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Directors in focus
The Films of Yilmaz Güney

Despite being hailed within Turkey as one of the great talents of the nation’s young cinema movement of the 1960s and widely known as an actor, writer, and political activist, Yilmaz Güney languished in obscurity for a key portion of his filmmaking career— largely because of the many years the director spent in prison for acts that ran afoul of the reigning political regime. Güney was first jailed for publishing communist propaganda, then for harboring anarchist students, and finally for shooting a judge. It was during his final stretch in prison that he crafted his most acclaimed screenplays before escaping in 1981 to Switzerland. Güney went on to receive the Palme d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival for Yol. He died in Paris in 1984. This survey provides a rare opportunity to see a quartet of works by this master of political cinema. All screenings will be introduced by Professor Cemal Kafadar, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.

This program is presented in collaboration with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Special thanks are due to the Güney Foundation, which has authorized these screenings and generously produced new English-subtitled prints for this program.

PLEASE NOTE: Friend and Hope will not be screening as planned due to lack of print availability. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


April 4 (Friday) 7 pm
April 5 (Saturday) 7 pm
Introduced by Professor Cemal Kafadar

Road (Yol)

Directed by Serif Gören and Yilmaz Güney
Turkey/Switzerland/France 1982, 35mm, color, 114 min.
With Tarik Akan, Serif Sezer, Halil Ergün
Turkish with English subtitles

Yol was filmed clandestinely by Serif Gören from a Güney script that was smuggled from prison; the footage was then smuggled again to the director’s exile for editing. Five inmates of a Turkish prison are granted a week-long furlough to visit their respective homes, where they variously encounter violence, military repression, feudal custom, and mistreatment of women that seem hardly better than the oppression of prison life. One is required by tradition to murder his wife after he learns that she has been unfaithful; another is kept from his fiancée by patriarchal custom; a third, a prisoner of Kurdish descent, finds his village devastated by the Turkish army. All five characters effectively communicate Güney’s frustration with the injustices of a homeland to which he himself could not return. The result brought the director to the international spotlight following its overwhelming success at Cannes.

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April 4 (Friday) 9:30 pm
April 5 (Saturday) 9:30 pm
Introduced by Professor Cemal Kafadar

The Herd (Sürü)

Directed by Yilmaz Güney and Zeki Ökten
Turkey 1978, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Tarik Akan, Melike Demirag, Levent Inanir
Turkish with English subtitles

A nomadic herdsman embroiled in an ancient blood feud decides to take his flock of sheep to Ankara and sell off his family’s most essential assets. Along the way, some of the sheep die and others are stolen. When he arrives in the city, he receives far less money than he was originally promised, and his family suffers a fatal loss. Güney remains focused on the injustices of society in a screenplay that was crafted in a room he shared with eighty other prisoners. The one cinema that attempted to screen the film was shut down after a bomb attack, lending further mythic status to Güney as a true revolutionary of the New Turkish Cinema.

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