Under pressure from Turkey, festival pulls Kurdish film

Kazım Öz

The 10th annual Era New Horizons Film Festival is scheduled to open in a few weeks in Wraclow, Poland. This year’s international festival is showcasing the best of Turkish cinema from the past thirty years. Organisers had included two of Kurdish film director, Kazım Öz’s films: Fotograf (The Photograph, 2001) and Demsala Dawî: Şewaxan (The Last Season: Shawaks, 2009).

But, reports Firat News, one of the festival sponsors, the Turkish Ministry of Culture, threatened to pull its financial support if Era New Horizons went ahead with the screening of The Photograph. Öz’s other film, as well as Gitmek/My Marlon and Brando (Huseyin Karabey, director) and Journey to the Sun (Yeşim Ustaoğlu, director), do not seem to have been subject to Turkish censorship and are listed on the festival programme.

The Photograph (2001) is a 66-minute film about a friendship that develops on a bus journey between two young men, Ali and Faruk. The bus departs from Istanbul for a 24-hour journey to the Kurdish area of the southeast. They swap cigarettes and stories and both claim to be heading east to visit relatives. In actuality, one is heading out to join the Turkish military, the other, the PKK. The film’s conclusion finds them reunited, but under extraordinarily different circumstances. The last frames of the film show a group of children in Istanbul, confused and afraid, as they look at a photograph in their hands.

Though short, it is a powerful protest film about militarism, folded around fate and injustice. Perhaps it is too reflective of what is happening now in Turkey and that led to the outcry from Turkish censors.

The film was awarded the best film in the Milano and Trieste Film festivals, the Jury Special Prize at Valencia Youth Films Festival and the 12th Orhan Arıburnu Awards.

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