Kurdish Cinema

in 33rd Istanbul International Film Festival

by Janet Baris

Turkish Cinema has been getting better with its Kurdish Cinema in the last decade. After young Kurdish filmmakers start to direct their experiences, political issues vie for more space in Turkish Cinema. Even some Turkish people who don’t know anything about Kurdish issues have started to think about them, following this change.

Today, restrictions on Kurdish cinema are not as severe as they were in the 1980s. Narrative capacity is crucial for interpreting Kurdish cinema’s historical background, which is dominated by narratives influenced by political censorship and exclusion.

During Istanbul Film Festival we saw two specific examples that highlight Kurdish political issues and daily lives. These two examples of Kurdish cinema enrich their narratives through a previously unrepresented history of Kurdish people as well as through Kurdish oral culture. From this point of view, the conception of time in these examples exceeds the time of the narrative and becomes a part of historical time, by inscribing the histories of the Kurdish people within the films’ formats. The time-image in these films invents the history, culture and identity of Kurdish people, as well as the unrepresented history of the Turkish nation.

The film that won the FIPRESCI National Prize this year was Once Upon A Time (Bir Varmis Bir Yokmus). The director, Kazim Öz, is a young Kurdish filmmaker, and his previous films also focus on Kurdish issues. His topics are generally political issues, characterized by humanism. This time he wanted to tell a story about Kurdish casual workers and the adversity between village and urban lifestyles.

Once Upon A Time gives trustworthy examples for us to understand what’s going on. Kurdish workers go to a farm in Ankara from Batman as usual. They work on the Romain lettuce farm. It tells the story of poor Kurdish workers’ situation. It also tells us that people can eat their salad but they should think about how it gets to their table. They worked a lot and in very bad conditions, while people were eating salads at home. These issues are too much for them but they had to survive. Kazim Öz tries to show it in a basic way and does so through narration.

The other example is Come To My Voice (Sesime Gel) by Hüseyin Karabey. One day rural police come to Berfu’s village to search for a gun: they believe Berfu’s son hides a gun from the police. After they arrest Berfu’s son they say, “If they bring a gun, you can take your son.” but there is no gun in the house. Following this, Berfu and her grandchild begin to search for a gun to give to the rural police for the release of Berfu’s son.

For the most part, it is easy to understand the director’s ideological priorities: the characters have to live through a civil war in a political atmosphere even the police hate.

Young filmmakers want to show their anger and enthusiasm. It’s a very good and creative way to use cinema to face the anger.

Edited by Tara Judah