On the Way to School (2008) Poster

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What a wonderful documentary!!!!
evren198527 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this documentary in a dutch cinema. The film is about a teacher from the west of Turkey who is send to teach in an elementary school in a village in the east of Turkey. The people in the east are very poor and don't have anything at all. The teacher is Turkish and the people in the village Kurdish. Most of the kids don't speak Turkish at all. It's the job of the teacher to teach them Turkish and thats a tuff job. The teacher comes from a big city and in the village there is nothing. Even the electricity comes and goes. There isn't any form of social life. The film was so touching, warm and hilarious. I had a constant smile in my face. What I liked the most was that the film wasn't politically judging anyone. It just shows the events happening during one year in the village from the angle of the teacher. I recommend this movie for everyone. Although the film wasn't judging anyone, Turkey should invest lots of more in the east of Turkey. It is a shame for Turkey that those people are living in poverty. No matter what they say Turkish and Kurdish people are brothers!!!
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aesthetically pleasing, culturally informative & politically thought-provoking
tnesla21 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Iki Dil Bir Bavul" ("On the Way to School") is not the first award-winning collaboration between Varto-born Ozgur Dogan and Istanbul-born Orhan Eskikoy: Having met during their university years in Ankara, Dogan and Eskikoy also have "Anneler ve Cocuklar" ("Mothers and Children"-2004) and "Hayaller Birer Kirik Ayna" ("Each Dream is a Shattered Mirror"- 2001), two short documentaries screened and awarded in a number of film festivals in Turkey and across Europe. "On the Way to School" is their most highly acknowledged work yet to date, having been screened in festivals of Jerusalem, Edinburgh, Locarno, Gindou, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Nicosia, Thessaloniki and awarded for 'Best Film' in the 9th Abu Dhabi Middle East International Film Festival, 'Best Documentary' in Romania International Film Festival, 'Little Stamp Best Film' in the 5th ZagrebDox and 'EDN Talent' in the Sarajevo Film Festival.

"On the Way to School" is about the uncanny encounter between a recently graduated young teacher from an Aegean city of Turkey and his students of Kurdish ethnicity living in a remote village on the South-East of the country. As the official language of instruction is Turkish and the majority of the students speak only their Kurdish mother-tongue, the hardship of lack of proper communication in the class environment becomes ironically, their only common experience—very telling of the cultural alienation between South-East and West, the rural and the urban, the poor and the industrialized, the social reality and the official political picture of life in the Republic of Turkey.

(***spoilerish info ahead***) Since many non-Kurdish rural parts of Turkey share the same, if not worse, economic underdevelopment, the documentary does a good job of avoiding over-didactic delivery of identity politics and maintains instead a fine balance between the alienation of the young teacher and the alienation of the Kurdish-speaking students. The young teacher has no nationalistic ideological sentiment to act upon, but the pragmatic necessity to keep the language Turkish during class hours wears him out. He is open about having prepared himself for some cultural and economical gap between his reality and that of the people in the village, but also that his experience even surpassed that. The students show no deliberate resistance to moving on with the Turkish curriculum, but neither the Turkish language nor what it symbolically represents (the cultural ideal of the state) corresponds with their experience of everyday life.

One of the most memorable moments of the documentary is the after-dinner dialogue in the house of one of the locals, who tells the young teacher about the sardonic reaction he was given for having once stated Turkish as his second language on a job application form. Another is about the awkward feel of April 23 festivities -National Independence and Children's Day- an official day of celebration which feels like a beautiful but rather sad utopia for children of background laden with vast economic differences and language barrier. (***end of spoilers***)

