Posts Tagged ‘Nationalism’

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see an old Turkish movie called Susuz Yaz (Dry Summer) which I had never seen before. The movie was shown as part of a Turkish movies festival here in NYC. It is the first Turkish movie that won an international award. (It won the Golden Bear in Berlin Film Festival in 1964.) The story takes place in a small Aegean village in Turkey where one of the villagers -Osman Aga- decides to monopolize the water from the river which is fiercely resisted by the rest of the villagers who were used to sharing the water freely among themselves until then. The movie reminded me very much of certain passages in Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality for reasons that should be clear by now given the storyline of the movie and also by the title of Rousseau’s work(!) for those of you who are at least slightly familiar with Rousseau’s classic.

What I want to tell you today is different, though; it is not about the beauty of the movie -which should be the subject of another entry- but a small incident that happened during the Q&A session after the movie with the actress Hulya Kocyigit who plays the girl Bahar in the movie, who falls in love with the brother of Osman Aga, Hasan. During the movie, there are two scenes that makes anybody who cares about animals cringe. In one scene, Osman Aga kills a chicken to frighten the girl Bahar; and in another one, villagers who want to intimidate Osman Aga kill his dog. So, a woman from the audience asked Kocyigit how people reacted to these two scenes when the movie was first released given that animals are actually being killed in the movie. Kocyigit said that this was the decision of the director Metin Erksan and she was in no position to try to exclude these scenes from the script; but today, when she saw these scenes as an animal rights supporter, she also felt very sorry for what happened then.

So far, so good, right? Yes, but after a few minutes, a Turkish director, raised his hand and said the following: “Well, I am sure if we had checked other movies done by other directors at the same period, we would have surely found similar scenes where animals are being killed or mistreated and I am sure if Metin Erksan shot this movie today, he would certainly exclude these scenes.”

I was shocked and scared. When I heard this comment, I started shifting back and forth in my chair because I had just witnessed another case of extreme sensitivity of we the Turks to all kinds of comments along terribly paranoiac, self-defensive and self-righteous terms. -Let me say immediately that I certainly don’t think that I am exempt from the virtues I specified above!- The person who makes this remark is not anybody but a director. But I guess, since our sense of inferiority complex runs so deep, we always see around us signs of mistreatment or misinterpretation of the Turks. We always feel the need to make sure that we are not different, we are just like anybody else as if anybody claims that we are inferior to others. This leads Turkish people -be it artists, intellectuals or ordinary people- to take their guard as soon as they hear an innocuous criticism about anything related to Turkey. A genuine discussion of issues becomes impossible because most attempts to start a discussion turns into a debating tournament where sides have to defend their argument without really attempting to deliberate, to try to communicate with the other end of the conversation by following up and by building upon what the other says or asks or criticizes.

And I guess, this attitude makes it very hard to have an open discussion of any sensitive issue about Turkey on an international scene. Sure, the requirements of Realpolitik may say otherwise; but the Q&A session in the aftermath of a beautiful movie is definitely not the place to pretend to be a diplomat on a negotiation table.


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