Golden Apricot, Yerevan, 2022: “YOL – The Full Version”, restored and expanded raises festival consciousness
By Alex Deleon for filmfestivals.com
16.07.2022 | ALEX FARBA’s blog
19th Golden Apricot Film Festival Reviews, Yerevan, 2022 YOL, The Full Version, restored and expanded raises festival consciousness.
Freshly minted and fully packed to stir the soul!
The Turkish film YOL (The Way | The Road) caused quite a stir when it was “rescued from prison” and presented at the 1982 Cannes film festival where it shared the top prize, the Palme d’Or, jointly with MISSING by Costa Gavras. (Currently a Special Guest of GIAFF)
The film was banned in Turkey for many years because of the way it showed the oppression of the Kurdish minority — a no-not to this very day — and the implicit harsh criticism of Turkish society in general.
In 1982 the story concerns the varying fates of five prisoners, three Kurdish , who are granted one week’s home leave from jail for the Bayram holiday and find to their dismay that they face continued oppression outside of prison from their families, the culture, and the government. The central story is that of Seyit Ali (Tarik Akan) who is expected to kill his beloved wife, Zine, who turned to prostitution during his absence and has been held prisoner by the family awaiting his return to perform the Honor Killing required by Islam. Seyit is determined to do his religious duty but has a change of heart when he sees her and their two children again — which will lead to enormous tragic consequences.
The film was written, and directed — incredibly via instruction from his prison cell, by Yılmaz Güney, at the time Turkey’s most popular movie star and, as such, a national idol.
A parallel side story, itself a thriller, is the way in which Donat Keusch who is Swiss and the current distributor of a restored full version of YOL, went to Turkey and personally smuggled Güney out of prison on false papers, then miraculously managed to get him to France. Whew — whutta story!
What is noteworthy is how gripping and once again relevant YOL is, now forty years later. I think a better English translation would be “On The Road”… from then to now!
The YOL shown at Cannes in 1982 was an abridged version rushed to be shown at the festival not completely finished — and was yet compelling enough to merit a share of the grand prix, appropriately paired with Gavras’s Political thriller MISSING.
Having lived with YOL for four decades Keusch always wanted to bring out a Full Version which he finally masterminded and Brought back to Cannes in 2017.
The fleshed out new edition contains a sixth story in addition to the original five and, crucially for the orientation of foreign viewers, onscreen identification of each city visited by the temporarily free Kurdish jailbirds. The final scenes in which Seyit is desperately trying to save his estranged wife from freezing to death in a driving snowstorm is simply excruciating not to mention bone chilling. As it so graphically represents the rejection of the whole idea of “honor killing” which brings such poisonous dishonor to Islam.
At any rate “YOL – The Full Version” was for me the high point ot the week and a reminder of how powerful cinema can be in the right hands, regardless of national origin. The power of YOL is that it does not preach, but merely tells a gripping set of stories that will move you to your own conclusions, if any.
Mr. Keusch and his DFK organization have done a great service to the film community at large by bringing this forgotten Turkish masterpiece back out of the dark at a time when a new Turkish dictatorship is very much darkening the news. Gabriele Sindler and Donat Keusch have been all over town visiting museums and other places and persons of interest. At lunch Keusch retold the incredible tale of helping Yılmaz Güney escape from jail and flee the country, which he is now putting into book form, — so hair raising a tale that I could already see the movie that may eventually come out of it.
I then asked Mr. Keusch about his overall impression of the festival. His answer was another chilling eye opener calling attention to the obvious — — “The worst festival I have ever attended — there is no awareness of the art of film here — Terrible projection in the main venues is the norm, and too many bad prints undermine everything … plus very bad festival organization, relying primarily on amateur volunteer help …”
The dark side of stark reality, not meant specifically to spoil the fun