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February 15, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-02-15

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The Michigan Daily

Page 4

Wednesday, February 15, 1984


Irony and

imprisonment in


By Nilufer Hayat
Yilmaz Guney's Yol, perhaps one of
the most controversial films ever
made, was at long last shown onour
campus a week-and-a-half ago. The
panel discussion and. the floor debate
that followed the showing, however, fell
far short of fulfilling this declared goal
of bringing to the attention of the
audience some of theubtler points that
hake the film a stunning piece of art
,and social analysis - points which are
easily lost to an audience unfamiliar
With the language and the cultural set-
Yol was written and directed by
uney while he was in prison in Turkey.
it was filmed in Turkey and smuggled
Pout of the country piece by piece. After
,his escape from prison, and eventually
from Turkey, Guney edited the film in
Europe, where it was first released. It
subsequently shared the "Palme d'Or"
,ward with Gavras' Missing at the 1982
;.annes Film Festival, and was viewed
py large audiences all over the world
parrying with it the atmosphere of con-
troversy and electric tension that was
deeply felt by the University audience
ipn Saturday.
"BUT WHY the tension? one might
ask. To those of us who have an in-
timate understanding of Turkish
reality, it was not at all unexpected. Af-
4er all, in the words of a University an-
$hropologist who has been working in
South-Eastern Turkey for years, "the
'film is controversial, and so is Turkey."
This article is meant as a film review.
Although much can be said about the
:political situation in Turkey, none of
,which, incidentally, would have been
grrelevant or out of place considering
Guney's overall political stance, I will
restrict myself to the very difficult task
of interpreting some of the socio-
political implications of the film, in
-Which not even the smallest detail was
oarbitrary or trivial.

The film traces five convicts who are
granted a week's leave from the Imrali
open prison to visit their families,
through their journey across Turkey,
and all the way to their respective
homes. Guney gives us a glimpse of a
human reality so harsh and unrelenting
that the audience is left with a strong
desire to "search for a culprit".
Ironically, it is Guney himself who
provides obstacles to that search - for-
cing the audience to search even
deeper. The power of the film perhaps
stems from the fact that we are ac-
customed to being given political
messages in the form of a description of
a human crime followed by a clear
statement as to those who are to be
blamed. Guney takes the opposite ap-
proach: He shows us who is notrespon-
sible, leaving us to grapple with the rest
of reality.
ONE OF THE convicts never makes
it home. He loses his leave permit, is
held up by the military authorities at a
check-point, and will probably spend
his leave under police surveillance. The
canary that he had meant as a present
to his wife will probably be delivered to
his village by one of his friends. The
bird-in-a-cage kept by the man-in-a-
prison is the first of many ironies woven
into the film, and in a sense, carries
with it the central theme. The second
convict goes through the frustrating
experience of trying to have a
meaningful interaction with his fiancee
while constantly haunted by the two
chaperones provided by her family.
Nobody, not even his male friends seem
to understand or to acknowledge his
problem, so he takes. his anger and
frustration to a brothel.
The dynamics of the "sexual mob"
outside the brothel were perhaps dif-
ficult for the non-Turkish audience to
identify. There is a lot of anger and
hostility, each man angry at his own
personal antagonist; there is rivalry
and hostility towards each other,
towards the women inside, and towards

the walls and doors separating them.
As the men strain and push to get inside
or to get a better look at the half-naked
women lined up as if in a shop window,
there is also elation, expectation, and
defiance. Inside the brothel, the
camera momentarily focuses on an of-
ficially sealed tariff: The brothel is
state-operated and the fee is 250 liras
(approximately one dollar).
The third episode is the story of a
Kurd, convicted of attempted robbery.
He had been with his brother-in-law,
and had panicked and ran, leaving him
behind to be shot and killed by the

Kurdish village near the Syrian border.
here, the non-Turkish audience should
be alerted to the human tragedy com-
mon to all Kurdish communities on both
sides of the border. When the border
was established after World War I, the
Kurdish people in the area found them-
selves separated from loved ones in
neighboring villages by barbed wire,
mine-fields and patrols. It is this tragic
reality that one of the Kurds voices
when he looks over the mine-fields and
comments, "It is ten meters away and
yet we cannot go across. Still we keep
trying and getting ourselves blown up."

'There are no easy villians in Yol. Instead,
there are prisons within prisons, and
everyone is at once a prisoner and a jailer.

clear the family's honor: She has
become a prostitute in his absence. He
loves her but has to fulfill his duty to the
clan. The most powerful scenes of the
film are those that depict Seyid Ali's in-
ner conflicts, set against a harsh and
merciless physical and social environ-
ment. Hard to believe, as it might seem
to Western audiences, nothing in this
episode is an exaggeration. Both Seyid
Ali's tenderness toward his son and the
unrelenting determination with which
his male in-laws urge him on to perform
his duty ("Don't let your hand shake
when you pull the trigger"), are vivid
realities of Eastern Turkey and of the
Kurdish communities living in the area.
The tragic irony surrounding the
wife's "crime" is not apparent to non-
Turkish audiences who have never
heard of Sogukoluk, the brothel where
she was discovered. Sogukoluk was
more than an ordinary brothel. It was a
male "entertainment compound"
situated in an isolated spot in Southern
Turkey where any concievable fantasy
was readily though expensively ac-
comodated. Its fame had crossed the
borders of Turkey all the way into the
rich Arab Sheikdoms. Men who
procured women or young girls for
Sogukoluk were generously compen-
sated and almost all of the women
rescued after the brothel was raided
and shut down had been coerced into
prostitution by men they had known
and trusted. Once in Sogukoluk, the
women were prisoners both physically
and socially. Even if they managed to
escape the closely-guarded compound,
they would be outcasts from their
families and communities and their
only alternative would be to go back to
prostitution. Sogukoluk was a much
more degrading prison for the "guilty
wife" than Imrali was for the husband
who is offered the "privilege" of
executing her.
One last word needs to be said about
Guney's portrayal of the jandarma, the
rural police who at first sight seem to

be the agents of repression. Guney is
careful to point out that the conscripted
men we see in the film are no different
from the five convicts whose journey
we have been following. Their dialect
and mannerisms are very similar to
those of the civilians they push against
walls to search. In fact, the atmosphere
of tension mixed with an element of
connection and compassion that we ob-
serve each time civilians interact with
the jandarma is the same atmosphere
that we observe in the rigidly patriar-
chal Kurdish households that we step
into. They are one and the same people,
The jandarma on his one-week leave
will take off his uniform, put on clothes
similar to Seyid Ali's, and make his
way across the mountains and the snow
to a village similar to Seyid Ali's.
There are no easy villains in Yol. In-
stead, there are prisons within prisons,
and everyone is at once a prisoner and'a
jailer, except for the women and the
canary who are the ultimate prisoners.
By consistently refusing to point it
human villains, Guney succeeds in ac-
complishing two major tasks. First, he
points the audience in the, direction of a
keen analysis of the socio-economic
forces that have led to Turkey's under-
development, and to the further under-
development of her Eastern and South?
Eastern regions. He leaves the viewer
face to face with the naked realities of
feudalism, patriarchy, and exploitation
- unmendiated by any human agent l
In doing so, he allows for a direct conG
parison with the rest of the under
developed world and with repressed
ethnic minorities all over the globe. Yol
is far more than just a film about the
Kurdish people in Turkey. It is a filrA
about all the peoples of the world for
whom release from one prison in-
variably means imprisonment in
Haywt is a graduate student in

police. He returns home to find that his
wife's clan has declared him an enemy,
and she is under pressure to renounce
him. She defies the law of the clan to
elope with him. They get on a train, try
to have intercourse in the toilet because
they have no other place to go, are
discovered by an angry and indignant
mob and are shot by her younger
brother who is pursuing them to clear
the family's honor. The mob outside the
train's toilet is driven by the same
dynamics as the mob outside the
brothel. In fact, the two mobs are made
to look identical, although performing
contradictory functions.
The fourth convict goes home to a

