Fatih Akın: I was carrying a burden, I have now laid my burden on the shoulders of the viewer

The premiere of Fatih Akın’s most recent film ‘The Cut’ was held in Turkey on 2 December 2014, Tuesday . The film “Turkey is ready for” according to Fatih Akın, will be at selected theatres from Friday on.

It is difficult to tell the story of a disaster. And it is perhaps more difficult to tell the story of disasters you have witnessed, or listened to first-hand accounts from those who have witnessed them. Sometimes it is difficult to overcome the trauma of the disaster without telling its story. But if you have lost your voice, how can life continue as if nothing has happened? Or if the person you speak to does not hear you at all, when you start to speak? There is no remedy for the mute, or for the deaf. Yet one day, a storyteller turns up, reaches into the disaster, and includes you in the story of one man, and his search for the daughters he has lost. This storyteller shows you the naked truth, a truth you might know, or have chosen to turn a blind eye to. Just like the film ‘The Cut’… 

The premiere of Fatih Akın’s most recent film ‘The Cut’ was held on 2 December 2014, Tuesday, at the movie theatre of Nişantaşı City’s Shopping Center. After the premiere of the film, we sat down with the film’s first viewers and talked about the difficulty of telling the story of a disaster, and also the pressing need to tell such stories for writers and artists. We commemorated witnesses of the Armenian Genocide, Hagop Oshagan, playwright and novelist, Daniel Varoujan, poet, and Zabel Yesayan, novelist, poet and teacher.

There had been questions about whether the film could be screened in Turkey. Fatih Akın had previously stated, “Turkey is ready for this”. I asked Akın about his feelings on the night: “You work for a long time, with a single day, a single moment in mind; then that day comes and you feel an emptiness inside… Today, the emptiness I feel inside is of a positive nature, I feel relaxed...” Akın spent seven years on this big production: “I was carrying a burden, I have now laid my burden on the shoulders of the viewer.” It is now our duty to shoulder that load. 

After the premiere, the director of the film, filmmakers and actors shared their thoughts on the film with Agos:

Serra Yılmaz: Pointing at a disaster is not the only way to tell the story of a disaster

This film touches upon events our history wants to turn a complete blind eye to. It is also a long road movie. It is a very difficult task to engage in. First of all, the cost of recreating the historical environment is very high. I must say it is a very courageous production. It is always difficult to tell the story of disasters. You can’t tell ten stories in a single film. So you tell the story of a part of the disaster via a single story. Here we follow historical truth via the witness account, or the story of a single man. Perhaps, pointing at the disaster is not the only way to tell the story of the disaster. My only negative criticism is that perhaps it could have been shorter. It wouldn’t have lost anything from its story. I believe this film will have a groundbreaking, leading role in turning our attention towards stories based on painful historical events 

Rıza Kocaoğlu: This film exposes a reality that continues to exist

 The film narrates the suffering from a humane viewpoint, the approach is very sensitive and naïve, without overlooking historical reality. On the other hand, it does not preach to any community by saying something like, “You did this to this other community, that’s what you are like”. The film reaches as far as the United States and shows how the whites treat the Native Americans. By showing that the events are a universal problem, the film itself becomes universal. In other words, without overlooking the universality of the problem, it touches upon the painful events that took place on these lands. The film is also the story of a father’s search for his daughters, the story of the disintegration of a family. If we can, for one moment, forget about the idea of a nation, and see things from that perspective, perhaps there can be a change in our inner world. Many nations have faced similar pains on these lands. The Kurds continue to face such pains. The Ezidis face the same in Sinjar. This film also exposes a reality that unfortunately continues to exist. Those who have negatively reacted against the film should first watch it. Then if they want an ideological, historical or artistic discussion, it could then be done with another film, or on an artistic platform. We have to learn to listen to each other. We will understand each other much better when we can do this through film, theatre or literature. As artists, to convey stories from one generation to another is part of our job. We are the bearers of stories.

Güven Kıraç: We cannot expect a film to solve a historical question

I know the kind of preparation Fatih Akın goes through before making a film. And since he did his homework well, I do not think he has exaggerated at all. These facts exist in the sources he read and spoke to, and it is clear that the artist felt the need to include them in his film. We cannot expect a film to solve a historical question. The film has fulfilled its duty as a film. We have witnessed a story. Back in 1999, we told the story of the Wealth Tax levied on minority citizens in the film ‘Mrs. Salkım’s Diamonds’. It was based on Yılmaz Karakoyunlu’s novel. The events retold in that film were true. Non-Muslims died in Aşkale, in exile, because they couldn’t pay the unjustly levied taxes. There was a big debate back then; some thought it was an exaggeration, some said it reflected the historical truth. This is a good film, and should not be overshadowed by arguments. On the other hand, those who criticize the way in which historical reality is depicted in the film should speak with documents. Fatih Akın shot this film as a result of a 7-year period of serious and detailed research.

