‘The Barriers Between Countries Are Removed’

IstanbulThe other night the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., hosted a premiere screening of “Istanbul Unveiled,” a new travel documentary about Istanbul, and something that one of the filmmakers said has stuck with me — about the power of international travel, which would include meetings and conferences, to make the world a better place. In introducing the movie, co-director Serif Yenin, a Turkey-based tour guide and travel writer, noted: “Travelers do like to travel, obviously,” he said, “but they never like to be treated as a tourist…. So you have to handle the tourism business in a very gentle way.”

What he meant was not that you don’t take visitors to a destination’s main or most important attractions. But he does try to create a sense of authenticity for tourists in Istanbul by, for example, arranging for them to have dinner in a local family’s home. His approach to the city in “Istanbul Unveiled” is similarly ground-level, interspersing famous sights like the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar with interviews with the imam at the famous Blue Mosque, a male masseuse at a Turkish bath, a Whirling Dervish, a famous belly dancer, and “the best baklava baker in Turkey.” You come away with a sense not just of the city but of its people and the lives they lead there. “When we have cultural interactions with local hosts,” Yenin said, “the barriers between countries are removed and the prejudices that people have about one another may go away.”

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