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A harsh portrait of Turkey, its people and its authorities, shown through the stories of five prisoners given a week's home leave, and the problems they encounter in adjusting to the world outside.Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am completing a thesis on Turkish cinema. I have seen many Turkish films, and I think this is definitely one of the five best and certainly the best one of its' era though the underrated "Polizei" which "Yol"'s co-director Serif Goren helmed is right up there. "Yol" is amazing for many reasons. I have heard some amazing Hollywood back stories of how films like "MASH" and "Apocalypse Now" were hellish shoots. But, none of them matches what the filmmakers did on this project. "Yol" was secretly filmed, and the entire cast, which included box office icon Tarik Akan risked being blacklisted. The film was subsequently banned in Turkey until 1992, and it was not shown theatrically there until 1999. It is a scathing indictment of political and social oppression in Turkey in the early 1980s. Symbolism is used throughout the film, with birds representing freedom, horses representing virtue, and women representing oppression. Many Westerneners have labeled Yilmaz Guney, Turkey's best known director who envisioned "Yol" from his prison and then while in exile, a champion of feminist ideals. But, if one sees some of his earlier film like "Canli Hedef/Live Target" they might be in for a surprise (that film features an off-camera rape of a 10-year old girl). I like Guney's films but I agree with Serif Goren's assessment that his contributions to "Yol" were completely overlooked. Goren proved to be a capable director in his own right, and his film "10 Kadin/10 Women" is perhaps the essential film for expressing ideals which are sympathetic to feminism- a movement that I sympathize with in terms of Turkey, but am neutral towards in the West. "Yol" also deals with Kurdish suppression. One of the more poignant moments in the film comes when Halil Ergun's character comes to back to his hometown Diyarbakir (in Eastern Turkey) on the train during his prison leave. He comments how strange it is to be back home. The central theme of the film is that the oppressive elements of prison life are evident just as much on the outside. Personally, I think Turkey has made significant progress in recent years. It is a shame that except for Michael Moore, Barbara Kopple, and Tim Robbins, very few American film makers take these kinds of risks that Guney and Goren did with "Yol." In my view, the more recent Turkish film "Distant" has surpassed "Yol" as the best Turkish film ever made, but this is still a magnificent artistic achievement which can be merited as a classic in terms of international cinema.
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