FOR MOST of the Kurdish villages
along the border, the chief livelihood is
smuggling. Our convict comes home to
a village ruled by terror, where almost
every household has a least one mem-
ber up on the mountains, hunted by the
rural police (jandarma), and all lie
awake at night, listening to the sound of
skirmishes and wondering whose turn it
is to lose a son or a husband. True
enough, his brother is shot and he has to
obey the levirate of his clan, although
he is in love with another girl from the
The fifth episode, the story of Seyid
Ali, is perhaps the most tragic. His clan
is waiting for him to execute his wife to


743 r
Edited and managed by students of The University of Michigan


Vol. XCIV-No. 113

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109





Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board



Shapiro issued a gag order during
his first year as president and instruc-
ted faculty and administrators to talk
to him before they talked with
legislators or the University regents,
:students here would probably be
fuming. MSU President Cecil Mackey
was able to do it.
Had Shapiro decided to spend $85,000
on renovations for his official residen-
ce on South University - $12,000 which
1would go for a new Steinway grand
=piano - students would probably
,protest in the streets. But Mackey was
"able to do it.
And who knows what would happen if
Shapiro decided that he needed $17,500
So improve his private box for football
ames in Michigan Stadium. Yet, this
ss exactly what Mackey did when he
became chief university administrator
of MSU in 1979. After four-and-a-half
years of controversial moves which
'drew harsh criticism from the campus
community, it is no wonder Mackey
resigned yesterday. The former
Oresident of Texas Tech University
and the University of Southern Florida
resigned yesterday. He should have
.been booted long ago.
The MSU Board of Trustees said in a
;statement that they wished "to express
(their) continued support of Cecil
.Mackey as president of Michigan State
University." But it is no secret that
'several board members met privately
:in -December to discuss ways of
removing the 55-year-old Mackey.
Several trustees said prior to his
resignaton that they hoped he would

worst recession in the state's history
Mackey tried to push through a $19
million cut in MSU's $220 billion an-
nual budget which included
eliminating the university's College of
Nursing. The trustees saved the nur-
sing program and cut $16.5 million.
Following that incident, the president
of the state's largest university
became known by students and faculty
as "Mackey the Knife.'
While the University of Michigan
suffered through similar budget cuts,
several legislators noted Shapiro's
superior handling of the situation.
university students should appreciate
Shapiro's cool-headed administrative
style when viewed beside Mackey's
confrontational methods.
Students and faculty, however,
should have realized long ago that
Mackey's administrative policies
would divide the university com-
munity. The controversy over the
hiring of football coach George Perles,
the recent firing of a popular ad-
ministrator in the university's hotel
and restaurant management school,
and the questionable handling of a
band director known to have sexually
harassed several students give
adequate reason for dismissal of
Mackey. Yet it took yesterday's
resignation to get him out of the top
administrative position.
The MSU community should have
called for Mackey's resignation long
ago. Now that student anger toward
Mackey has somewhat subsided, he is
able to gracefully leave and find
another school willing to pay for his ex-
travagant and controversial ways.


IN f1suir VTE.


%m~mn~m %N N 4II" "40U




'V ' i
y l (i t y


Reviewer misjudges 'Star 80'

To the Daily:
It takes a grave injustice to
remove my chains of laziness and
bring thy hands to the typewriter.
But, the review by Bradford
Parks of Star 80 was so ignorant
of the film's intentions that I
must speak up.
* If, perchance, Mr. Parks had
ever heard of thentale of Romeo
and Juliet, or even had ever read
a tragedy, he may have under-

but more importantly she was in
love and remained in love even as
Paul was pulling the trigger.
Peter Bogdanovitch is the "only
sympathetic character?" This is,
outright ludicrous. He was
merely a symbol of Dorothy's
"family" - just as the tramps
Paul associated with were a
symbol of his "family". The con-
flict between these symbolic

families is the reason why Star 80
is a tragedy and the cause of
Paul's and Dorothy'sedemise. If
Mr. Parks wishes to see a sim-
plistic film that deals with
today's mundane problems -

what he may call a tragedy -
then Star 80 certainly would be a
-James McKee
February 10


Letters and columns represent the opinions of
the individual author(s) and do not necessarily
reflect the attitudes or beliefs of the Daily.


by Berke Breathed .


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