CINEMA AND HUMAN RIGHTS: #DIREN//BERXWE BIDE//RESIST – spaces, brothers, sisters and others

The Research Centre Human Rights of the University of Viennahas focussed its Winter 2017 film series on the situation in Turkey via three documentaries and one fiction film, all either followed or preceded by a panel discussion and audience Q&A.#DIREN//BERXWE BIDE//RESIST – spaces, brothers, sisters and others takes place from Friday 1st December until Thursday 7th December, with screenings of ‘Spirit of Gezi’, ‘Come to my voice’, ‘The Others’ and ‘Ecumenopolis: City without limits’, as well as the interactive workshop ‘Enclosure and Resistance’. Ceren Uysal and Sandra Benecchi are both part of the series’ curation team.

#DIREN//BERXWE BIDE//RESIST – spaces, brothers, sisters and others
By Sandra Benecchi

The Centre has been cooperating with the ‘this human world’ film festivalsince its conception 10 years ago; we took part in this adventure not only with great pleasure but also with a strong belief in what cinema can achieve in the field of human rights.

This year’s focus on Turkey makes even more sense when seen in the light of the deep-rooted place of film in Turkey. Turkish cinema is one the world’s oldest and most prolific, becoming the 5th biggest global producer of films between 1960 and 1970.Besides the popular productions which hardly ever cross the national border, an independent cinema culture has developed, finding also an international audience and developing a Janus-faced relation to the Turkish state. Despite regularly winning awards at international festivals, and contributing to Turkey’s renownin the field of independent cinema, the films’ directorsface disapproval, if not worse, in their own country.In 1982, while the Jury of the Cannes Film Festival was awarding the Palme d’Or tothe film Yol, the film’s screen-writerY─▒lmazGüney, also famous for directing political films, was still sitting in prison. Ironically, that same year, the Istanbul film festival was born, becominga major international festival in only a few years.

The involvement of the film branch in Turkish recent events is also revealing: In 2013,the closure of the famous Emek cinema at the heart of Istanbul, and the project to turn it into a shopping mall, triggeredthe Taksim protest movement. In 2014, while the conflict between the people and the government was reaching its peak in Istanbul, Nuri Bilge Ceylan dedicatedhis Palme d’Or to the Turkish youth.And, in 2015, after the arbitrary removal of the film ‘Bakur’ from the programme of the Istanbul film festival, more than 100 film-makers published an open letter accusing the Turkish government of ‘oppression and censorship’ and boycotted the festival..

The authoritarian drift of the Turkish governmentis complex, as are the events which contributed to it. For that reason it is important to us to address this issue through fourfilms which sketch the outlines of a bigger picture: from the spaces (the criticism of neoliberalism leading the renewal politics of Istanbul in Ecumenopolis) to the brothers (the Gezi Protests bringing together different parts of Turkish society in Spirit of Gezi), the sisters (two Kurdish women confronting the absurdity of the treatment of Kurdish people in Come to my voice), and the others (the very concept of otherness and difference which underlines our commonalities in The Others). This selectionshould trace a path which beginswith the specific situation in Turkey, broadens and finally approaches questions which concern the very core of our humanity.

This film series doesn’t claim to show how things really are in Turkey or to exhaustively portray the situation in this country. Fiction or documentary, cinema is not the reality, doesn’t and shouldn’t pretend to be it. A film cannot be more than the representation of the reality at a specific moment in a specific place. A film is alsothe result of a director’s choices, and where he or she decides to place acamera. But this film series does offer scraps of reality, testimonies, stories, real or fictional characters, a diversity of opinions and point of view. All of them represent the pieces of a big and complex puzzle, generating understanding and empathy, triggering indignation and (hopefully) resistance, leading, eventually, to a better apprehension and comprehension of this multi-faceted country and population.