Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Min Dit" Draws Audiences Throughout Turkey

The Global Post's Nichole Sobecki has a piece up on the well-received Kurdish-language film "Min Dit" that is worth a look. An excerpt:

“So much of the Turkish state has been built on lies; that there is only one people, only one language,” said Miraz Bezar, the director of “Min Dit," awarded with the jury’s special prize at the 2009 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. “This can be a small step in the right direction.”

“Min Dit” tells the story of the survival of three children after witnessing the murder of their parents at the hands of the JITEM, a clandestine unit of the Turkish gendarmerie charged with "intelligence gathering and counterterrorism."

Though told through the eyes of children, the film draws the audience back to one of the darkest chapters in this country’s history. Set in the southeast in the 1980s and '90s, the children struggle to cope with the violence that surrounds their lives, as Turkish security forces wage a dirty war against supporters, and suspected supporters, of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK.

“It was a real challenge to do this film because we never knew if it would make it through the censorship in Turkey,” Bezar said.

. . . .

The idea for the film came to him while still a student, but it was not until after graduating that he began to write. The film is a combined effort of Bezar and Evrim Alatas, a Kurdish journalist who worked in the southeast throughout the 1980s and '90s, and the wife of Bezar’s uncle. She died this spring, living just long enough to see the film’s release in Turkey.

Struck by cancer soon after the film was finished, Alatas’ health struggles were deeply entwined with the making of the film; her life provided a backbone of daring reportage.

“I think that through her stories she will still live on with this film for many people,” Bezar said.

With no backers, the film was financed through Bezar’s own savings and made possible by the support of his family. His mother sold their house, his uncle helped out where he could.

Despite some seemingly insurmountable hurdles, the young director remembers feeling that the film was somehow being protected: by god, or a sense of justice, or perhaps just his own unrelenting determination.

“Each time I felt like we were at the edge of the abyss some small thing would come and pull us back, a reminder of why it was so important to tell this story,” he said.

Bezar’s struggles are typical of Diyarbakir’s besieged filmmakers, where the city’s hottest young director hawks tea at a stand near the airport and its most respected auteur once worked as a garbage collector.

The film’s “actors” were chosen from the cities and villages where the story is set, their real life tragedies set in parallel to those they face in “Min Dit.” The role of an old, blind man with whom the children squat with in an abandoned Armenian church was filled when some villagers directed Bezar to a local graveyard a blind man frequented. He discovered the film’s 10-year-old heroine Gulistan at a local day school.
For more on "Min Dit," see Yigal Schliefer's post at Istanbul Calling. There you can access an earlier article Schleifer wrote on the fledgling Kurdish-language film industry.

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