Yasemin Hadivent strode confidently up West Main Street in Los Gatos, rocking a colorful, comfy coat she’d picked up while at a shop in Italy, her bright green eyes full of optimism and wonder.
Just a few weeks ago, the Turkish tabloids were abuzz with the news that—after wrapping on her latest film—the 40-year-old Istanbul-based star was off to America, following in the footsteps of several of the country’s other celebrities. It was unclear when she’d return.
“This is my first time here in San Francisco,” she said Oct. 19, on her 10th day using Los Gatos as a home base for her Californian adventure. “Nice warm place, is here.”
She carried a book with her called Bir Sürgün (“A Deportation”) a semi-autobiographical novel by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu, in which the main character flees to Paris after living a life of exile in Turkey.
Hadivent had enjoyed the Beat Museum and a jaunt to City Lights Books, she said over coffee at Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co.
While this is her inaugural Bay Area foray, she previously studied in New York, and has been to Miami several times. And she has a thing for SoCal, too.
“I love the shopping,” she said. “I love to go to Disneyland.”
Los Gatos has provided an ideal springboard for her broader American ramblings, she said.
She seemed amused to learn that Jack Kerouac, the author of “On the Road,” would stay here whenever he rolled through the area.
It’s also provided some needed respite from her life as an actress overseas.
“We make a new film before I came,” she said, of a movie she describes as “fantastic.”
“Gizemli Ada: Mençuna,” the latest from director Bora Onur, is set to be released in 2023.
Hadivent plays the role of an anchorwoman in the story of a bunch of children who become trapped on an island, and have to overcome a series of challenges.
The film also serves as a counterpoint to our global hyperconnected society, since the youth on the magic island are separated from the devices they have become accustomed to.
“In the new world, the kids are not going outside to play,” she said, motioning to her cellphone. “Because everything is here on the phone, on the tablet…Has advantages, has disadvantages.”
Hadivent, diplomatic and yet sincere, has a whimsical way of musing on the spread of technology.
“When I was a child, I was all day outside,” she said. “I feel the life outside. Now it’s difficult. The film is about this.”
As she leafs through the latest issue of the Los Gatan, she explains she still enjoys the feel of a print newspaper in her fingers. She can’t help but love its aroma.
“This is the real life,” she said. “I like this.”
Sometimes, however, telecom visions are transmitted into reality.
For example, as a child Hadivent would watch the figure skaters performing at the Olympics.
“I was dreaming…to dance,” she said. “Skating is freedom.”
Then in adulthood—after attending Müjdat Gezen Art Center and rising to prominence via the “Stars of Turkey” competition—she was able to claim this reality for herself.
The Show TV figure skating competition series called “Buzda Dans” (a spin-off of British program “Dancing on Ice”) was in the middle of planning its second season. It was broadcast in 2007-08.
“I feel freedom,” she said. “I feel like ice skater—and Olympians.”
She recalls the challenging production schedule, but also the glorious television moments—like the time she and Geleynse skated together to a Liza Minnelli song.
Hadivent even made it all the way to the finals, facing off against soccer pro İlhan Mansız, a Turkish national team player who is known internationally for an extra time goal against Senegal in the 2002 World Cup—sending the team to the semifinals for the first time.
Hadivent is a strong advocate for maintaining a positive outlook and engaging in continual self-improvement.
“Every day you should learn something,” she said, adding it’s smart to head out each day with something to give to the world. “You have to read. You have to watch.”
While she appreciates many of the values underpinning socialism, she says she doesn’t necessarily want to claim that label for herself.
“I don’t like to say, ‘I’m this, I’m this, I’m this,’” she said, adding she wants to see wars end and human rights protected. “Yes, very important. I feel close to this.”
Hadivent pictures the world as a big garden where everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
“I believe this: Black or white, no matter; the important thing is to be a good person,” she said, reflecting on how hardship is universal. “We all have so little time. Life is so hard for everybody.”
So why make things more difficult for one another?
These are the questions that flit through the mind of the Turkish actress on a dreamy Wednesday afternoon in Los Gatos like a playful flute line, a sunny bossa nova tune, or heartfelt blues. But as the conversation turns serious, it becomes clear that these are not the idle concerns of a disconnected member of the acting class.
As the subject of Iranian protests comes up, she clinches a fist and pounds her hand. She pauses to collect her thoughts and uses her phone to check the translation of what she’s about to say. After all, while her mother was born in Bulgaria, her father is from Iran, and his family still calls Tebriz home.
“If we do not protect the freedom of others, we will not observe our own freedom,” she said. “A part of my heart is with the people of Iran, who are fighting honorably against an oppressive regime.”
We shouldn’t overlook the significance of the moment, she continues.
“This is very big what happened there, because they want freedom,” she said, her face turning to anger on the subject of Mahsa Amini, whose death in the custody of morality police sparked the unrest. “They killed that young woman—just for hair.”
She calls the protesters “sisters,” and beams while describing an image of schoolgirls—with their backs to the camera—giving a middle-finger salute to the authorities.
“They are fighting for their lives, their freedom,” she said. “They’re not scared. They’re on the street. And they believe this regime will have to change.”
Given this bravery, it’s crucial we come alongside in support, she urges.
“We just have to be in solidarity together,” she said.
In times like these, Hadivent reaches for lessons from her favorite literary works.
“I want to tell you from Tolstoy,” she said. “‘If you can feel pain you’re alive. If you can feel the pain of others, you are human.’”
And then there’s Rumi:
“He say, ‘Before I was clever—I want to change the world. Today I’m wise. I’m changing myself.’”
And don’t forget, she notes, Jean-Paul Sartre impressed upon the world the importance of taking responsibility for our actions.
But what about modern responsibility?
Hadivent, who is as fascinated by technology as she is worried by it, has touched down in a community filled with the people who helped design some of the most critical components of the digital age.
Los Gatos is the location where the company (Netflix) that upended her business (motion pictures) is headquartered. And just up the road, TikTok—which only recently took the media world by storm—has been on a hiring binge for content moderators, after being accused of allowing harmful short-form videos to proliferate on its platform.
Hadivent doesn’t try to hide her affection for the wares Silicon Valley has on offer.
“Look, I’m using the Apple phone,” she said.
But, she says, she believes it’s important to temper the advances in technology with old-school scientific knowledge—and a serious appreciation for the environment.
“Balance in life all the time is very important,” she said, pointing out that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy. “Life is full of contradictions.”
The previous day, for example, she took a break from the algorithm-mediated existence to consider the beauty of some local trees.
“I feel the heartbeat,” she said, adding she imagined she could crawl inside and get enveloped in one of them. “I feel the tree feel.”
And she garners encouragement for her love of the environment in the words of another classic author—Hermann Hesse.
“He’s a nature-lover,” she said. “Yes, I’m a humanist.”
While many people see California as a land of celebrity to flock to, Hadivent is reveling in her West Coast obscurity.
“I didn’t come here to be famous,” she said. “I came just for visiting my friends.”
And this, too, can be utterly liberating.
“Here nobody knows me—I’m free,” she said. “I’m just a normal person. I’m Yasemin.”