This year in April, a planned film that was never shot served as a pretext for sentencing the Turkish documentary filmmaker and producer Çiğdem Mater to a prison term of 18 years as a supporter of the 2013 Gezi Park protests.
The Gezi Park protests at that time – a spontaneous, unorganised and leaderless movement – are being made increasingly into an example by the current Turkish state power that it continues to deploy against all resistance. This is so, even though the cultural patron Osman Kavala  –
founder of the Anadolu Kültür foundation and already in prison since 2017 – as well as several more of the accused, including Mater, were initially acquitted in 2020 of the charge of attempting a coup. Yet the foundation with its activities for a free society, and in turn all those who have any dealings with it, continue to be monitored especially suspiciously and sanctioned by the Turkish government’s secret police.
After the acquittal, which was followed by the replacement of the court responsible, the case was readmitted and Kavala was immediately rearrested. Then after a ‘ridiculous short trial’ in April he was finally sentenced to life imprisonment.
Likewise, Çiğdem Mater and the other accused, including an urban planner, an architect and a lawyer, were sentenced to new long terms of imprisonment. Mater is now incarcerated in the overcrowded Bakirköy women’s prison. “… All concrete and iron,” is how the writer Aslı Erdoğan, who has been imprisoned for a long time, has described it there. In 2020, Mater came to Germany to take up an artist’s residency, so that she would be able to return to Turkey in good time for the beginning of the trial in February 2022.
In the Un certain regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, when speaking onstage the director Emin Alper expressed his solidarity with his co-producer Çiğdem Mater. For filmmakers in Turkey, for quite some time it has become common practice on the film festival stages and venues worldwide to repeatedly remember their many colleagues and journalists now imprisoned in Turkey. The political situation in Turkey has become ever more aggravated in recent years. The constitutional referendum of 2017 and the introduction of a new presidential governance system with its undermining of the separations of powers have been accompanied by increasing criminalisation of all the opposition. The influence of the executive on the judiciary has escalated, as can be seen in the timeline of this judicial scandal. The European Court of Justice has already condemned Kavala’s sentence.
Çiğdem Mater initially made a name for herself as a documentary filmmaker, and over the last few years increasingly as a producer and co-producer.
For the film HUMAN FLOW (2017) from Ai Weiwei, she organised up to 20 different teams in Turkey. She has headed the production of prizewinning feature-length, documentary and fictional films, as well as producing several short films – such as most recently LETTERS FROM SILVIRI (2020) and DEAR OSMAN (2022) by the filmmaker Adrian Figueroa. Figueroa has praised her thorough and humanly sensitive hands-on preparation for the shoots. As an important, well-connected figure of integrity, Mater is a vital member of the Turkish-German film scene. She is now continuing her work from prison.
Numerous institutions here in Germany that have already worked for many years with Çiğdem Mater have also protested against her sentence: the Berliner Maxim Gorki Theater, the European Film Academy and the Berlinale. A discussion on Mater’s situation can be found at radio SWR2 (in German). In addition to ‚Free Osman Kavala’  there is now also the social media initiative ‘@freecigdemmater’.
 Quoted from a letter to Osman Kavala in prison from the film DEAR OSMAN, directed by Adrian Figueroa and produced by Çiğdem Mater in 2022