Taskafa is an artist’s essay film about memory and the most necessary forms of belonging, both to a place and to history, through a search for the role played in the city by Istanbul’s street dogs and their relationship to its human populations. Through this exploration, the film opens a window on the contested relationship between power and the public, community and categorisation (in location and identity), and the ongoing struggle / resistance against a single way of seeing and being.
Despite several major attempts by Istanbuls rulers, politicians and planners over the last 400 years to erase them, the city’s street dogs have persisted thanks to an enduring alliance with widespread civilian communities, which recognize and defend their right to co-exist.
Taskafa gathers the voices of diverse Istanbul residents, shopkeepers, and street based workers, all of whom display a striking commitment to the wellbeing and future of the city’s canine population (a community of street dogs, and cats, free of formal ownership but fed and cared for by numerous individuals). From the rapidly gentrifying city centre district of Galata to the residential islands of the Sea of Marmara , and beyond, Taskafa navigates a history of empathy with, and threats to this highly distinctive urban community.
Taskafa is structured around readings by internationally acclaimed storyteller, essayist, and critic John Berger, from his novel King, a story of hope, dreams, love and resistance, told from the perspective of a dog belonging to a community facing disappearance, even erasure. In Taskafa , this voice is gifted to a wider community and range of perspectives: to dogs, a city and, finally, to history.
John Berger’s text and delivery take the viewer on a journey from Karakoy to Hayirsiz ada , the island where, in the 1800s , tens of thousands of dogs were exiled to die. Offering a moving collage of testimonials to the inestimable value of non-human populations to the emotional and psychological health of the city, and a striking statement of witness both to advocacy and persecution across the centuries, Taskafa both portrays, and embodies the spirit of protest, and enduring solidarity with which it closes (mass demonstrations opposing the latest municipal proposals to clear the city of its street animals).