Saturday, October 17, 2009

'Min Dit' makes waves at Antalya film fest

Source: Hurriyet Daily News The Golden Orange Film Festival sparked controversy Thursday with its screening of “Min Dit” (The Children of Diyarbakır), the first Kurdish-language movie to be part of the national competition in Antalya. The debut feature film by Miraz Bezar, a filmmaker of Kurdish origin who was born in Ankara and moved to Germany when he was six years old, drew a large audience. “Min Dit” had previously been screened at international film festivals abroad, winning the Gaztea Youth Award at the 57th San Sebastian International Film Festival held in Spain last month. Set in the 1990s in the eastern part of Turkey, the movie tells the story of 10-year-old Gülistan (Şenay Orak) and her younger brother Fırat (Muhammed Al), whose lives take a tragic turn on the road that connects the cities of Diyarbakır and Batman. After witnessing their parents’ death at the hands of a secret service paramilitary officer on the way home from a wedding, the siblings try to stay alive, first selling the family furniture, and later living in the streets when they can no long afford to pay the rent. Because Bezar grew up in Germany, all he knew about the Kurdish issue and the situation in eastern Turkey was what he saw on TV and read in the newspapers. “I wanted to go to Diyarbakır after I completed my degree at the Berlin Film Academy and experience the situation myself,” he said. There, he found that each person in the city had his or her own stories to tell. Once he decided to write the script for “Min Dit” he went back to Germany to develop the scenario. Bezar wrote all the dialogue in Turkish and had most of it translated into Kurdish for the film, which was co-produced by producer Klaus Maeck and well-known director Fatih Akın, who got involved after Bezar showed him the rough cut. According to Bezar, choosing the cast was not difficult. He watched one of his lead actors, Hakan Karsak, on a theater stage in Diyarbakır and was taken by his passion and talent. The casting of the children in the film also happened quickly: Bezar was lucky to meet Orak and Al on a bus after being invited on the trip by a group of children who were traveling to Urfa. The third leading child’s role was given to Suzan İlir. “She was trying to sell me a bottle of water in one of the cemeteries in Diyarbakır,” Bezar said. “She at first did not want to tell me her name, but I finally convinced her that I was going to shoot a film. I went to meet her parents and that’s how she joined the crew.” The first-time director was not expecting his film to compete at Antalya’s Golden Orange Film Festival. He looked proud to be competing with the films of successful directors. “No matter what, I finally did what I wanted to do,” he said. To help him shoot the film, Bezar’s mother sold her house and his uncle paid the team’s hotel expenses. The project kicked off with a budget of just 80,000 euros. “There are still team members who have not gotten paid,” Bezar said. “Some of them did it to support the film.” Making the movie was also a new experience for its child stars. Orak, the 10-year-old girl who plays the leading role, had never acted professionally before, but turned in a superb performance. “My only acting experience was the theater classes I attended in at the culture center in Diyarbakır,” she said. The mother in the film is played by Fahriye Çelik and the character of the father, a Kurdish journalist, by Alişan Önlü. A newborn baby also features in the movie. The children’s aunt Yekbun, played by Berivan Eminoğlu, is an underground Kurdish activist. After the death of their parents, she tries to get a visa to take the siblings to their grandfather in Sweden, but she is kidnapped by the paramilitary police, leaving the children completely alone. While digging in the garbage to find something to fill their stomachs with, Gülistan and Fırat meet an experienced street kid named Zelal, played by İlir, who teaches them the basics of survival. Gülistan also earns some money from Dilara, played by Berivan Ayaz, a prostitute who uses her as a cover but genuinely cares about the young girl. When Fırat sees one of the men who killed his parents, Nuri (Hakan Karsak), the boy is paralyzed by fear. In the days that follow, the paths of the two children, along with those of Dilara and Nuri, intersect in ways that have surprising impact due to the unexpected restraint with which they’re played. In the film, Bezar manages to keep his child characters as real as possible without turning them into mere sympathy magnets. He also succeeds in displaying the various sides of the city. “Some in the audience ask if children face these situations in real life,” Bezar said. “With some exceptions, all live under such circumstances; they grow up in an atmosphere of peak violence.” Some audience members at the festival, mostly Antalya locals, called the film one-sided, shouting in protest, “There has never been a Kurdish state and there will never be one.” In the face of such critics, Bezar kept his cool and said that he is there to talk about these issues. “Cinema is a form of art,” he said. “People do not have to agree with or believe in what they saw.” One of the actors in the film, Diyarbakır native Alişan Önlü, added: “We, as a nation, try to understand the children in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Palestine, but we never consider the situation of the children living in this conflicted city. Now it is time to look at life from the perspective of a southeastern child.”

No comments: