Kutluğ Ataman (born 1961 in Istanbul, Turkey) is a filmmaker and contemporary artist. He lives in Istanbul.
Kutluğ Ataman received his school education in Istanbul before doing his university studies in the US. His interest in film started an early age, and led him to do film studies at UCLA where he graduated with an MFA in 1988. He established himself as a film-maker with Serpent’s Tale (Karanlık Sular) (1994), and has gone on to make two further features: Lola+Bilidikid (1998) and 2 Girls (2005). His most recent film is Journey to the Moon" (2009). In 1997 he was invited to take part in the Istanbul Biennial with the long, documentary-style work kutluğ ataman's semiha b. unplugged". This was the start of an art career which has run in parallel with his career as a film-maker. He has won many awards for his films, was nominated for the 2004 Turner Prize, won the Carnegie Prize in the same year and the Capital Abraaj Prize in 2009. In 2011 he received the European Cultural Foundation's Princess Margriet Award. His works are in collections such as MoMA New York and the Tate, and have also been shown in the major Biennials, including Venice and São Paulo, and at Documenta.
Kutluğ Ataman's works primarily document the lives of marginalized individuals, examining the ways in which people create and rewrite their identities through self-expression, blurring the line between reality and fiction.
His films have been described as combining documentary-style filmmaking with the intimacy of the home-movie genre.
Kutluğ Ataman's first feature, Serpent’s Tale (Karanlık Sular) (1994) is a drama set against the beauty of a decaying Istanbul. Scripted and directed by Ataman, this dark murder story grips its audience, taking us into a world where old and new confront. Critics praised the way in which Ataman successfully encapsulates the crisis of contemporary Turkish culture through this skilfully crafted and visually rich film. Serpent’s Tale brought Ataman rapid acclaim and was invited to numerous festivals, from Montreal to Shanghai. Its many awards include Best Film, Director and Screenplay from the Turkish Film Critics Association at the Istanbul International Film Festival, plus the Jury Prize at the Ankara International Festival.
Ataman’s second feature Lola+Bilidikid (1998) was selected to open the Panorama section of the 49th International Berlin Film Festival. This fast moving story is set in Berlin, with main characters from the city’s Turkish community. Ataman’s film is strong mixture of humour and violence, tackling a society’s racial and sexual identity prejudices head on. As well as its successful commercial release in Germany, Turkey, the US and in other territories, the film was a major hit at festivals. It won awards in Turin, Oslo, and Istanbul and was given the Best Film prize at New York’s The New Festival, and the Jury Special Prize at the Berlin Festival.
His third feature 2 Girls (2005) is an adaptation of Perihan Mağden’s novel İki Genç Kızın Romanı with screenplay and direction by Ataman. The two teenage girl protagonists, with their contrasting characteristics and social backgrounds, form close bonds, with strong sexual undertones. Istanbul is again the backdrop for the film – a more stark, contemporary urban landscape than in Serpent’s Tale. Ataman directs a well- paced and entertaining look at the fragility of the relationship of the teenagers, and of their dreams and hopes. The film was a commercial and critical success and confirmed Ataman’s position in the top rank of the leading Turkish filmmakers. He was awarded Best Director and Best Film prizes for 2 Girls at both the Ankara and Antalya Film Festivals, and Best Film at the Asian Film Festival in India.
His more recent film, Journey to the Moon (2009), was shown in the Official Selection at the 2009 International Istanbul Film Festival. It forms part of the Mesopotamian Dramaturgies series of visual works, first exhibited in Linz, Austria in early 2009. The film is set in a remote village in Erzincan province, Eastern Turkey. The quest of four villagers to travel to the moon is documented with the use of found black-and-white photos and the aid of a local narrator. A wide range of established Turkish intellectuals offer their views of the events that took place in 1957. The resulting film curiously becomes an in-depth study of contemporary Turkish culture, rather than an historical documentary. The film was selected to the "Perspectives" Section at the 31st Moscow International Film Festival, 19–28 June 2009. It was screened at the BFI 53rd London Film Festival in October 2009.
Kutluğ Ataman was Chair of the Jury at the Istanbul International Film Festival in April 2009.
Ataman entered the art world first in 1997 when he took part in the 5th International Istanbul Biennial where he presented "kutluğ ataman's semiha b. unplugged" a long-form documentary of the opera diva Semiha Berksoy. Ataman was then invited to participate in the 48th Venice Biennale where he presented Women Who Wear Wigs which features four women - a revolutionary whose face remained obscured, well-known journalist and breast cancer survivor Nevval Sevindi, an anonymous devout Muslim student, and an activist and transsexual prostitute. At the prestigious Documenta 11 exhibition in Kassel, Germany Ataman presented The 4 Seasons of Veronica Read a work that was also included in Days Like These, the Tate Triennial Exhibition of Contemporary British Art 2003 at the Tate Britain. He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2004 where he showed Twelve. In the same year he won the prestigious Carnegie Prize for his work Küba, a 40-channel installation filmed in a poor enclave by that name in Istanbul, in 2005.
Other notable solo exhibitions include Mesopotamian Dramaturgies at the Lentos Künstmuseum in Austria; fff at Thomas Dane Gallery, London; Paradise and Küba at the Vancouver Art Gallery; Paradise at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; De-Regulation With the Work of Kutluğ Ataman at MuHKA in Belgium; Küba at the Sorting Office in London as part of Artangel commissions; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and Long Streams at the Serpentine Gallery in London. His most recent solo exhibition, a mid-career retrospective was The Enemy Inside Me at Istanbul Modern (Nov 2010 - March 2011). Group exhibitions include the Moscow Biennial; Without Boundary, Seventeen Ways of Looking, MOMA New York; Documentary Fictions, Caixa Forum, Barcelona; Testimonies: between Fiction and Reality, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece and Manifesta 2, Luxembourg. Ataman is currently working on his new movie, South Facing Wall. The project is sponsored by Limak Holding.
His works are in major international collections, including MoMA New York, the Tate, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, the Dimitris Daskalopoulos Collection, Athens and the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh.