Camp Turkey, established in year 2000, is the
world's newest camp licensed by the US Space Camp
It is located in Izmir, an ancient port
city on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Its mission
is to excite and engage young people in the fields
of science, technology and space exploration.
Camp Turkey was conceived as an integral part
of the Aegean Free Zone, the first privately developed
free zone and industrial park in Turkey. The Aegean Free Zone is currently inhabited
by 350 international high-tech companies and is
home to 10,000 employees.
Camp Turkey is part of a bigger global vision that
strives to facilitate international peace and friendship.
Established in the year 2002, Global Friendship
Through Space Education is a non-profit organization
based in California.
It brings together motivated young people
from different countries and teaches them to accept
their differences and learn to work together. The
six-day international summer camp is supervised
by English speaking teachers and counselors and
focuses on developing leadership skills, teamwork,
creativity, and cross-cultural understanding.
Friendship Through Space Education
Filmmaker's Diary: The Making of the Space Camp Turkey
July 11, 2003
I arrived in Izmir to make a short promotional
film about Space Camp Turkey.
As I hopped into a cab at the airport, the memories
of my childhood visits to this beautiful city came rushing
back. I recalled an enchanting carriage ride alongside the turquoise
waters of the Aegean Sea and immediately decided to
take a quick tour before heading out to the Space Camp.
To my astonishment, the city has completely reinvented
itself in the last twenty years.
Gone is the relatively quiet and sleepy town
of yesteryear, and in its place is a bustling town filled
with energy and all the while radiating a relaxed atmosphere. Imposing tall buildings adorn this seaside
boardwalk cafes are crowded with young professionals
and families enjoying the nice weather.
The entire city seems enticing and charming in
a way only a Mediterranean city can be.
we drove to Gaziemir, the location of Space Camp Turkey,
I was impressed by the industrial developments along
the highway. Behind the gates of the Aegean Free Zone
luscious green trees line the streets where the cluster
of modern buildings stretch into the distance.
The Free Zone appears to be an oasis in the midst
of a rapidly developing area. Illuminated by the fading sun, the Space
Camp looks inviting as my cab pulls up to its entrance.
through the sparklingly clean corridors, I observed
the Astronaut simulators, labs, classrooms, observatory,
and colorful dormitories. The place is bigger than I expected. And the large labs with noisy simulators
will pose a sound challenge for us because of the bad
I am excited about starting the shoot tomorrow.
July 12, 2003
I was ushered into a large dormitory with comfortable
beds and fell asleep immediately.
This morning when I woke up, I found out that I was
sharing the room with other women including two teachers
Pam Leestma from California and Neme Alperstein from
haven't shared a room with teachers since a field trip
in high school.
However, Neme and Pam are incredibly friendly
and tremendously enthusiastic. As I dream about my husband's delicious pot of coffee, Pam
She is so excited to be in Turkey that she cannot
project was put together at the last minute and I ended
up relying on a crew that I had not worked with before.
I actually enjoy working with new people; it
keeps the process of filmmaking exciting.
As I had hoped, Cihan, the cinematographer, and
Devrim, the sound operator, are extremely professional,
efficient, energetic and enthusiastic. I am also grateful that the production assistant, Ayshe, a
Turkish-American from Los Angeles, is very bright and
reliable. Our intern, Melissa, another Turkish-American
is a lovable and mature teenager. Having worked with all kinds of crews and difficult personalities,
I am truly blessed with a wonderful crew.
have many challenges facing us, mainly the shortage
of time and manpower, the enormous size of the Space
camp and the countless activities we have to film with
only one camera.
My goal is to capture the essence of the Space
Camp and in order to achieve that I have to capture
the essence of the student campers.
Easier said than done.
couple of the children immediately grab my attention. One of them is Isilay Davaz, a Turkish-American girl from the
DC area. She
is about eight years old, with a beautiful round face,
intelligent brown eyes and a mature demeanor that hides
her shyness. Isilay
is already an accomplished pilot and much publicized
flying mascot in Turkey and the US.