 Nejat İşler: This is a pain that does not belong only to the past; it is also a pain of the present day

I wish the film were longer, really, because it keeps the viewer watching. It’s like the journey of Odysseus. First of all, it is a long road movie with a very good script. A film that captures the subject matter from a very sensitive point, and also contains references to social class… We watch a story with a strong universal element, a father who has lost his daughters, and persistently continues to search for them. The subject matter of the film is something that is always spoken about in our circles, but never mentioned in public. It is perhaps much better that it slowly becomes a topic of debate. I also thought of this while watching the film, every nation has metaphorical and literal skeletons in its closet. So why don’t we confront our past, and face the truth? This will heal us all. In literature, film and theatre, the best work is produced at times of oppression. I don’t only mean courageous. It is in our work’s nature to be courageous anyway. But what Fatih Akın has done is a very noble thing. The film tells us the story of a pain that does not belong only to the past, but also a pain of the present day.

Meltem Cumbul: The script weaves a powerful story from beginning to end

I believe Fatih Akın emerges honourably from such a difficult task. The fact that a Turkish director that grew up in Germany has told this story with such a degree of internalization, and that it is now being screened in Turkey are very important. A foreign director, or an Armenian director did not make this film. I should also add that this is not a documentary, but a feature film. That is how it should be assessed. I hope Fatih is given due credit for that. It is a great responsibility, and a huge production. In terms of the journey of the character, the script weaves a very powerful story from beginning to the end, the historical atmosphere is conveyed very successfully. This is the story of one man’s search, his witness account and the pain he suffers keeps the viewer interested until the end. Fatih communicates his message very clearly from the viewpoint he has chosen. I hope this film earns its rightful place in Turkey both cinematographically, and in terms of the value of the story it tells. 

Özcan Alper: This film gives us the first visual recording of the disaster

Fatih Akın has attempted to use a number of different cinematic genres. It presents a risk. By the end of the film, we see he emerges successfully. There are hundreds of different ways to convey a certain topic. Fatih Akın tells his story from his own window, in a very clear manner. You assess a film from a cinematographic viewpoint, in terms of its place in the history of film, and society. Humanity learned about the Holocaust from hundreds of films, this was because the Holocaust had its monuments, because it happened during a more recent time, and because more visual records of it exist. Until almost 1965, there was a big silence about the Armenian Genocide. We immediately picture the camps, for instance, when the Holocaust is mentioned. I believe, that after this film, an image has taken shape in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people about what the camps in Deir ez-Zor looked like, while until now the word ‘exile’ was uttered too easily. In that sense, this film gives us the first visual recording of the disaster. On the other hand, we also see who the Diaspora is, often perceived negatively in Turkey. We see how these people were dispersed like pomegranate seeds. This is not a film that you can simply shelve after you have seen it. I think it is important to think about it, talk about it, days after one has seen it, and perhaps to read other books, and to look at what is happening today in Sinjar and in Kobanî. This will enable us to speak not only about the past, but also about the future.

Fatih Akın: I am not a politician, I am a filmmaker

You work for a long time, with a single day, a single moment in mind; then that day comes and you feel an emptiness inside… That is the kind of emptiness I fell. This emptiness I feel inside is of a positive nature, I feel relaxed... I don’t think my antennae are really open to reactions to this film. I worked a lot on this film. I am 41 years old, and I spent 7 years working on this film. I was slightly disappointed with the reactions after the film’s release in Germany. So I learned how to close my antennae, in a sense, to protect myself… I am not a politician, I am a filmmaker. I am looking for unknown stories. The Armenian Genocide is a great pain that is not talked about. There are many stories. Every survivor, and every person that died have their own story. I tell the story of a single person in my film, but I have tried to weave the story of this person by combining many sources, literature, scientific books and witness accounts. I have finished my work. I had previously said, “Turkey is ready to watch this film,” and tonight I see that I was right. It seems that the viewer has also relaxed. I was carrying a burden; I have now laid my burden on the shoulders of the viewer.


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Maral Dink