Overall, "On the Way to School" is one decent documentary about issues of education, communication, difference and identity. It is aesthetically pleasing, culturally informative and politically thought-provoking sans blatant didacticism, ideological polemics or stereotypical characters.
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Education is not always about money. Sometimes it has so much to do with people
elsinefilo15 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Iki dil bir bavul (Two languages and a suitcase) tells the story of a newly-assigned Turkish teacher struggling to come to terms with the new culture he is bound to live in. In Turkey, eight year primary school education is compulsory. Due to the harsh geographical conditions the state builds up small schools in distant villages to educate students from the first to fifth grade.The secondary part of the education for these students are offered in central boarding schools. The teacher Emre Aydin who is originally from a growing industrial Aegean city, Denizli has actually never been to the east of the country. He is a university graduate full of hopes.When he is assigned to a distant village in south-eastern Turkey he will be bound to face up to new people, a new culture and a new language, which he is not accustomed to at all.Through his one year experience you will realize what a teacher could actually go through in his fledging years. Some user on IMDb says "It is a shame for Turkey that those people are living in poverty. No matter what they say Turkish and Kurdish people are brothers" Actually this is just looking at things from one side. Whether it is a Central Anatolian Turkish village or just an Eastern Anatolian Kurdish village life has never been trouble-free and undemanding in distant Anatolia. When I was a kid I remember our village teacher would want us to bring 'dried cow dung' (which we call 'tezek' in Turkish)to use as fuel in the wood-burning stove. All the classes would be separated into two groups. From first to third,the grades were grouped in a class and the other kids used to be in another group. One teacher but so many classes. We used to use 'peer-teaching' in which older kids used to teach younger ones. Of course learning to read and write was the first and foremost thing.I mean it did not matter our mother tongue was Turkish or not.The poverty that the village was in had never been an excuse to shirk education responsibilities.Today the literacy rate is 79.6% for women in Turkey and the low rate results from the traditional customs of the Arabs and Kurds who live in the East. Like the teacher in this movie, the teachers still knock many doors to know why the kids are not attending classes.So many kids in the East do not attend the classes right away after the school starts.They'll possibly be forced to work either in the cities or in the fields. When a parent has about ten mouths to feed he/she regards this as a natural reality.If they could be willing to learn about 'family planning' things could have been more different. In the East where Kurds predominate, the Turkish government has spent more than $150 billion over the last three decades to spur economic development, vastly more than in any other region.The ministry tries to convey the opportunities to every distant village. You can't just compare a vast country with rugged geographical features to a country like Netherlands or Norway in that sense. Moreover,Turkish civil society organizations have always been working to aid these people.In the East you can see many schools which are provided with educational equipment by their fraternity schools in the West. The government pays for every kid who is attending classes to encourage attendance rate. In the boarding schools,accommodation and food are totally free. Despite all that,some students will come to school without even a pencil,some will tear the covers of the books which are freely given to them,some will damage state property constantly,so few parents will come to ask about their kids etc.(Unlike in the movie most parents will not even come to PTA meetings.)If you consider all these facts, you will know how tough a job any teacher in the region has. In this country there have been numerous TV series and sitcoms about education and teachers but none of them has ever been realistic.This one shows the real life with real students and a real teacher. It's the first one of its kind. It should be supported so that more movies like this could be taken but still when you are watching the movie you can't help saying to yourself "I wish the teacher could play better to reflect the frustration,hard work,loneliness and maybe the helplessness of a newbie. I wish there would be some sort of original soundtrack to reflect the spirit.I wish one would not tend to associate bad education with poverty because being willing to be educated is not always about money.I wish he would show that the biggest responsibility lies on the shoulders of parents not on some teacher or some ministerial inadequacy"
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very touching
asliunur23 February 2012
The movie is very natural and very touching. This is a lesson for everyone to see the real life not fantasy and not worthless, meaningless beliefs. It objectively shows the language problem in east side, how teachers try to do their job in very tough conditions, how children survive in touch village life. I felt like I was at school watching the moves of people. I once had been in east side of Turkey and this is the real life there. The lead role is the teacher Emre Aydin and he is very good. He also represents a man from west village side of Turkey, Denizli. I did not get bored even a minute, highly recommend you to watch it.
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Best Turkish documentary ever
grammatheoldest13 April 2011
I can hardly keep myself not to say "best Turkish FILM ever"... This is a graphically decent film and there's almost no artificial element in it. But above all, due to its direct and minimal approach, the film is making the very core of the South-Eastern Anatolia problem visible, namely "lack of communication". Eastern and Western parts of the country don't know their native languages and they simply cannot communicate. (Film is also making clear which side oblige to learn the other's language.) Another very important point about the documentary in my opinion is its being a test film for the audience. Because it is hard to believe that any "human being" has difficulty to enter in this film and feel belong with while watching it, since childhood is a universal drama in itself, and everyone once was a child himself/herself.
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Boring film, NOT dealing with people & problems deeply
eray-basma23 January 2011
The idea was good but the film did not deal or show well known problems deeply. It just mentions and by-passes every important issue. Moreover, the director does not show us the characters in detail, not even the teacher. There is only one scene with snow in the entire film, but it is too little for the harsh winters of south-east of Turkey. There are some wonderful photographic scenes and views, but the film could be much better if it shows us the people and problems with more detail. It just shows us the communication problems of a Turkish teacher with the Kurdish students. (This is not a spoiler as it also writes in the first sentence of the Storyline: One year in the life of a Turkish teacher, teaching the Turkish language to Kurdish children in a remote village in Turkey) So there is nothing more to say about this film.
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Trenchant Criticism of a Blinkered Educational Policy
l_rawjalaurence11 September 2015
Released in 2009, İKİ DİL BİR BAVUL is a low-key documentary that nonetheless makes some important points about the shortcomings of the Turkish education system. Ever since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's time, public school policy has been dictated by the Ministry of Education (Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı), which had consciously reinforced the one-nation ideology by insisting that all classes should be delivered in Turkish. This might work in the majority of schools, but falls flat in the mainly Kurdish-speaking east of the country.

