Vertical Features: Feelings Are Facts: The Films Of Nazlı Dinçel

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 11, 2019
Vertical Features: Feelings Are Facts: The Films Of Nazlı Dinçel

Turkish-American artist Nazlı Dinçel’s films fits perfectly with themes prevalent within the films that Vertical Features are showing this winter. That theme, by the way, is man, or in her case, woman and nature. There’s a risk of this piece parroting previous ones in this site but thankfully Dinçel contains multitudes. Sexually provocative filmmakers often do. Humans might as well be insignificant in the films of last month’s director Jessica Johnson. But in Dinçel’s films they’re front and center and so are, spoiler alert, their parts. There’s a juvenile aspect that comes with sexual provocation, but the initial shock value of seeing private parts wears off. And when that happens, she makes her audiences unpack the discomfort that comes with seeing those parts.

Showing the naked body in art films also call the inevitable comparison. Mainstream media and pornography have different methods of depicting sexuality but have different methods in doing so. There’s a sense of completeness when we see the naked body in pornography, even when it gets to the close-ups. Those close-ups even work as proof of wholeness, of sexual satisfaction. Pornography is obviously subjective, since each viewer has their choice of how much of the body they want to see. Let’s keep that in mind when it comes to Dinçel’s films which has the opposite effect of pornography. She presents the body while limiting the context of its existence on screen. These parts sometimes don’t come with faces which is integral to what presumably is integral to the typical sexual image.

This piece get to Dinçel’s thematic richness later but that comes after discussing minor missteps even in passable films. One of her earlier works is Her Silent Seaming. This is about the microaggressions she gets from her previous sexual partners. She displays them on film, etching them on 16mm one phrase at a time. She mixes up these inter titles with close-ups of actions like a woman putting on lip stick. The lip stick recalls presumably what women do for ungrateful men who ask for more. Each anecdote is effectively more harrowing as the previous one.

In Seaming, Dinçel recounts the men’s requests which become commands because of the uneven patriarchal power dynamic. There’s a sense of isolation that Dinçel captures here. But her presentation here is reminiscent of grunge music videos. She also borrows heavily of Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage’s style. Both of them, by the way, have different ways of tackling sexuality in their work. The references are welcome, especially since the crowd watching her are probably fans of the two masters. But here they seem decorative, slightly short of how these experimental filmmakers think of the camera.

Dinçel also has a series that she calls Solitary Acts #4, 5, and 6. That has stylistic similarities to Seaming, but here, the inter-titles’ words blend in with the images. It feels heartbreaking to spoil #4 and the long take there feels longer than it probably is. Five is the PG i comparison to the other acts, her voice-over recalls an encounter with a religious grandmother. Six has images of a man masturbating while she recalls a pregnancy that didn’t come to term. The shock value in the series make it passable, as well as the color quality that comes with 16mm film. But there’s an awkward air to an artist revealing personal details about other people and then echoing their complaints callously. Nonetheless, both Dinçel’s references to fragmentation and culture, however, get better in later works.

Dinçel’s later works also justify the collective title that Vertical Features gives to them. Feelings are facts, although some people would tell others the opposite. The title recalls the sensitivity that some ascribe to artists, people of colour, and women, and she is all three. There’s a binary where facts and feelings are dissimilar, coinciding with the public and private, the sexual and the religious. Showing a woman’s face and a person’s private parts are different things in a Western context. Her films, however, shows the latter and juxtaposes it with the former. In doing so she puts both feelings, the private, and the sexual to the forefront.

There’s a shot in a film that Dinçel entitles Instructions on How to Make a Film. This site will likely not show that specific shot or ones like it. It’s a shot of what seems like a semi-erect penis which surrounds with daisies. The daisies reinforce an enfant terrible streak in Dinçel. Shots like this comment on the presentation of the male body under a subjective gaze, male or female. Showing this anticipates the regular reactions to seeing penises, which mostly exist in personal or shared photos without the flora. While there are some who welcome the sight of such parts, others will react negatively. Which begs the question of why both reactions exist.

It also calls into question such images that are, despite squeamish reactions towards them, proliferating online. Pornography is democratic now, and anyone can consume and create such content. There’s another ambivalence to such content, that these images are ideal yet there’s always someone criticizing how imperfect they are. Dinçel’s tight close-ups show the occasional torso like in Shape of a Surface. There a faceless light skinned man is basking under sunlight. But most of the time, she doesn’t show what kind of body type she and her models have. Most of the time audiences see of them are their size.

Dinçel also accompanies those kind of shots in her films with original or cover versions of pop hits. At first this seems like an evisceration of those hits and their singers, selling the same sexuality that she is. But it’s also reminiscent of how depressing pop music is, and her examples have penitent lyrics. Like A Prayer in Instructions is an obvious example, one about a woman falling from grace. This song came out when Madonna was switching from bubble gum pop to gospel pop. Madonna’s returning to nature and addressing God which to her seems interchangeable. Audiences can read what is presumably Dinçel’s rendition of the song to either reach for the same legitimacy. She could be mocking that legitimacy as well. However each audience member might interpret her style, she deserves a big screen and an equally big crowd.

Vertical Features presents Feelings Are Facts: The Films Of Nazlı Dinçel at Jackman Hall on Tuesday, February 12th at 7PM. This retrospective is the second of four that graces Jackman Hall once a month this winter. It also comes just before Valentine’s Day, which seems appropriate. Tickets are $7 or $5 for the underemployed, whatever that means. For more information go to

  • Release Date: 2/12/2019
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');