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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 15:35 GMT
Director slams Turkish film ban
Atilla Dorsay
Film critic Atilla Dorsay: Surprised by ban
By the BBC's Johnny Dymond in Istanbul

The director of a film banned by the Turkish government has condemned what she called a "prohibitive attitude against art" and called the decision to ban her film "unjust".

The ban looks like a spectacular own goal: Handan Ipekci's Big Man, Small Love was partly funded by the Turkish Culture Ministry and was Turkey's official nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

It has also been released outside Turkey under the title Hejar.


How can a work of art harm society, provoke crime or encourage separatism?

Fusun Demirel, actress
The film was ordered to be withdrawn from Turkish cinemas on Sunday.

Big Man, Small Love tells the story of how a five-year-old Kurdish girl is taken in by a retired Turkish judge when a police raid on her home goes wrong, killing her guardian.

She speaks no Turkish, and he speaks no Kurdish. Their evolving relationship is a metaphor for the relationship that Turkey has with its 12 million strong Kurdish community.

Turkey fought a 15-year civil war over Kurdish autonomy in the 1980's and 1990's, during which between 30,000 and 40,000 were killed as Kurdish paramilitaries clashed with Turkish security forces.

Handan Ipekci
Handan Ipekci: Decision "unjust"
The Turkish government still refuses to grant Kurds the right to broadcast or teach in their own language.

Big Man, Small Love has been on general release for six months and more than 100,000 people have seen it in Turkey.

But it was banned on Sunday because it portrayed the police in a poor light and because it is "chauvinistic" about Kurdish nationalism.

At the beginning of the film the police are shown carrying out a cold-blooded killing. The police complained about the scene.

The film has won a string of awards in Turkey, including some of the country's most prestigious prizes.

'Ethnic differences'

It was named as Turkey's candidate for an Oscar nomination, although it wasn't selected for the final shortlist.

Handan Ipekci, the film's director, said on Wednesday that the film "underlines the fact that people can live together on this land despite all ethnic differences".

She was careful not attack Turkey's culture minister, who is sympathetic to the creative community. But she did say that had he seen the film, then "he'd not be in a position to support this prohibitive mentality".

Fusun Demirel, the lead actress in the film, was more damning.

She asked: "How can a work of art harm society, provoke crime or encourage separatism?

"What kind of a system is this that does not let its artists open their eyes?"

Harm

Attila Dorsay, the head of the Turkish Film Critics Association said he was surprised by the ban, given that so few films had been banned for political reasons over the past ten years, even when the war with Kurds was at it's most difficult.

The ban could only harm Turkey, he said.

"From now on it will be an international matter - the whole world will know that Turkey, which is trying to be a democratic country, has come down on this little film."

The committee which decides whether or not art should be censored in Turkey has seven members - three drawn from the artistic community and four from the government.

At the news conference - which doubled as an open meeting of Istanbul's creative community - one committee member announced that she was resigning - and said that another colleague of hers was also going to resign.

See also:

27 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
06 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Greece and Turkey's screen friendship
15 Feb 99 | Europe
Turkey screens banned film
22 Oct 98 | Europe
Filming Turkey's hero
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