About "Who Killed Shadows"
As a piece of art, the film "Who Killed Shadows" is really a brilliant one. I think whether it succeeds to recreate the cultural life of early Ottomans is in part related to what the author intended to do. Because the period in which the film takes place is known by a very little group of scholars through a few historical documents, the accuracy of representations are open to debate. How far the early Ottomans had preserved their old Turkic traditions in a geography which is in the neighborhood of Byzantines and over which Islamic ways of life and ruling spread gradually. How far they were transformed by the encounter with rooted Byzantine culture and as recent Muslims to what extent they varied from the Islamic orthodoxy. All possible answers to these questions constitute the different point of views about the foundation of Ottoman Empire. I think such a variety of answers provide the author with a sort of freedom while dealing with the problems of recreation of a cultural sphere.
He posited himself out of the progress or degeneration in time dichotomy. According to me, the main framework of the film is the question of power and of self-interest. The author sees seeking power and interest as the main motives of all actions whether in past or present. But I think he dismisses that the notions of power and self-interest may themselves be historical; they may appear in different ways in different times. The story is plotted around these assumptions and the pieces of historical facts were chosen and put together for the purpose of showing how the world does not change or more specifically how "we" do not change. The film is an enterprise of re-writing the history of victims of power networks and of interest groups, Havicat and Karagöz, whose story was somehow tamed. In this sense, the film lacks the historicity for its seeking confirmation to the universalistic assumptions related to the author's present-day perspective. According to the author, with Hacivat and Karagöz, freedom, culture of critique, a lively humor etc. were also killed in these lands. But on the other hand, the film is trying to show how perceptions of Islam and being Muslim may change over time. How present-day idealizations of past may be ahistorical. In this sense, it raises an oppositional voice against the idealizing perceptions of Islam in the formations years of Ottoman society and at that point, historicity comes into the scene. I think the author is loyal to Kafadar's conception of bicolage; that is heterodoxy of the early Ottoman state and culture. In adaptation process of Ottomans to the cultural environment, cultural and administrational element with different origins, Byzantine, Islamic or Turkic, shaped them. The result was a synthesis.
The film takes place in Bursa in 1330, in the time of Orhan Beg. In that time, Ottomans were already Muslims. What is important, however, is what being Muslims meant to them. Kafadar says before the 1337 inscription, the first known self-written document of Ottomans, an endowment deed from 1324 shows that "the budding beglik had been already touched by the so-called higher Islamic ruling traditions." This means that Ottomans was on the way of transformation from being warrior nomads to a settled and organized state with its mentality and institutions. In the film, we see this transformation by the coming of Kadı Pervane who had escaped from the wrath of Mongols. While he looked at the city with his men, he said that the Ottomans, far way the Mongols, Arabs and Persians, were enlarging silently. In fact he was running after his own interest and Orhan's beglik was suitable for him to gain power and wealth. That's why he had chosen to come there according to the film, there was no higher ideal; he did not gaza ideal as did the Turkic people who were recent Muslims. Following his arrival and his acceptance as a high officer by Nilufer, a sort of bigotry came to Bursa. Even though he was received by a woman, Nilufer Hatun, he criticized, in the name of Islam, women's presence in public life just like men and their functions as the protectors of the city when men were absent. Ibn Batuta mentions such an egalitarian character of early Ottoman society. He says that he was surprised by the women's warmth when he met them. The representation of the relations between men and women and of women in public life in the film is somehow consistent with Batuta's image of Ottoman society. However, as far as I have read, Batuta does not mention whether or not women of the time use headscarf or that sort of thing. In the film, no high rank women use it, but among the passes-by there are some wearing scarf-like things. I am not sure that this is about a distinction between culture of folk and of the rulers. It rather seems the author put the symbol of headscarf and Pervane's critics of women in public life at the same side and the egalitarianism at the opposite of them. The woman without headscarf, as a symbol of freedom of woman, seems to point out the continuity of Turkic way of life in a recently Muslim society.
Goffman says that in that time the prize of being Muslim was not social, but political and military. Maybe we might add the economical one when we think of the film. We see a row of people who wanted to be Muslims for various reasons. Most of them chose Islam for taking advantage of being a member of Ahi organization, as Karagöz did. Ahi organization was just an interest group, an access to power in the film. They stole for the stone of mosque to build their tekke. They had one piece of the diamond probably because they had an agreement with the Kadı Pervane. Actually they were sufi dervishes who led the conversion of nomadic Turks to Islam. Their perception of Islam was a synthesis of Islam and their previous shamanic religion. They represent a heterodox Islamic tradition and they had their own rituals. Batuta's impression of the organization is one of the first hand information about it. He mentions their hospitality, how they organized life and their rituals. There is no mention of all these in the film. All in all, what the film recreates is really a lively scene. The human as a natural being with his passions is at the center. In that sense the film misses the possibility of historicity and contextuality of the self. On the other hand, I think it rearranges Kafadar's bricolage and it presents one of the possible answers to the question who we were 700 hundred years ago.