A Literature Review of Historiography and Historical Research (1946-2020) into Cinema in the Late Ottoman and Early Republican Eras

The review opens with a snapshot of the area for the researchers of film history,
dwells briefly on its problems and constraints, and describes the diversity and
scope of the research object. Then it moves on to defining its time frame (1946
-2020). The review covers the selected works which are representative of the
patterns that emerged in the film historiography. Beginning with the 1960s,
preconceptions which reveal ideological inclinations, repetition of the available
sources without validating them, and a strong stress on the “firsts” and origins
were the main characteristics of the early phase of the film historiography. By the
turn of the 2000s, a gradual transformation is observed. Producing new sources
through digitization gained pace and documented evidence became more and
more prominent. Revising its urge to appropriate what is Ottoman into
Turkishness, it sought ways of stripping off its ethnic and nationalistic distortions
and adopting a more embracing approach to Ottoman history. In addition to that,
instead of concentrating on films alone, it put under scrutiny other aspects of
cinema; cinema-going, industry, production-distribution-exhibition chain,
emerging film culture, audience reception, etc. However, conceiving
Historiography as solely consisting of transcribing manuscripts from the Arabic
script to Latin persists. Moreover, it is observed that sensational discoveries (the
“eureka!” syndrome) of new findings are still favored at the expense of connecting
them with other systemic elements unable to provide context thus failing to
contribute to knowledge. The younger generation of film historians with the
necessary skills and knowledge is growing. Besides, recent developments in Digital
Humanities are expected to expand to research in the area. We can foresee shortly,
new connections, new encounters with new possibilities, offering new horizons to
film history and historiography.

Nezih Erdoğan
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