a desperate attempt to rid herself of The Storyteller.

Challenging the 'stigma' around mental health

Once it aired online last autumn, The Girl That Lived quickly started to make waves. MIND heard about the film and contacted Türkân to ask if they could screen it as part of their ‘Secret Cinema’ series of events in 2014. In December, staff from her local MIND group, Mid Herts, screened the film as part of a networking and fundraising evening. The charity is now working to get the film into local schools as part of its Mental Health Awareness week in May 2014. Türkân also wants to engage her own ethnic community, hoping the film can help challenge mental health's ‘taboo’ status among British Turks too.

Türkân said, “I hope that people enjoy the film and take away something from Holly’s life. When the [local] newspaper ran the first article about me doing this film, I had so many people contacting me just to simply say ‘thanks for doing it, thanks for talking about mental health and for raising awareness’. I knew mental health is still seen as ‘taboo’ and it does not get nearly enough coverage as it should, but I had no idea just how strongly the ‘stigma’ of it is still affecting people in this day and age.”

“The heartfelt messages and stories made me open my eyes even more, and even though I cried when I read them, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how mental health not only affects the sufferer, but also family and friends around them. I knew there was no going back with making this film. I feel that by getting as many people watching it as possible, we will be giving a teeny tiny bit back to all those who have suffered, either directly or indirectly, and who have had to deal with the ‘stigma’ of mental health.”

Türkân successfully auditioned to join the National Youth Theatre aged just 17

As a teenager, Türkân loved to perform and she successfully auditioned to join the National Youth Theatre aged just 17. For several years prior to this, she had been writing scripts. At 15, she was a runner-up in a national competition run by Blue Peter to write an episode of Grange Hill.

The talented Turkish Cypriot continues to write and direct. One of her short films was screened at Sundance London 2012 film festival and in 2013, her short story, From London with Love, was published in an anthology of New Writing and is currently available in local bookshops. Türkân is currently working on a range of new projects include a comedy webseries, a radio play and a television sitcom.

You can watch The Girl That Lived here: The Girl That Lived on YouTube

If you would like to contact Türkân, she is on Twitter, @turkanah, or email her:  

No comments:

Post a Comment