Friday, May 7, 2010

The "Kurdish Initiative": Now in Theaters!

Although, on a political level, the government's "Kurdish initiative" -- a democratization program announced last summer that's designed to tackle the decades-old Kurdish problem -- seems stuck in the muck (see this previous post) of Turkey's political polarization, interesting things are happening on the cultural front.

Case in point, the recent opening in Istanbul of "Min Dît," the first Kurdish-language film to get a full theatrical release in Turkey. The film tells the story of three Kurdish children in Diyarbakir who witness the murder of their parents by a paramilitary group. I took the photo above, of a marquee advertising the film (the title is roughly translated as "I witnessed"), while walking down Istanbul's Istiklal boulevard the other day. Considering the restrictions that were in place up until only a few years ago on the public use of Kurdish, the fact that a billboard in Kurdish could be put up in the heart of downtown Istanbul without much fanfare or reaction struck me as significant. (That said, it should be noted that there are still politicians on trial in Turkey for campaigning in Kurdish and that a court in Diyarbakir recently sentenced the former editor-in-chief of a Kurdish newspaper to 166 years in prison for having "disseminated the propaganda of a terrorist organization." Read about it here.)

Today's Zaman recently interviewed the film's director, Miraz bezar, who won the "best director" award at last month's Istanbul Film Festival. You can read the interview here.

Kurdish-language cinema has come far in Turkey. A few years ago, when the restrictions on Kurdish language in Turkey were starting to ease up, I went down to Diyarbakir to profile what was then a budding homegrown movie making scene. At the time, it was an extremely low-budget, though highly resourceful scene that was strictly serving the local market. You can read the story, in Canada's Walrus magazine, here.

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