Turkey’s first woman movie director, Cahide Sonku, was remembered Wednesday on the 40th anniversary of her passing for her contributions to Turkish cinema.
Born in Yemen in 1916, Sonku had strong connections to the Ottoman Empire.
Her father, Capt. Necati Bey, was an Ottoman officer, and her grandfather was 7th Army Commander Ibrahim Pasha.
Sonku's family came to Istanbul after the start of World War I, when Yemen seceded from the Ottoman Empire.
Her first stage performance was in secondary school when she played the role of a fairy in a play. At 16, she entered Darulbedayi, an Ottoman imperial theatre.
After getting through auditions, she began working as a trainee in 1932.
Her first claim to fame was the movie Batakli Damin Kizi Aysel (Damned Daughter Aysel), in 1934. After this, she became a known face in Darulbedayi, appearing in lead roles in plays by Shaw, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and Chekhov.
In 1937 Sonku married actor Talat Artemel.
When director Seyfi Havaeri fell sick while filming a movie in 1949, Sonku completed the film, which she was already starring in.
With this, her directorial debut began.
The famed actress in 1950 founded her own company, Sonku Film, and directed the movie Vatan ve Namik Kemal (Homeland and Namik Kemal) with her husband.
It was nominated as the best movie by a local magazine, and Sonku was named the best actress.
Sonku was the lead actress, producer, and director of the movie Awaited Son in 1953. Turkish singer Zeki Muren also played his first role in the movie.
The movie had a record budget of 100,000 Turkish liras and earned 1 million liras, going down in the history of Turkish cinema as the first film produced by a woman.
However, this movie was the beginning of the end for her. A fire broke out in the Sonku Film offices in 1963, burning everything with it.
The heroine took to the bottle in its aftermath and so began her tragic financial difficulties.
In 1979, she was recognized by the Cinema Writers Association service award.
Two years later, in 1981, she died at the age of 65 after falling ill.