ALI – Director Fatih AkIn: ‘The Cut’ is not a film about ‘genocide’

Director Fatih AkIn: ‘The Cut’ is not a film about ‘genocide’Turkish-German director Fatih AkInand#39s andldquoThe Cut,andrdquo which opened in Turkish cinemas on Friday, is the first film focusing on the events of 1915 by a filmmaker who has his roots in Turkey. andldquoThe Cut,andrdquo which premiered at this yearand#39s 71st Venice Film Festival, follows the fictional story of an Armenian blacksmith named Nazaret Manoogian, who is separated from his wife and twin daughters during the atrocities committed against Ottoman Armenians in 1915 and then sets out on a journey across the globe to find his family.

The film is the last installment in 40-year-old AkInand#39s andldquoLove, Death and the Devilandrdquo trilogy, which began in 2004 with andldquoegen die Wandandrdquo (Head-On) and continued in 2007 with andldquoThe Edge of Heaven.andrdquoAbout his new film, AkIn firmly says andldquothis is not a film about andlsquoenocideand#39,andrdquo and adds, andldquoIt might not be my best film, but itand#39s an honest one,andrdquo responding to comments by film critics.

andldquoIand#39m not a member of a certain [political] movement,andrdquo AkIn told Todayand#39s Zaman during a recent interview. andldquoIand#39m not a rightist, a leftist, a communist or a fascist.

Iand#39m an artist. I have done some right things and some wrong things in my life there are things I agree with and things I donand#39t.

I just want to tell those in my own stories.andrdquoAkIn continued: andldquoIn this film andhellip I actually just wanted to tell a story, but this story cannot be seen clearly and simply.

However loudly I say, andlsquoThis is not a film about andldquoenocideandrdquo,and#39 all the discussions and interviews [about the film] somehow turn in that direction. From now on, Iand#39ll either make totally different films, like andlsquoRecep Ivedik,and#39 or Iand#39ll make my films and never speak about themandrdquoHere is an excerpt from AkInand#39s conversation with Todayand#39s Zaman:You said you received threats from ultranationalist groups because of this film at the time of its world premiere.

Now itand#39s opening in cinemas in Turkey. Has there been any kind of pressure from such groups or elsewhere? Not really.

The dust has settled. Showing the film here [in Turkey] was my first objective.

Actually I knew it would be calmSo you think Turkey is ready for such a film Yes. Thereand#39s no 301 [a former article in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) that made it a crime to insult Turkish identity and state institutions] anymore.

It hasnand#39t been censored, there are no death threats and so there arenand#39t any problems, really.Would it have been different a few years ago? Of course.

Hrant [Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist] was assassinated in this country only seven years ago. Cinema is a popular field we could have faced a lot of trouble.

[Writers] Hasan Cemal, Orhan Pamuk, Hrant Dink, Elif Iafak all paved the way Iand#39m actually following in their footsteps.But what has changed in Turkey? I guess [people are] more knowledgeable now.

Since Hrant was murdered thereand#39s been a catharsis and there is more awareness about andldquoenocide.andrdquo Previously, this word could not be uttered easily, now it is — without anyone pressing charges against you.

Do you believe the events of 1915 were genocide? The United Nations set a definition of genocide in 1948 andhellip and what was experienced in this country is included in that definition. If you accept the UNand#39s framework [as the standard], yes, I call [the atrocities of 1915] genocide.

What kind of research did you do while preparing for this film? I read a lot. andhellip I read work by Bernard Lewis and Gunter Levi and also by some authors [whose work] has traditionally been denied in Turkey.

Taner Akam is a very important historian he almost became my companion during my work on this film [I also read] Wolfgang Gustand#39s writings on genocide. On my filmand#39s German-language website thereand#39s a link that offers a lengthy bibliography on the subject.

Some critics have called your film andldquooverly carefulandrdquo yet some others said it was a commissioned work. Is it a commissioned film? Well, for that to happen, someone has to commission [it].

And who could that be?! I commissioned myself to do this filmMany people go to the movie with certain expectations and when their expectations arenand#39t met, they feel frustrated and talk negatively about the film — which is normal. The heavier and the more sensitive the issue at hand the more [comments] you get and theyand#39re harsher Iand#39m a filmmaker [I know] you canand#39t always be liked.

Life doesnand#39t work that way, although I wish it did, and neither does my job.Why did you choose this theme? I donand#39t know.

Iand#39m not an Armenian, Iand#39m not a Kurd I come from a family who is part of the majority [of the population] in Turkey. But in Germany, Iand#39m a member of the minority.

Thatand#39s why I am capable of relating to all other minorities around the world. Also, to be able to understand the Kurdish issue, one has to live here, itand#39s nothing you can understand by looking from the outside [of Turkey], but thatand#39s not the case with the Armenian genocide, itand#39s something the whole world can relate to.

All the Armenian characters in your film speak English and this prompted some major criticism you faced during your filmand#39s Venice premiere. Was this a deliberate choice or a necessity? It was a choice, and I find it reasonable.

There are other examples of this in cinema: for instance, andldquoThe Pianistandrdquo by [Roman] Polanski. Had it been a different director that made this choice, that director wouldnand#39t have been criticized this much, I bet.

The critics want me to continue standing in the same corner theyand#39re used to seeing me in. andhellip They want me to stay in my andldquoown neighborhoodandrdquo [They say] Do what youand#39re familiar with and donand#39t deal with stuff you donand#39t know about! But I donand#39t plan my actions according to othersand#39 expectations.

How was the film received in Germany, a country with a Nazi past? Germans had some very harsh criticism, too. Germans are very knowledgeable about the Holocaust.

The Holocaust has certain symbols and there are certain images [associated with the Holocaust] such as Auschwitz. They expect to see [something similar to] Auschwitz in the film and when they donand#39t, they criticize your film Whereas, of course there are other visuals that are highly symbolic of [atrocities toward] Armenians, but since they have no information about those, they tend to criticize.

Do you think Western film critics have been harsh on andldquoThe Cutandrdquo because they didnand#39t have enough knowledge about the subject matter? Thereand#39s a huge lack of knowledge I worked for five years on this subject and at some point you fall under the illusion that everybody around you has the same level of information about the matter, but thatand#39s not the case! Thereand#39s been an upside to Venice [the film festival] though Iand#39ve seen how far Western [audiences] are from [understanding] the Armenian genocide compared to the Holocaust.But we do not see an analysis of the Armenian issue in your film In my opinion, that is not a task a film has to fulfill.

I can only motivate people to learn more about genocide just like the cue ball in a pool game. A film doesnand#39t have to analyze and solve everything.

Had I wanted to shoot a film about the genocide, I would have made a 12-hour documentary, and that documentary would start by recounting events from the 10th century.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman