Serra Yilmaz is well known for her work as an actor and a director in Turkish and Italian theater, film, and television. Yilmaz’s film career took off in 1983 with the film Şekerpare, and in 2002 she won Best Actress at the 21st Istanbul International Film Festival for her leading role in 9, a film directed by Ümit Ünal.
Yilmaz first came to the Gardner Museum in March 2006. She spent time in the archives looking at Isabella Stewart Gardner’s travel journals and reading letters between Gardner and Sarah Bernhardt, Adelaide Grillo, and Lady Gregory. In the spring of 2008, she returned to perform Apples from the Sky, four intimately staged readings in the galleries in conjunction with the exhibition Luxury for Export: Exchange Between India and Portugal around 1600. Yilmaz selected writings that explored exchange and movement between cultures ranging from the 15th-century Greek historian Kritovoulos, to Marguerite Yourcenar and Orhan Pamuk. In addition to the readings, Yilmaz told Turkish fairy tales to all ages during a Day of Discovery focusing on Luxury for Export. She dedicated an evening program in the Tapestry Room to Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was assassinated in 2007 by Turkish nationalists. Yilmaz paired a reading of Dink's final article that advocated for tolerance and forgiveness with Armenian and Turkish tales in the same spirit.
Serra Yilmaz’s awards include Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Harem Suare (Haren Soirée) at the Antalya Film Festival, and Best Supporting Actress for Facing Windows at the Flaiano Film Festival. She has appeared in the internationally-acclaimed films Le Fate Ignorante (The Ignorant Fairies, 2000), La Finestra di Fronte (Facing Windows, 2002), Saturno Contro (Saturn in Opposition, 2007), and Un Giorno Perfetto (A Perfect Day, 2008), all directed by Ferzan Özpetek. Recent films include Red Istanbul (2017) and La Prima Pietra (The First Stone, 2018).
Yilmaz is also a translator who speaks Turkish, French, Italian, and English. In 2006, she was the official interpreter for Pope Benedict XVI on his trip to Turkey. She travels extensively, working in Italy, France, and Turkey. She resides in Paris and Florence and has recently been awarded French citizenship.