Turkey’s Oscar entry “Miracle in Cell No. 7” made waves in the country when it first debuted, just as the South Korean film of the same name, from which it was adapted, did in 2013. Turns out, the Korean filmmakers embraced the adaptation with open arms.
“When I first watched the South Korean version, I also thought about my childhood, my father and my family,” producer Saner Ayar said during TheWrap’s International Screening Series. “And in fact, my outstanding issues with my father and everyone actually questioned their parenting skills. They thought about how they could be a better parent. There was sort of this enlightenment that everyone felt. So when we were actually making this movie, what we wanted was that when actually people watched it in the theater, they would not want to go to a dinner with their spouses, but instead they would want to run back to their houses and hug their children.”
He added: “That was really the feeling we wanted to evoke in people. And when we saw all the tweets, all the comments on social media, I think we succeeded in doing so. I like how, on social media, you can see people who compare the versions. Basically, everybody who liked the South Korean film also likes the Turkish film and, and vice versa.”
Ayar said that they contacted the filmmakers of the South Korean film to invite them to Turkey to watch the Turkish version of the film: “They came here and we watched it together. They loved it and during the premiere, we were actually hugging each other with the producer and crying together. That was amazing.”
“Miracle in Cell No. 7” was the most-watched film in Turkish theaters in 2019 with more than 5.3 million admissions — after that, it topped the charts on Netflix. Likewise, the South Korean version was the eighth film in Korean cinema history to break 10 million ticket sales, even with no big stars and a modest budget. It also won multiple awards.
Turkey’s “Miracle in Cell No. 7” stars a mentally challenged man, Memo (played by Aras Bulut Iynemli), who lives with his young daughter and his grandmother on a hillside. His world is forever changed when he is falsely accused of murdering a girl.
The film takes place during a very specific timeframe to bind to a historic time in the country, director Mehmet Ada Oztekin told TheWrap.
“We had picked the dates specifically, as you said,” he told TheWrap. “On July 14, 2004 in Turkey, the death penalty was abolished and also taking into account Ova’s age, and the second date that we have also specifically picked was April 1983 and the military government ended the same year in November in 1983.”
Iynemli faced some challenges preparing for his role, because he had to play a character who was physically 30 years old, but mentally had the perception of a 7-year-old.
“Of course, I was very curious about it and for this reason, I worked with many experts in this area,” he said. “I worked with many acting coaches and I definitely worked very closely with my director in order to reflect this to the audience … I wanted to understand how it is to be in the perception or intellectual level of a 7-year-old child. And when I’m getting prepared for a role, I certainly always try to understand the rhythm of the character, but this time, this character did not have an ordinary rhythm. As you know, children have a different rhythm than us: their enthusiasm, their curiosity. They live emotions always at the edge. So when Memo cries, he made everyone cry. When Memo laughed, he made everyone laugh. So physically, everything was very explicit about him.”
Watch the full interview above.