Why Ann Marie Fleming recommends reading My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

The Canadian independent filmmaker says she was 'born reading books.'
Ann Marie Fleming recommends reading Orhan Pamuk's novel My Name is Red, translated by Erdağ Göknar. (Submitted by Ann Marie Fleming)

Ann Marie Fleming is an independent filmmaker whose work frequently explores themes of family, history and memory. She recently directed and wrote the animated film Window Horses, which features performances by Sandra Oh and Ellen Page. The film centres around a young Canadian poet named Rosie Ming who is invited to perform at a festival in Shiraz, Iran. It received the Asian Pacific Screen Award for best animated feature.

Fleming will be featured on CBC's The Filmmakers series, which puts the spotlight on Canadian directors. Her episode airs Saturday, Aug. 11 on CBC Television and cbc.ca/watch.

Below, Fleming tells us why she recommends reading My Name is Red by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.

"I was born reading books and spent a childhood immersed in myths. The book I would like to talk about is My Name is Red (1998), a mystery by Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk. Maybe all stories are mysteries, as we are in a constant state of discovery, but this one starts with a murder, in 1591, of a Turkish miniaturist. (For a more accurate outline, check out Wikipedia, but these are my memories of it and why it changed my way of seeing.) Every chapter is told in the first person, but we don't know who that character is: the corpse, the murderer, the characters in a miniature, the colour red itself. It opens up our way of seeing, of hinting at the perception of everything, and playfully throws everything at us from philosophy to history to science to how and why we make art and how and why we kill each other, too.  

"I read it in translation, so I would like to personally thank Erdağ Göknar for allowing me to understand a bit what was in Pamuk's mind. Such beautiful writing by both artists.

"I usually discover books on my own but Red was introduced to me years ago by my friend Jill Sharp, a multi-media artist who was heads down in painting at the time. And it was just recommended to me again, last week, by an Iranian filmmaker in Australia who knows my work. When I said I had read it and loved it she responded 'I knew it!'

"I love thinking of everything in a frame or in a story as landscape, and I have always been interested in the unreliable narrator. I was already working on Window Horses: the Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming when I was introduced to this book, which is partially why I was so excited by its depiction of Sufism, the importance of the Horse and the world of Persian miniatures and literature (We are talking about the trip art takes from China through Persia and on to Turkey and points beyond). It is a conversation between East and West by an author who geographically and philosophically sits on the edge of both worlds. We need so many points of view before we can see a whole story."



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