Due for global release on Netflix on 12 March 2021, “Kağıttan Hayatlar” tells the story of Mehmet, a solid waste warehouse manager. He has lived most of his life on the streets of Istanbul. Now as an adult, he helps unfortunate children who, just like him, were left alone to fend for themselves. One day, Mehmet finds 8-year old Ali in one of his paper collection carts. The boy is lost after his mother allegedly abandoned him to save him from an abusive step-father. Mehmet and Ali soon develop a special bond and become inseparable. Through his relationship with Ali, Mehmet will come face to face with his traumatic childhood.
Even from this preliminary synopsis, it is clear that “Kağıttan Hayatlar” offers Çağatay Ulusoy the opportunity not only to push his boundaries as an actor but also to raise awareness about the plight of vulnerable children in Turkey. He is in the perfect company to do so. The film’s Director Can Ulkay and one of Çağatay’s co-protagonists, the seasoned Turgay Tanülkü, are renowned for their commitment to giving voice to the touching stories of vulnerable children and for their personal activism on behalf of Turkey’s youngest population.
Cağatay’s commitment to children is hardly surprising news for his fans. Even before embarking on an acting career, he was already mentoring children as a junior basketball coach. Since 2011, however, he has consistently donated a large portion of his income to various charities dedicated to the welfare of children inside and outside of his native Turkey. Over the years, he has also periodically visited sick children in hospitals to bring a smile to the faces with a gift. Finally, he has been involved in many charity events to raise money and awareness around suffering and vulnerable children.
Çağatay Ulusoy has been involved for many years in the Losev Foundation, which cares for children with leukemia. He has also supported foundations that help children with cancer.
On May 10, 2019, he traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, where he visited a children’s hospital and an orphanage supported by the Monk Andrei Foundation.
Çağatay Ulusoy is also involved in various activities related to the education of disadvantaged young people. In 2017, he participated in the Minik Kalpler Project, which organized the Içerde Gala and the football match between the actors from the series and the girls of the Mika-Der Foundation.
Finally, “Kağıttan Hayatlar” is only the last instance in which Çağatay Ulusoy has participated in cinematic projects that seek to bring children’s issue to the forefront. Indeed, in the course of his decade-old career, virtually all of Çağatay’s projects have included a message in support of vulnerable children.
The earliest example comes from “Adını Feriha Koydum.” Early on, the series features a scene in which Emir — the character impersonated by Çağatay Ulusoy — sees a 5-6 years old boy, who sells tissues on the streets. Dirty and wearing old rags, the little child stares longingly at a balloon vendor. Emir then immediately decides to give him a moment of happiness by gifting him with the entire bunch of baloons.
In” Medcezir,” Çağatay interprets Yaman Koper — a young man who grew up in the poor neighborhood of Tozludere. In the course of the series, Yaman shares his sad memories as a child of a poor and broken family. He narrates how he had to work since he was 8 years old to contribute to the family’s precarious finances, how he often went to bed hungry at the end of the day, and how he was unable to play soccer because the shoes he inherited from his brother were too big for him. Finally, Yaman illustrates his deepest scars: the emotional abuse from his mother, the physical mistreatment at the hand of his step-father, and the pain of being abandoned by his real father.
In “Delibal”, Çağatay Ulusoy is Barış Ayaz, a college student who comes from a higher middle-class family. He has a nice apartment in Istanbul and a vacation home on the Big Island. His parents dote on him and he possesses motorcycles, computers, and musical instruments. Nevertheless, he engages in volunteer activities on behalf of those less fortunate. In particular, Barış mentors a younger boy named Hader from a poor neighborhood. Their relationship, however, is not always easy.
In” Içerde”, street children are central to the story. After losing their families, Mert/Umut and Melek grow up in the streets, where they suffer abuse at the hands of Coşkun until Celal Baba “rescues” them. In several poignant scenes, we see barefoot Mert/Umut standing outside a window while staring longingly at a happy family having dinner together; waiting in line to give their hard-earned money to their exploiter; and sharing a piece of bread with Melek in a doorway under pouring rain. We also hear Sarp asking Melek about her days as a street child in the hope that she might have information on his lost brother Umut.
Finally, in “The Protector”, Hakan’s first act of heroism as Muhafiz is to rescue his neighborhood’s street children from their abusive exploiter.
Çağatay Ulusoy has consistently employed his art to make a difference, especially as far as children are concerned. He entertains his audience with memorable characters and stories, while at the same time, seeking to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to the plight of the most vulnerable. Aware that “with great power comes great responsibility,” Çağatay Ulusoy uses the might that derives from his fame to give a voice to those who cannot speak but desperately need to be heard. Quietly and without fanfare, he is changing the world, one project at a time!
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