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‘Cinema work in Rojava will continue despite all attacks’

Numan Yiğit, co-chairman of the Rojava Film Commune, which continues its work amidst the attacks, told ETHA (Etkin Haber, news agency in Turkey/North Kurdistan) about his perspectives on cinema and the importance of the artNoting that governments use film as a tool to manipulate society, Yiğit stated that the RFC aims to create the visual language of libertarian life. Reminding that director Mensûr Kerîmîyan, who was martyred in an attack carried out by the occupying Turkish state in December, proclaimed himself and fought as a people’s artist, Yiğit said that they will strengthen Kerîmîyan’s legacy. Kurdish cinema will resist, just like the Kurdish people.

The attacks of the occupying Turkish state against Rojava seem to find no end. Director Mensûr Kerîmîyan from Rojhilat was killed in an attack that took place on December 23. Kerîmîyan’s fighting friends insist on continuing their cinema work in Rojava, carrying forward his intentions.

We talked about the martyr Mensûr Kerîmîyan, the attacks of the invading Turkish state and the importance of art with Rojava Film Commune co-chairman Numan Yiğit, who stated that they made art under warplanes. In his evaluations to ETHA, he noted that albeit not a very long one, the history of Kurdish cinema is expressive. Yiğit stated that they based their cinematic work on the paradigm of Democratic Modernity.

Drawing attention to the attacks against Rojava by the Turkish state, Yiğit pointed out the multiple crises currently arising in Turkey. Reminding that people begin to question the system and the government in moments such as the deepening economic crisis, Yiğit said that the Turkish state launched an attack under the pretense of “fighting terrorism” to prevent this. It did not need a special reason to attack Rojava, though its recent defeat against the guerilla certainly wounded its ego. Yiğit said that by targeting the institutions that serve the public in Rojava, such as infrastructure providing oil and water, “it aims to create chaos” among the people, pushing them to evacuate.

Noting that civilians were targeted, Yiğit talked about the murdered director Mensûr Kerîmîyan. “Nine of our friends were martyred in the attcks that took place between December 24—29, all of them civilians. Some of them were employed at hospitals of printing houses. One of our martyred friends was Mensûr Kerîmîyan, known to everyone as Pîro in the cinema circle. The nickname comes from the concept of Pîrlik. His character, humane and conscientious personality prompted us to assign him this adjective. He came from Rojhilat, East Kurdistan originally. He experienced the same problems that all Kurds in the four parts of Kurdistan experience, starting from the identity problem.”

Mensûr, Yiğit recalls, was able to express himself freely in Rojava, felt both the desire and responsibility to develop free cinema in as many areas as possible. They met Mensûr in 2017 on the set of the movie Dema Dirîreşkan (Blackberry Season). Mensûr took part in the work on Şengal, joined the Kobanê film crew, and worked on the TV series Evîna Kurd.

Emphasizing that film production in Rojava continues under the attacks of the occupation, Yiğit said that cultural and artistic works are also targeted. The murder of Mensûr, he noted, must have been the result of a special operation.

When asked about the racist posts being made by “academics” about those who were martyred in the attacks against Rojava, Numan Yiğit said, “What kind of a situation the death of an artist or a human being can ignite in society. It caused great moral and social decay. It reflects.” he said.

Underlining that an artist must have has problems and conflicts with the system, otherwise he cannot make art, he stressed that the martyred Mensûr Kerîmîyan insisted on being the artist of the people.

Kurdish cinema will continue, in the same manner the Kurdish people continue their resistance against the massacres. “Heval Pîro’s stance is important in this respect. This is a standpoint, that is, it becomes the standpoint of filmmakers who pay the price. Be it Xelîl Doğan’s or Heval Pîro’s. His stance is important in that it shows the insistence on being an artist of his own people. His studies of cinema continue beyond his death. Just as the Kurdish people found a way to express themselves despite the massacres, exploitation and all kinds of attacks for more 30 to 40 years, this insistence, this resistance, this struggle will continue.