Since infancy she has been raised to become a
pilot, thus her biggest goal is to become an astronaut
and fly with the American and Turkish flags. She talks like an adult and says things
like, "flying is in my blood" with disconcerting earnestness. Driven, obedient and almost too mature
for her age, Isilay reminds me of myself as a young
girl. Her innocence and seriousness intrigue
she let her hair down a bit and become a child again
during the week?
July 13, 2003
atmosphere is contagious.
As I prepare to film the children, I can't
help but try out some of the space simulators and
get in touch with my own inner child.
filming, I interview the international teachers who
have accompanied their teams.
Beth Athanassiadis is with one of the Greek teams.
I take an immediate liking to her.
She is a gentle and beautiful woman with radiant
eyes. We talk about Greece, Turkey, and women's rights
and of course, the common bond that ties us all together,
a long day of filming, at night we join the other adults
in the garden. On this moonlit night, sitting under an
ancient fig tree, we share stories about our lives. The group is made up of Americans, Turks, Greeks, Israelis,
Cypriots and Azeris.
Sipping Turkish tea, we chat about politics,
art and movies. For a moment my goal-oriented life in Los Angeles fades away.
The gentle breeze of this Mediterranean night
reminds me of the real reason why I decided to become
a film and theatre director.
I was a teenager growing up in Istanbul, I used to love
reading Anton Chekhov. Even though his plays took place in 19th
century Russia, I could relate to the hopes, dreams,
triumphs and disappointments of his characters.
From an early age, I found out that art, music,
literature and movies transcended time and geography.
we, a diverse group of educators, scientists, parents,
filmmakers, sit together on this balmy night in Izmir,
we all realize that we actually have much more in common
than we ever imagined.
July 14, 2003
conducting an interview, it dawns on me that there are
many similarities between the Space Camp film and the
East/West documentary I am working on as a sequel to
my award-winning film, Searching for Paradise.
its essence, the Space Camp experience is all about
broadening the horizons of young people, offering them
a chance to strengthen their identities and giving them
tools to expand their minds and hearts. I have always been very interested in the themes of personal
growth and expansion.
Searching for Paradise,
was a lyrical documentary about my own cultural identity
and personal growth told in the context of East/West
cultural reconciliation. My new film, Where East Meets West is about the compelling lives of women
who juggle Eastern and Western cultures and forge their
own unique identities despite societal restrictions.
thinking about my next project, I end up meeting a compelling
person, Professor Nur Mardin.
She is visiting the Camp with a woman's organization
(WINPEACE). The Camp is truly a vibrant place with many interesting people
coming and going.
this very moment, I feel glad that I am in Izmir making
a film about Space Camp Turkey.
Dead tired, I fall asleep, looking forward to
being woken up in the morning by Pam's singing.
July 15, 2003
We rush from one event to another in a
mad dash to film everything we can.
We have finished most of our interviews with
the teachers and counselors but we still have to do
more interviews with children, which is hard work. In my experience, children require honest
and genuine direction so that they can trust the director
and be themselves in front of the camera.
is an older group consisting of Greek and Turkish teenagers,
which is a part of Women's Peace Initiative Now. Their
workshop is not the norm at Space Camp, however, this
particular week, Space Camp happens to host their conflict
resolution workshop. For hundreds of years, Greeks and
Turks have had a precarious relationship at best; therefore,
the group's mission is highly important.
To my surprise, the Turkish high school involved
in this event happens to be my alma mater, Robert College.
I end up spending some time with them and filming
their conflict resolution sessions. Both Greek and Turkish
teenagers are perceptive, open and honest. They work on interesting concepts such as "how the
Turks view themselves and how the Turks think the Greeks
view them". Each group does a basic presentation on this issue. The Turkish teenagers say that Turks view
themselves as patriotic, friendly, hospitable and
They feel that Greeks view Turks as barbarians,
angry, and uncivilized. Both sides express their views with complete
work of these teenagers encourages me since my new film
East/West, a meditation on identity, perception
and women's journey of growth in an East/West society,
delves into similar themes.
