Say Good Night, Yakar

Istanbul, Turkey
July 1, 2001

Today we do our usual market trek with our host. This has become one of my favourite parts of the shoot. We meet Fatima and Yang at the Beksitas Market. We were late and Fatima was anxiously waiting. I guess early birds get the best worms and she didn’t want to lose out.

I barely had time to find the sweet spot on my Steadicam rig and she was off to the races as soon as she caught sight of our cab pulling up. I had to leave David behind to cover the cane waddling Uncle Yang while I dash off ahead to catch up. It was a joy watching the fast talking matriarch as she reels and deals with the vendors in Turkish. It reminded me of my fondest memories of similar shopping treks with my dear departed Grandma.

China Restaurant at night
China Restaurant at night

Back at the restaurant, I film Fatima throwing her weight around with instructions to the kitchen staff and Yakar, her loyal servant who has been with her for over forty-five years. This matriarch is definitely in control while the retiring Uncle Yang sits back behind the scenes probably reading his Taiwanese newspaper and dreaming of saving the Mainland from the Communists someday. He reminds me of David’s grandpa and that dying breed of old relics still found in fast disappearing Kuomintang Benevolent Clubs in some Chinatowns.

Even though Istanbul is at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, I don’t feel that it is as international a city as say New York, London or Paris. I find it interesting how the Wang’s have become such an international family with a base in Istanbul. I envy their internationalism.

It’s late Sunday night. We leave tomorrow morning and need to close the story. Tonight I film Yakar spinning tall tales while waiting for the last customer to empty the joint as he’s done for the past forty-five years. Cheuk ate at the restaurant twenty-five years ago and met Yakar then. So it’s a reunion of sorts.

Cheuk doesn’t think the restaurant operation will last. He now wants to film the “closure” like the last shot of Antonioni’s “The Passenger” – Hotel de La Gloria at dusk but with Turkish music. Yakar complies. He turns off the red Chinese lanterns and closes the front doors to China Restaurant. Like a routine he has rehearsed for my camera, he bids goodnight to some passers-by and waddles into the dusk blue sky. Off to the side of my LCD monitor, a lone cat tiptoes into frame following behind him. I didn’t know we had any budget for cat wranglers on this shoot. François Truffaut, eat your heart out!