Saying that they see cinema as “the handling of reality together with aesthetic art”, Yiğit said, “We express ourselves as the filmmakers of Democratic Modernity. We organize a cinema that respects the paradigm of democracy, ecology and women’s liberation. In particular, we express cinema as the most powerful struggle for the people to express their own language and culture visually. In this sense, our insistence will continue. Just as the struggle has been going on for many years despite all the costs, these works, the defense, appropriation and struggle in cinema will continue.”

‘CINEMA WAS USED AS A TOOL OF MANIPULATION BY THE POWERS’ Underlining that they will continue Kerîmîyan’s struggle, Numan Yiğit said, “We believe that Heval Pîro’s stance will draw a line through the next generation of filmmakers. All revolutions have turned to art to express themselves. Cinema has been dominant in the world for about 130 years. It is an important field of art that has attracted the attention of revolutionaries and governments since its inception. It emerged as the 7th field of art that has an impact on society. It has also been used by the governments as a means of manipulating reality. The Turkish state, for example, has done this a lot. In TV series and movies, the strong state and the strong and perfect individual were exemplified. Just like the identity of Nazi Germany, it continues to create this perception of the strong individual, strong army, perfect human, superior human, in its own cinema and movies “

Pointing out that Kurdish cinema is one of the sustainers of the revolutionary cinema tradition, Yiğit quoted the Soviet poet and playwright Mayakovsky, saying “capitalism has blinded the eyes of reality or humans in the world”, stating that they are working to eliminate blindness with cinema.

In spite of the history of Kurdish cinema not being very long, they are very insistent on working. “What is the role of cinema? Cinema tries to show reality to the public visually. Kurdish self-expression in cinema is not rooted in a very long process. It expressed itself orally first, later in writing. Since the 90s, under the influence of fragmentation, there have been attempts to realize self-expression in the field of cinema, although not at the rate we want. The RFC was established on July 14, 2015, after the revolution. It was born out of a tradition of resistance, becoming the paradigm of the filmmakers of Democratic Modernity — democratic, ecological and with a focus on women’s liberation. Because every filmmaker has an ideological stance, an understanding of the world. Even though he is an individual, he has an ideology nonetheless. As the RFC, we took this paradigm as a basis. We tried to handle our products from this approach.”

The RFC produces documentaries, short films and artistic works. Yiğit says “Heval Pîro was martyred. Our duty and responsibility is to organize ourselves and come forward even stronger. To spread cinema to all areas of society. The attack on him was an attack on us. It was a trigger. We must improve our self-expression and work toward a strong organization. What is our main goal as filmmakers in particular and as artists in general? We consider art as expressing reality aesthetically. We deal with the system of Democratic Modernity in an aesthetical way. We believe that the Democratic Modernity system being built in Rojava will be a libertarian order that will allow people to live well all over the world, especially in the Middle East, if the conditions are met. We believe that it will result in a beautiful world, as we dream of it. We’re trying to be a part of it.”

Numan Yiğit conveyed the importance of cinema as follows: “Soviet cinema was built on the criticism of capitalist, Hollywood cinema. Battleship Potemkin(1925), for example, had a tremendous impact on filmmakers when it was made. Soviet director and theorist Dziga Vertov even published a manifesto. The way capitalist cinematography manipulated reality was became apparent; the cinema of the people was presented against the cinema of the mansions and the rich. It had an impact on film for many years to follow. The French New Wave, Italian neo-realism, and the third world filmmakers in Latin America formed a line, we express ourselves in this identity as a continuation of this period. Our aim is to be the expression of the existing libertarian life, of an order that will be able to express itself more strongly in the future, that will have a strong impact on society. We want to create its visual language. Of course we have artistic and aesthetic concerns. We try to maintain our stance by expressing it as strongly as possible.”