Spotlight on Kurdish film director, Huseyin Karabey

Karabey: 'The tragedies Kurdish people live contain many stories, which must be told.'

Kurdish director, writer, and producer Huseyin Karabey was born in Istanbul in 1970 and studied at Uludağ University and Marmara University. After making over a half dozen documentary films from the 1990s through the 2000s, he made his first feature, Gitmek: My Marlon and Brando (2008), a true-life, border-crossing romance between a Turkish actress and her Kurdish lover. The film premiered at Rotterdam, won the prize for Best New Narrative Filmmaker at Tribeca, and earned him praise as a director to watch.

In March Karabey was chosen from hundreds of directors as one of 15 participants for the 6th edition of the Atelier of Cinefondation. This workshop was created in 2005 to assist directors with financing and completing their projects. The workshop includes 15 projects from 15 different countries. Last month at the Cannes International Film Festival he met with directors and producers to discuss his new project.

His new feature film, Siseme Gel (Come to My Voice), will be in Kurdish and set in Kurdistan. It will be a 90-minute film blending both fiction and reality in the style of Gitmek. Filming will be done in Hakkari.

The story is told by a blind dengbêj (a Kurdish storyteller/bard) and begins with Turkish soldiers carrying out raids on houses in a village. They are looking for guns.

Karabey wrote the script with Abidin Pırıltı. Karabey says about his new film that during the raid on the village, everybody gathers at the square. The soldiers then take a man from each family and say to the women, ‘Bring your weapons to us and we’ll release them.’ But there are no guns in the village. It is here that the heroes of the film enter the scene. Seventy-year-old Berfê sets out on a trip with her 8-year-old granddaughter Jîyan to find a gun to save her detained son. Despite their efforts, the protagonists can’t find a gun without going to the city. And then the problem would be how to take the gun to the village because they would certainly get into trouble if they were seen carrying one. So they choose a path along a ridge where they encounter the blind dengbêj who gives them a hand.

Examining the psychology of the soldiers who raid the village, Karabey observes: The behaviour of the soldiers who raid the village is also being questioned. For example, a soldier is comparing Berfê with his mother while writing that he ‘can’t make sense of what he is doing’ in a letter to his own old mother.

Asked why he set about doing this project, Karabey replied that ‘the wounds of the crimes committed have not been healed yet. My aim is to report a real event through cinema.’ About making it a Kurdish-language film he says, ‘The story is taking place in Kurdistan, that’s why it will be in Kurdish. I also hope to help people in the West and Turks to like Kurdish. We must use Kurdish poetically and richly to give audience a wish to learn the language.”

Watch an interview with Huseyin Karabey from LinkTV. He discusses his first film, My Marlon and Brando. Click photo to go to LinkTV.

When asked about his opinion of the Turkish government’s so called ‘Kurdish opening’ Karabey says that it is hard to ‘make any sense of what is happening.’ His contribution to the solution, he says, is trying to tell the reality of how Kurds live through his film making. He said that on TV and in the cinema, he realised that the media never showed what was really going on in the country or the world and he wanted to change that, and make ‘something that told the story of ordinary folks like us and not far-fetched characters living in a bubble.’

Selected Filmography:

  • Gitmek / My Marlon and Brando (2008)
  • Ölümü Ektim Randevu Yerinde / I Cheated Death at the Meeting Point (short, 2006)
  • Pina Bausch’la Bir Nefes / A Breath with Pina Bausch (2004)
  • Sessiz Ölüm / Silent Death (docu-drama, 2001)
  • Boran (short, 1999)
  • Sokaklar ve Kayiplari / Streets and their Loss (doc., 1998)
  • Etrus Kampi / Etruch Camp (doc., 1996)


Director Karabey to tells story of Kurdish village. KurdishCinema, 31 May 2010.

Huseyin Karabey. MUBI


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