Looking at the latest top ten listings for Kinepolis [major Belgian chain of cinemas], in the 8th slot, ahead of Plop en de kabouterbaby [Plop and Elf Baby] and right behind Mr. Nobody by Jaco Van Dormael, you’ll spot a pungent title: Kutsal Damacana 2. It’s a Turkish comedy about a sailor who, to escape pirates, jumps overboad, finds himself among Buddhist monks and ultimately ends up on a farm where funny things go on.

“The film opened on 20 January at our complexes in Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Hasselt,” says Myriam Dassonville of the Kinepolis Group, “and it’s going strong. It drew 4,000 people in a single weekend, that’s quite impressive.” Especially seeing as it has no subtitles, so only Turks go to see it. “That is unusual,” Dassonville adds. “We subtitle all foreign films, but that one was delivered very late, we didn’t have time to do the subtitling.”

Outselling French, American and Flemish movies

That won’t overly aggrieve Flemish movie-lovers: Turkish comedies, in which the humour tends to stick to the surface, appeal almost exclusively to Turkish viewers. “There is huge demand in the Turkish community. Going to the pictures is often a real family outing. And don’t forget there is a sizeable moviemaking industry in Turkey, and more and more distributors carry Turkish productions.”

Kinepolis shows more of them than ever before now too. “We put some on the lineup every two weeks,” explains Myriam Dassonville. “The big hits easily sell 30,000 to 40,000 tickets, more than French, American and Flemish films. We’re expecting at least 40,000 people to see Recep Ivedik 3, which came out on 10 February. So we can expect it to make the top 10 too, maybe even outsell Kutsal Damacana 2.”

Kinepolis has been running Turkish movies in Flanders and Brussels for several years. “Everything started with the Turkish Cinema Days we organised in 2003, commemorating 40 years of Turkish immigration to Belgium. This little festival was such a success that we continued putting Turkish productions on the bill." "Turkish films have pretty short runs,” notes Dassonville. “As soon as one comes out, the public, which is ultimately limited, rushes out to see it in such a hurry that it sells out.”