I end up striking a conversation with three of
the Turkish students, Aysu, Melike and Orcun and decide
to interview them in Istanbul.
of the Greek WIN-PEACE students, Steven, impresses me
tremendously. He is articulate, charming, thoughtful
and funny. He
gives me a great interview for the Space Camp film.
I just know that in the editing room, I will use this
He tells me that this experience has inspired
him to become a politician so he can end the political
animosity between Greece and Turkey. His younger brother Bill, who is quieter,
is also at the international camp. Bill is a young scientist in the making. He is excited to have made Turkish friends
who share his interests in science.
become the "friendly
I realize how much I enjoy working with young people.
interviewing Isilay again, I see that in the last couple
of days she has changed and blossomed into a happy child.
She is less serious now and much more engaged
with the other kids. As we finish the interview, she runs off
to play a game with her newfound friends.
working long days, we finally get a chance to go to
Izmir for dinner. Strolling along the cafes and shops, my
film crew and I feel very happy with our work of the
last days. We end up picking a nice kebab restaurant
by the sidewalk and sit at a table outside. I hang my bag on the back of my chair.
As we order our food, I see a small shadow lurk
behind me and all of a sudden my bag is gone. I yell out, "thief!!!!" and
Cihan sprints after the shadow with Devrim and me running
after them. The little thief ends up walking into
an alleyway and finally throws my bag on the street. I immediately grab and search through it. Everything is fine; nothing is missing
from my bag. By
this time Cihan and Devrim had caught the thief.
She is a young Gypsy girl, probably 12 or 13
years old. She immediately starts screaming bloody
let her go and I am even tempted to give her some money.
Suddenly all the neighbors alarmed by the girl's
screams, pour out of their houses.
They tell us that we have to call the police
to deter this girl and all the other young pickpockets
in the city. We
want to go back to our kebab dinner.
I feel like we cannot solve this problem by going
to the police. But at that moment a large convoy of
policemen and women appear on their motorcycles. So we all end up going to the police station.
It turns out that this was the fifth such incident
for this particular girl. Since she is a minor, they can't do anything about her crimes
so they let her go.
However, if she gets charged for a crime after
age 18, all these other charges will also be added onto
the time we go back to the restaurant, two hours have
passed and we lost our appetites.
Izmir is a very safe city, not even once, I felt
uneasy, however, pickpockets are just a reality of life.
I go back to my room at the Camp, I think about the
Gypsy girl. How can she be saved from the life she was born into? This girl needs to be given a good education,
she needs to be at a place like Space Camp. There are many children here on scholarships.
Maybe next summer she could be here too.
I really hope that the short film I am making
for the camp will help raise awareness and funds so
they can offer more scholarships to needy children.
July 16, 2003
During our filming, I personally witness
the transformation that takes place amongst the children,
some of whom had never set foot outside of their own
countries. Steven from Greece sums up most of the feelings at the end
of the six-day camp, "We are so similar, Greeks
and Turks, so why fight? We should all be friends."
One of the teams which consisted of Turkish
and Israeli students have composed their own rap song
and take great delight in singing it at every opportunity. By the end of the camp, all the children have become friends
through shared songs, interests, and dreams. I have produced and directed many film projects in the past;
however, I am truly touched by what I have experienced
at Space Camp Turkey.
I board my plane back to Istanbul, I think about the
effortless interaction of children from different countries.
Space Camp Turkey gives me hope for the future of humanity
and our planet. I am extremely gratified that I took
part in this tremendous endeavor by making a film about
the true miracles of Global Friendship Through Space
one more thing, when I have a child, I am sending him/her
off to Space Camp Turkey.
Friendship Through Space Education
-- Kaya TUNCER Receives
2004 Ellis Island Medal
Web site for:
Searching for Paradise
An Interview with Binnur Karaevli
E-mail to Binnur Karaevli: email@example.com