A Man and a Woman Seeking Refuge from the World


This was the official website for the 2012 dramatic film, Watchtower.
Content is from the site's 2012 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.

Director Pelin Esmer
Released 2012
Language Turkish with English subtitles
Country Turkey/Germany/France
Running Time 100 minutes


Watchtower - OFFICIAL Trailer
Haunted by a tragic incident, Nihat isolated himself by becoming a fire warden in a remote observation tower far out in the wilderness. Seher lives in a makeshift room at a rural bus station, and she has taken a job as a bus hostess to escape her own traumatic past. Destined to come to a crossroads, they go about their solitary lives until their fates collide. Beginning at first as muted antagonism, their relationship quickly turns into tender domesticity as they settle together at Nihat's mountain-side watchtower. Yet the weight of the past presses on the silence between them, serving as the ultimate catalyst in their impassioned relationship with each other, and with higher powers that guide their spiritual lives.




olgun simsek / nihat
nilay erdonmez / seher
menderes samancilar / the boss
kadir cermik/ the driver
lacin ceylan / the mother
riza akin / the father
mehmet bozdogan / the chief



written & directed by pelin esmer

Pelin Esmer


Pelin Esmer was born and grew up in Istanbul. After she majored in sociology in Istanbul, she attended the cinemaworkshop of the Turkish director Yavuz Ozkan. She worked as a first assistant director in a number of Turkish and foreign projects. She gave lectures about documentary film-making at Istanbul Kadir Has University in Istanbul. She founded her own film company, Sinefilm, in 2005 and currently produces her own projects as an independent director and producer together with her producer colleagues Tolga Esmer and Nida Karabol Akdeniz.

Her first documentary film, “The Collector” (2002) was screened in many festivals. Her first feature documentary “Oyun” (“The Play”) was premiered in San Sebastian Film Festival in 2005. It has been screened over 50 festivals around the world and received many awards including "The Best New Documentary Filmmaker Award" in Tribeca Film Festival. Her first feature “10 to 11” was one of the six chosen projects by Cannes Film Festival’s Résidence du Cinéfondation in Paris, where she worked on her script in 2007. An official selection of the San Sebastian Film Festival, "10 to 11" received many awards in various festivals around the world.

In 2012, she completed her 2'nd feature "Watchtower" which will be premiered in Toronto International Film festival.

2012    “Watchtower” (fiction, 100 mins.)

2009    “10 to 11” (fiction, 110 mins. )
Istanbul International Film Festival / Turkey Special Prize Of The Jury
 Adana Golden Boll Film Festival / Turkey    
 Best Film
Best Screenplay
Middle East International Film Festival / UAE  Best New Middle Eastern Director
Tromso International Film Festival / Norway FIPRESCI Award
Nürnberg Turkish-German Film Festival/Germany
Best Film
Critics Award
Ankara Film Festival / Turkey                       
Best Director
Onat Kutlar Best Screenplay
Best Art Direction
Cinema Novo Film Festival / Belgium                      
Honourable Mention of the Main Jury
Honourable Mention of the Young Jury
Tetouan Film Festival/ Morocco        Special Prize Of The Jury
IndieLisboa Film Festival/ Portugal   Special Prize Of The Jury
Tofifest International Film Festival/Poland  Best Film
Eurasia Film Festival / Kazakhstan    Best Director

2005    “The play” (feature documentary, 70 mins.)
Tribeca            The Best New Documentary Filmmaker Award
Trieste The Best Documentary Film Award
Créteil Women Films The Best Documentary Film Award
Navarra Punto de Vista The Audience Award
Nürnberg FF Turkey/Germany  Special Prize Of The Jury
Vitoria New European Film The Human Rights Award
Adana Golden Boll  The In Memoriam Yilmaz Guney Award
Boston Turkish Films The Best Documentary Film Award
Centre Médittérrannéen de Comunication Audiovisuelle
The Best Mediterranean Documentary Grand Prix, FR3 and Algerian TV Awards
Turkish Cinema Writers Assoc. Awards The Special Prize of the Jury

2002    “The Collector” (short documentary, 46 mins.)
Rome Independent FF Best Documentary Film Award
Ankara FF Second Best Documentary Film Award


tolga esmer
nida karabol akdeniz
pelin esmer

mustafa dok
guillaume de seille

associate producers
émi roy (arizona films)
bénédicte thomas (arizona films)
chris breuer (bredok)
armaÄŸan lale (sinefilm)

director of photography  ozgur eken

ayhan ergursel
pelin esmer

art director osman ozcan
sound recording kasper munck-hansen
sound design marc nouyrigat
sound mix frédéric théry



fiction, 100 mins.

Toronto International Film Festival / Canada (World Premiere)
Official Selection

Adana Golden Boll Film Festival / Turkey (Turkey Premiere)
Best Director
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Cinematography

Rotterdam International Film Festival / Holland ( European Premiere )
(Official Selection)

Göteborg International Film Festival / Switzerland
(Official Selection)

Nuremberg Turkey - Germany Film Festival / Germany
Best Actress Award

Texas Victoria Indie Film Festival / USA
Crossroads Award

RxSM Underground Film Expo / USA
Best Actress Award

Brasilia International Film Festival / Brazil
Best Actress Award

Mannheim Turkish Films Festival / Germany
Jury Prize

Tashkent International Film Forum / Uzbekistan
Best Film - Golden Guepard

Romania International Film Festival / Romania
Festival Trophy



The Watchtower

By Howard Feinstein11 September 2012 /

“Situation normal,” is the blanket walkie-talkie response from guards in several isolated forest watchtowers to their boss in this lovely gem of a small film that, without rush, earns its dramatic stripes once the leisurely set-up evolves into a rewarding burst of unleashed psychological and emotional energy.

