By Michele Calderon
In August 2019, I was sitting at home one evening flipping through movie options on Netflix and could have my pick of shows, as my husband had announced he was going to watch European soccer in another room. Netflix -- who “knows” I like period drama -- was suggesting a Turkish series called “Kurt Seyit ve Sura”. I had seen this suggestion before, and had ignored it. Twice. It just did not appeal for some reason…and it featured 46 episodes! I felt I did not have the “time” for such a commitment, something I laugh about now. Repeated reminders seem to work and, that night, I clicked on it almost against my will. I decided not to give it more than five minutes as I was certain that I would not like it. How ruthless of me.
First ‘meeting’ with Kurt Seyit
The opening credits roll down against the backdrop of one of the most romantic musical scores I have ever heard. My ears prick up, and I wonder who is the composer of that wonderful score. The first images appear on screen. A dark, desolate, snowy landscape in a war-torn area. The sound of gun shots and cannon. I think to myself this is going to be another one of these brutal and gory battle scenes. And I almost click Stop with my remote. At the very last second, a tall soldier walking in the snow turns around and then throws himself onto the ground. And I sit there speechless, looking at a pair of mesmerizing blue eyes dominating a frost- bitten face, under a black furry hat. I realize that I have forgotten to breathe for a second, such is the magnetism and powerful attraction of that look. As the scene continues, I see the young actor’s charisma on full display – his commanding presence, his ability to portray anger, delivered by one of the most beautifully rich, deep voices I have ever heard.
Later, as First Lieutenant Seyit Eminof is getting ready for the ball in Petrograd, putting on his dress uniform, hat, and a ring featuring the head of a wolf (Kurt in Turkish), I see a different side of the actor. A naturally elegant, handsome beyond belief leading man of the kind I have not seen on screen in a very long time. He arrives at the ball and crosses paths with a beautiful young aristocrat named Alexandra (Sura) Verjenskaya. He gives her a look so intense, along with a slight tilt of his head, as if in disbelief that such a gorgeous creature could actually appear before him, that right then and there I am completely sold. My five minute rule long forgotten, this was the magnetic moment in the show that hooked me into the wonderful world of Turkish drama.
Mesmerized by the acting, I actually take a pause from watching episode 1 to go online and Google the name of this young Turkish actor I had never heard of: Kivanç Tatlitug. To a non-Turkish person, it felt like a mouthful but I found on YouTube a short video of the actor himself explaining how to pronounce his first name, and I smiled as I realized it was actually quite simple. Later, I was tickled to read that his name in Turkish meant “pride”.
As I continued watching, Kivanç went on to deliver a tour-de-force portrayal of Kurt Seyit Eminof in this series based on a true story. In turn tender, seductive, and so sensual (with barely a word and very few gestures) notably in some bathing scenes, and equally outstanding at displaying bravery, aggression, and emotional pain. I sobbed watching Kivanç portray Seyit’s grief at the tragic death of both his parents, in such a no-holds barred raw performance that I had rarely, if ever, seen in my entire life. And this is in addition to his unparalleled athletic skills in horse riding, fighting, and more. In short, he had it all.
Such was the hold this character had on me that, after the credits had rolled down on the end of this first class dramatic series production, featuring an outstanding cast, locations, directing, costumes, and music, that in the days after, I realized that I was experiencing true withdrawal pains. In spite of the bittersweet ending, and my sadness at the fact that Seyit and Sura did not stay together, Kurt Seyit had become so real to me, that I just could not let him go. But actually, it was Kivanç I could not let go. I just had to see him in other shows and I realized that I had become “Kivançed”. In the months since first watching Kurt Seyit ve Sura I have learned it is a known phenomenon among other viewers, leading to the coining of the term by his legion of fans.
I learned that he started out as a model, had been acting (and yes, still modeling) for nearly 15 years and was very successful in Turkey, around the Middle East and parts of Europe as well. How is it possible, I thought, that he is not better known here in North America? While pursuing this unresolved question, I found my way to the Kivanc Tatlitug North America forum (KTNA) on Facebook, and others on social media where I found an extraordinary community of like-minded fans, intelligent and thoughtful people, several of whom I now communicate with on a daily basis, share laughs with, and who I feel have become my friends. This for a woman in her 60s who has always been leery of social media, was definitely not a joiner of online groups, and had never been the fan girl type (except for the Beatles, but that was almost a right of passage for any young girl growing up in the 60s !)
I have since remained captivated watching most of Kivanç’s movies and series including “Kuzey Güney”, in which his physical and emotional transformation into the character of Kuzey Tekinoglu is nothing short of miraculous. This is a series featuring 80 episodes, which now makes a mockery of my fear of commitment to long television series! I am still working through his body of work, which is quite extensive for such a relatively young actor.
Gateway to more
For me, it did not stop there. Kivanc is an exceptional ambassador for his country. I have become a lover of all things Turkish, so entranced with the Turkish culture, the food, the varied landscapes and rich history of Turkey depicted in these shows, that I have started learning the Turkish language. Although I had previously been aware of actor- writer- director Yilmaz Erdogan, I have discovered many other world-class talents including composer/singer extraordinaire Toygar Isikli to whom we owe most of the music on Kivanç's shows including Kurt Seyit ve Sura. Other singers and musicians, such as Sertab Erener and Mehmet Erdem.
I am particularly thrilled to discover how many female screenwriters and directors are producing incredible work in the prolific Turkish drama industry- such as Hilal Saral who directed Kivanç in several of his series. This is something we still don’t see enough of in Hollywood. I am looking forward to one day visiting Istanbul, and walking along the Bosphorus, stopping at a seaside restaurant for a delicious Turkish breakfast (kavahlti) accompanied by Turkish çay (tea).
So yes, Kurt Seyit has changed my life, and for the better. I will always be thankful to this amazing character and, through him, to my dear (sevgili) Kivanç Tatlitug, an extraordinary, unique artist and human being who enriches my life each and every day and has kept me dreaming.
Originally from Paris, France Michele Calderon lived for over three decades in Washington D.C. while raising a son and pursuing a career in business development and international development consulting. She now resides with her husband on the Eastern Shore of Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to writing, her passions include reading, film watching and analyzing, spending time in nature and traveling.
(C) Copyright by Kivanc Tatlitug North America and Michele Calderon
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