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The Tradition of Military Dictatorship and “The Road” of People – Yol the Movie, 1982, Yılmaz Güney / Şerif Gören

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12th of September 2010 was the date of the referendum in Turkey for some limited but progressive constitutional changes. Some of the 27 changes to the Turkish constitution (a constitution that was forced upon people by the military junta of the 12 September 1980 coup d'état) enabled the civilian courts to put on trial the remaining 2 generals of the military junta. Turkey, for the first time, in its history of multiple military coup d'états, was going to hold accountable the military leaders for the brutal consequences of the coup.

The trial has started in April 2012. Chief of the General Staff General Kenan Evren and General Tahsin Şahinkaya are on trial in Ankara.

Years following the coup were a time of torture, imprisonment, disappearance of people in custody, banning of all sorts of artistic, political, academic activities, books, films and ultimately elimination of all democratic rights.

Yol (1982, "The Road" or "The Way”, Director Şerif Gören, Screenplay Yılmaz Güney) came out at this time of unimaginable military brutality. The screenplay was written by Yılmaz Güney, and it was directed by his assistant Şerif Gören, who followed Güney's instructions, as Güney was in prison at the time.

From the beginning, the journey of Yol was not going to be easy. There was no way that the Junta regime would allow Yol to be screened and it was banned in Turkey until 1999. The multi award winning film, including co-winning the 1982 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or along with Missing by Costa Gavras, was too much for the Junta to tolerate. The story of several Kurdish prisoners in short term prison leave and their objective surroundings through the eyes and script of a revolutionary director would be too explosive in a country under fascism.

Yol, through the personalities and individual circumstances of the main characters, drills into the social conditions of the country. From the very first moment, the audiences are relieved from the heavy burden of having to decide to like or hate the main characters Seyit Ali (Tarık Akan), Mehmet Salih (Halil Ergün), Ömer (Necmettin Çobanoğlu). They are the centre pieces of their own individual journeys but they are not glorified in any ways. They are as ordinary and as hopeless as the other peasants, poor passengers in that long train journey across Anatolia to far corners of the country. The camera shots don’t give you the luxury of sadness of ones misfortune. Using real life people and documentary style shots, the main characters blend into the main issue of the film: The consequences of fascism and military junta for the ordinary, poor, peasants and workers. The conversations of Seyit Ali, Mehmet Salih and Ömer aren’t necessarily important or complicated. They are as fragile as the people they encounter along their journey. For example the old man Seyit Ali shares a cigarette with. A father who is stuck because of the curfew in a bus station on his way to visit his son in a far away prison… Ömer, the strong and charismatic young man of the Kurdish border village and his anger and anxiety against the killing of his brother... And his face, when he sees his brother’s dead body in the back of a tractor brought into the village by the soldiers for identification. And such is the fear of villagers that they won’t even identify their loved ones. You don’t feel sad about Ömer. Such is the trick Yol plays on you. You feel more like your blood is boiling…

Yol does not make any apologies for exposing the backwardness of the people and their miserable traditions and ways of life. Yol does not follow the path of populism. Yol tells us in series of shots the miseries of life for peasants, poor and the backward society. But it does it with a difference: It exposes the regime, the presence of military rule in every aspects of life but it does not turn it to paranoia. Yol never goes moralistic about the miseries of people; both miseries inflicted on them and the miseries they have created themselves.

Yol is the story of extraordinary times. Extraordinary brutality on ordinary people. But then it is also the powerful narration of the extraordinary things the ordinary people do. It is the hope. But not just the hope, more so a seed planted in our souls and minds. Seeds through the human actions of Seyit Ali up on a snowy mountain, Ömer when he jumps on his horse and decides to fight and Mehmet Salih when he stares to the ground and tells the authorities: Some things cannot be told, and even if they are told, they cannot be understood by some”

Yol, in many ways could be a story anywhere in the world. Chile, Greece, Pakistan, Egypt...

Many years later Yol continues its journey and in our life time we see the real actors, the leaders of the Junta on trial in civilian courts.

Our journey, ordinary people’s journey continues, slowly defeating the dictators and junta regimes in every step...

Look around...

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