“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
~ W. B. Yeats

Here’s the next movie I must see:

It’s about a Turkish teacher’s first year in a Kurdish village. It’s Turkish title is İki Dil Bir Bavul (Two Languages One Suitcase) but it looks like it will have a different name for English audiences: On The Way To School. I prefer the Turkish title.

Ece Temelkuran of Milliyet had this to say after seeing the film, which debuted in Turkey last Friday:

At first glance the movie tells how a Kurdish child grows, how he learns Turkish, how he is crushed, how he tries to stand up.

Eskiköy and Doğan made a movie like cotton. They opened the door to the lives of Kurdish children, who have not anything to play with but only rocks, and who start to live [like a football game] defeated 5 to 0 . . . If you look very carefully, this movie whispers why these children go to the mountains when they grow up. At the end of the movie, such a story of the people comes out that you want to press this movie to your heart.

The website for the film is here.

There is information about the film available in English, and here’s the synopsis from the film’s Press Kit:

The young Turkish teacher Emre Aydin has been appointed by the government to go teach at a school in a remote and impoverished Kurdish village. He arrives in the village at the beginning of the school year to a few unpleasant surprises. There’s no running water in the village and the students don’t show up for class. ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL follows Aydin during the entire academic year. The camera observes him and his students in a fly-on-the-wall kind of way, and we can see how tough an assignment it is for Aydin to teach here. Many families only speak Kurdish at home, so learning Turkish isn’t only hard for the kids, but it’s also a sensitive matter as far as the strained relations between Kurds and the Turkish state are concerned. Aydin feels like a foreigner in his own country, but he’s determined to accomplish the task at hand. For the most part, he’s a friendly and patient instructor, but when students write Kurdish words in their notebooks, he loses his cool and kicks them all out of class. He proceeds to grab his cell phone and call home, where his mother lovingly gives him her ear.

From an interview with the film makers, Özgür Doğan and Orhan Eskiköy:

BD: In On the Way to School is Emre the teacher, a hero or an anti-hero?

Eskikoy: “He’s just an average sort of guy. We chose him because he’s the kind of person who is very open with his feelings. The way he walks around talking to himself at times is the way he is. We didn’t need to interview him to be able to show that he didn’t want to be there and that he felt alone in the village. Or to see how the lack of communcation between him and the villagers eventually led him to become fed up with teaching them.”

[ . . . ]

BD: The children come across in a very innocent way. They show no self-consciousness about being filmed. How did you achieve this?

Dogan: “One reason is that for the children the teacher is the absolute authority. So when he is in the room all of their attention is focused on him and we are of no importance. They also have had little contact with cameras and media.

BD: Why did you want to make this film:

Eskikoy: “We were curious about Kurdish children and wanted to understand what they are going through. Telling their story is a way for us to better understand them and get others to understand their situation. There are about eleven to fifteen million Kurds in Turkey today. They don’t have the right to be educated in their language, no TV stations or school of their own. Their culture is completely unrecognized.”

There’s more in Zaman:

The film is a simple and profound piece of work that depicts the one-year journey of the 20-something primary school teacher Emre Aydın from the western city of Denizli who has been appointed to teach in southeastern Urfa’s remote Kurdish village of Demirci. Here’s the catch: Aydın, who cannot speak Kurdish, will have to teach Turkish to a classroom of kids who do not speak a word of the state’s official language. After all, the language spoken in their homes is Kurdish, although most of the adults can speak Turkish. Aydın, being the well-intentioned epitome of the image the republic has set for teachers since its foundation, patiently struggles to bring “civilization” to the provinces by means of primarily teaching the official Turkish language. God knows Aydın tries, and the kids try (they truly love and respect their teacher) but, much like the country’s current policy in dealing with the Kurdish populace, the school year ends without much success. But how could it not? Beyond the fact that the kids speak Kurdish amongst themselves, their lives are limited in the fields of a desolate village prone to constant power cuts where water is a luxury. Except for the presence of the teacher, the state has forgotten them.

When Zaman interviewed Doğan and Eskiköy, it asked what the experience was like for them to film in the Kurdish region since the experience for the teacher was extremely frustrating. Eskiköy answers:

Since Özgür knows the region a lot better than I do, he wasn’t surprised. As for me, it was different and slightly shocking, since the Kurdish life that I had envisaged was not what I later saw.

Özgür Doğan knows the region better because he is a Kurd from the region.

And that’s why, when he received the award for the Best First Film at the 46th International Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, Özgür Doğan said “I am receiving this award in memory of Ceylan Önkol, who was not able to learn her second language because she was killed by a bomb. Gelek Sipas.” Doğan’s acceptance can be viewed at CNNTürk, at the 58 second mark.

Among its other awards, İki Dil Bir Bavul (On the Way to School) received the Grand Jury Yılmaz Güney Prize at the Adana Golden Boll Film Festival.


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