Orhan Eskiköy and Özgür Doğan's film explains why. An idealistic young educator Emre comes from Denizli in the west of Turkey to the village of Demirci in the east. This is a predominantly rural community whose inhabitants eke out an existence in an inhospitable landscape by tending sheep or growing wheat. They live a very self- contained life under primitive conditions; most of the mud-brick houses lack running water, and the women mostly use local produce to create their meals. Few of them can either read or write; hitherto they have had very little need to.

Entering this community and trying to teach the learners represents a difficult, if not impossible task. The children seldom actually come to school; and when Emre encourages them to do so, he finds it almost impossible to communicate with them. They know very little Turkish, having only heard a few words on television; in turn, Emre speaks no Kurdish. Hence they are all imprisoned by their respective languages. The children might repeat the familiar phrase "Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene" (Happy is he who is a Turk), but they have no understanding of what it means. On the celebrations for Children's Day (23 April), a holiday instituted by Atatürk both to reward children and remind them of the importance of Republican values, the children play games and mouth the phrases they are supposed to do, but the significance of the occasion eludes them. Try as he might, Emre finds that progress in class is slow, often impossible.

Having said that, he is not without his faults. There is little indication of his being prepared to meet the children halfway and learn some Kurdish during his time at the school; and some of his pedagogical methods leave a lot to be desired. Merely shouting at the children and/or intimidating them by making them repeat phrases over and over again is hardly conductive to creating a good learning environment. On the other hand he is a new teacher with little grasp of effective classroom technique, so perhaps we can exonerate him.

The documentary takes place over a year, from September to June. The directors make much of the changing landscapes from the hot sun of late summer to autumn colors, a harsh winter with snow whipping across the barren landscape, and the onset of spring with a duck leading her ducklings across the farm. They emphasize the unchanging nature of life in Demirci, whose citizens pursue a life that remains immune from any of the major urban and social developments taking place in the west of the country. In this kind of situation, it's hardly likely that anyone would respect the Ministry's desire for a Turkish-only school.

Since the film was made, the government apparently made some moves towards a more multicultural education policy by permitting some lessons to be given in Kurdish. In light of current events, however, where renewed conflicts have broken out in the east of the country between the security forces and the local people, we might wonder whether such initiatives have any real chance of taking root, or whether the east will remain the cultural and educational backwater as represented in this film.
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