Always inquisitive, filmmaker Pelin Esmer probes the nature of life in her native Turkey in documentaries and fiction films focusing on the encounters between sometimes larger-than-life characters. While studying at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Esmer became fascinated with the documentaries shown in her anthropology class. She then enrolled in director Yavus Ozkan’s Z1 Film Workshop and worked as an assistant director before founding Sinema, a production company devoted to her own films. In her short documentary The Collector (2002), she captured her uncle Mithat Esmer’s fascination with found objects. Hearing of a group of peasant women in the Taurus Mountains who were creating a play about their life experiences, she traveled there to make her first feature, The Play (2005), for which she was named Best New Documentary Director at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Cycles of life also feature in Esmer’s work. For her first fiction film, 10 to 11 (2009), she cast her uncle as himself, dealing with relocating his collection when his apartment building is sold. Fourteen years after The Play, she returned to the subject for Queen Lear (2019), examining the changes in the women’s lives after their first theatrical production.