Although prejudice against women, especially in rural Turkey, is never out of the director’s sights, she keeps it contained so that the personal tale is never overshadowed by more theoretical concerns.

The watchtower where the story is set will end up with anything but a normal situation. Esmer is in top form, mapping lonely troubled characters who work out their demons amidst luscious, fog-wrapped hills and tall verdant trees.

Nihat (Simsek) is a new hire, satisfied to be by himself in his tower after the automobile deaths of his wife and young son, for which he was responsible. Seher (Erdonmez) is a pretty young woman who has hurriedly left university to work nearby in a provincial bus station for an older relative, tending his café and serving as a tour hostess. Living in the facility’s dank basement, she trying to ride out an out-of-wedlock pregnancy for as long as possible.

Inevitably Nihat and Seher meet in the cafe. The back stories do not fit into a simple mould of masculine (phallic tower) and feminine (childbirth in a basement) but rather into a much more complex, carefully thought out encounter of two seemingly hapless souls who find salvation once the baby, which she abandons but he rescues and gets her to embrace, becomes a catalyst for positive action and for affection.

There is not a lot more to the narrative. Esmer in more interested in character observation and poignant mise-en-scene than gratuitous action. Nihat’s epiphany is quick: He rushes to save and take care of her child. Hers takes more time: She rejects the little boy, a product of incest, until her rage has dissipated (Erdonmez’s breakdown is a raw, magnificent performance.

Little by little anger turns into love. A sudden small kiss signals her change in attitude. Because Nihat is illegally hiding Seher in the tower, they are forced to put on a show of marriage. Once they share the responsibilities of caring for a newborn, Esmer seems to strongly suggest that they will build some kind of constructive, perhaps loving, relationship.

As original, well-made, and dramatically fulfilling as this Turkish-German-French coproduction is, chances for any substantial return outside of Turkey for The Watchtower (Gozetleme Kulesi) are limited. There is little market for such a Turkish-language product, especially a mostly slow-moving one. Festivals will be the primary exhibition venues.

Although prejudice against women, especially in rural Turkey, is never out of the director’s sights, she keeps it contained so that the personal tale is never overshadowed by more theoretical concerns. Esmer is less interested in broad strokes of social commentary than in the details of the couple’s journeys and the landscapes in which they operate. Her favoured strategy, an ultra-slight mini-zoom, is testament to the intimate scale in which she is most at home. It pays off.



Audience Reviews /

    Review by rhett aka christee aka bogmummy ****

    A quiet, tender account of harm and accident. The accident of existence. Strong performances set amidst beautiful landscapes. The "oomph" of the penultimate scene might have been better woven throughout, but all in all a poetic film.


    Review by Erik Swallow ***½
Nihat has taken a job at a remote fire station watchtower in the forest. He crosses paths with Seher, a young woman working as a hostess at a rural bus station. Each is trying to escape a past fraught with pain and guilt, and each finds in the other something akin to solace. "Watchtower" is a potent film with a deliberate pace that slowly reveals the characters' lives, keeping one transfixed til the end.



    Review by EDoublez **
    Quicktake: Beautifully shot, but ultimately a ploddingly paced character study that goes nowhere.


Review by Shaswata Ray ****
Technically sound character study with exceptionally beautiful cinematography and production values. Thanks to MUBI for this one.
Strong performances set amidst gorgeous landscapes. It seems a little unsure of itself towards the end and some may find the conclusion a bit abrupt, but these are only minor complaints in an otherwise indie masterpiece.



Watchtower (2012)

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Bernardo Villela /

There are films about situations and there are films driven by their characters. There are not as many that find an interesting situation, and the right characters to place in that situation, as Watchtower does. The characters of interest in the film are Seher (Nilay Erdonmez) and Nihat (Olgun Simsek). Each has a rather different job: Nihat has just started working in a watchtower where basically he’s looking to see if anything out of the ordinary is going on in the surrounding mountains and forests in the Turkish countryside; this usually would have to do with the prevention of rampant wildfires. Nihat, meanwhile, is a hostess on a cross-country bus line. In this way their paths do occasionally intersect.

The film builds well dedicating long portions to telling the story of each of these solitary and willfully ostracized people. It soon becomes clear that each has a secret that is a great burden to them. The secrets, and their situations, will inevitably join their narrative strands. We know this.

The unfurling of the stories spins much like water going down a drain; circling ever closer to the truth of the matter. The performances, especially that of Erdonnez, are wonderful.

This film only faces one true stumbling block, and it is one that holds it back from the greatness it seems destined to achieve for much of its running time. The glimpses of the characters and their plights are riveting for how the film slowly unravels what bothers them about their predicament and why they feel they cannot share it. However, the situation they find themselves in together struggles to find a conclusion and eventually, for all intents and purposes, drops the narrative.

I’ve sat with this ending and thought on it for some time. It’s not the kind of, let’s call it an “open” ending for lack of a more suitable term; that elevates the film. Conversely it is not one that undoes a great deal of the good that was accomplished before it. However, it is still a disappointing and unsatisfactory close to the tale.

There reaches a point in a certain kind of narrative where if you move past the plot point you’re on you’ve stopped telling one tale and moved on to another altogether. Therefore, that ending has to feel like a button, and what occurs afterward can be explored in another film or in the mind of the viewer. I think that Inception would actually be a good, recent, widely-viewed example of that (not that these films bare any similarity). The point being that the last image was meant to be the last image in that film. It had to be. Here it felt a bit like settling and that’s highly unfortunate, but not ruinous to the whole.

Watchtower has characters with baggage who are in binds and meet a crossroads. It is interesting to watch them get there, and see how they interact when their paths cross. I just wanted to go on their journey a little longer, and that can’t be all bad, now can it?