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Varvara - Towards Sponge Documentary

16.02.2015
Vol. 8

"The death of his friend came from sponge, the sea. He himself could become permanently disabled or die from the bends. While the sponge- divers lived and breathed sea and did not take a shore from the boats in the days of old, they are obliged to live on soil now, gardening, cultivating and planting. However, they are still the sea lovers. When we ask "How is the sea", some of them take deep breathes, being lost in thoughts. "Sea is beyond comparison" replied he, for all I know. Although he did not reckon he lost how many friends to the sea, the sea still cuts a fine figure for that man. When he looked into the past, his eyes was bright with desire."

My father, my father’s father and his father's father were from Bodrum. We have been living there for many generations. My grandfather was into the sea, so were my father and uncle. My passion for the sea was handed over from them to me. My father used to tell of the spongers. What triggered me off was this passion of my father. Before falling into the road for Varvara, we investigated that to whom we could go and on what we could talk. Then the shooting began. The age range and the healthiness of the people caught my attention, within the range between 65 and 90, however; how much vigorous, strong they were, above all, their eyes were glowing when we asked about the sponge periods. Their pleasure of telling us is very hard to describe. On one side there is another question; very stressful job. Moreover, when we were talking with Mehmet the Shallop, he mentioned my uncle at some point. When my uncle did not want to go to school, my grandfather gave him to the sponge boat, entrusting him to Mehmet the Shallop with the thought of being as rough as he would want with him, so that he would work therein. My uncle set sail on that sponge boat for four months. According to the accounts of Mehmet the Shallop, his arms and hands got injured, though job. At the end of the 4th month, saying that he wanted to go to school, my uncle run away from the boat. It is hard not to be surprised how much strong and full of energy like children these old men despite their enduring work. There are three periods in the sponge fishery; Marble Age, Skafandra (Deep Sea Diving) and Kankava Boat age. Like an astronaut suit, Skafandra was the most dangerous, including certain equipment with which everybody was familiar. Varvara, one of these equipment, is kind of a valve, holding and releasing the air. The deep submersion and surfacing are ensured by means of this. The air accumulated in varvara, when you neglect and forget it, could lead you to die from the bends, throwing up to the surface. According to the accounts of Gebeşoğlu, they saw too many death incidents. So, what did they continue to do this job, despite so much danger? I think this is the first and the most important question that comes to mind. Bodrum, the place of exile, was bare and empty in that period. No roads, jobs and power. The young people want to get married and need money for wedding and hose. Sponge was very valuable in that period. The greek merchants sold the sponges, which is of high income, at a premium. The sponge-diver agreed with the merchant at a rate of 40%-50%. What do you want else? Someone to set sail five times compensates the wedding expenses. Someone to set sail five times builds a house. If he doesn't die... They have so strange rituals, enjoying to tell; waking up early in the morning, cleaning the deck, eating a little bit of biscuits in breakfast, then diving in turns, laying the sponges which have been collected during the day on the deck, allowing them to dry. Sponges are squelched and the enclosing black membrane is peeled off. Especially, he was so enjoying to tell the part of squelching the sponge by gathering that it would impossible not to smile. And comes a diving part. One person dives thrice a day. He must eat very little, so they are on a diet during the day. When you overeat, the possibility of the bends rises.
The compressor on board pumps air to the diver through a hose. Thus the diver can fish the sponge in 40-50 meters. Some says that they saw the depth of 60-70 meters. In very old days, the dive in the nude, then the method of the job slightly undergoes a little bit change with the utilization of googles, flippers, and swimwear. All of the sponge divers that we interviewed have been trained as diver in their military services. Therefore they are alive. For example, Mehmet, the Shallop, says, "I've read and digested all diver books!" They do not bring themselves into a state of the bends due to the methods they learned from them. There are some who banalizes by saying “It is as dangerous as any profession, unless you are trained.". Sponge fishery is now a dead profession. The cause of this was the virus coming to sponge, melting all of the sponges in the sea away, told the sponge-divers. Maybe the other reason is Kankava boats, the ancestor of the trawler boats, which have a mechanism to trawl the bottom of the sea from beginning ot end, destroying how many bottom dwellings like fish-nests, underwater flora and fauna. Eventually, the sea has a resistance as well. Maybe this is one of the reasons that brought and strengthened the virus, who know? As a result, the interview shoots of the documentary are almost over. We finished the rough cut. However, we decided to enrich the rhythm, saying that there would not only dialogues and interview in the film. And we also said that the audience could follow the aforesaid events with the help of animations. Of course, my main goal is the documentary will not only be composed of the talking heads. This would be quite boring. If the animation is added, the rating, editing, rhythm, and visualization gain strength. That's why our work continues in the stage of post-production. For a couple of shots, I am going to visit Kalymnos Island. We have learned that there are sponge shops which are active there. The shots will be terminated after the interviews with a couple of sponge-divers and the documentary will be finished following the addition of the animation.
Vol. 8
Erinç Seymen Interview VideoBox - Video Interview Series