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"Halam Geldi"(My Aunt has Arrived) does not just tell a story in the Greek village of Northern Cyprus, where the sounds of the Ezan is accompanied by the church bells, it also underlines a tradition in Anatolia; the drama of child brides. Three children in the village, three of them from Diyarbakir (Turkey), three of them at the age of thirteen, three of them imprisoned by their fate.Written by
An Angry Denunciation of the Practice of Child Marriages
HALAM GELDİ (AUNT FLOW) is set in northern Cyprus in a divided island, where Greek and Cypriot armies patrol the border between the two sectors. In a small Turkish Cypriot village Reyhan (Miray Akay) and her friend Huriye (Melisa Celayir) attend the local school. But their happy lives as students are about to be rudely interrupted as their fathers take them away to be married, even though they are only thirteen and fourteen years old respectively.
Erhan Kozan's film explores this practice in depth. To the Cypriot villagers it is simply continuing a tradition that stretches back through the families, ensuring that they stay close-knit and immune to outsiders. This is an important principle; anyone coming from outside the familiar unit represents something of a threat. This is why Reyhan's father Ferhat (Tugay Mercan) is almost paranoid about ensuring that his daughter does not talk to strangers, especially Halil (Tunç Oral), the son of a Turkish immigrant family attending the same school.
Yet perhaps these traditions should be changed. The world of the Cypriot village is overwhelmingly patriarchal, where the men sit in the local café playing backgammon and exchanging jokes with each other, while the women are expected to stay home and look after the children. If anyone dares to challenge this order, they meet with violent retribution. Both Reyhan and her mother Benek (Burçin Terzioğlu) resist Ferhat's will in the public arena of the square; he drags them back to the family house and accuses them of dishonoring him. He cannot endure the shame, and resolves to marry Reyhan off the next day.
Director Kozan also shows that the practice of child marriage especially amongst family members is not confined to Cyprus. Halil's mother and father (Necip Memili, Onuryay Evrentan) discover to their cost that they are cousins, and have helped perpetuate a life-threatening hereditary disease that has passed on down to Halil. The hospital doctor berates them for their thoughtlessness, but perhaps it's not entirely their fault; they are simply the victims of a tradition.
The film ends with a sustained violent climax as Reyhan is forced to marry a man much older than herself and make love to him. She escapes across the Turkish Cypriot border to Greek Cypriot territory, and at last the insidious practice that blighted her life comes to light. There is at least some form of redress, but her future has been ruined.
HALAM GELDİ is an angry film, ending with a voice-over and a song summarizing Reyhan's state of mind, as well as citing recent statistics attesting to the sheer volume of child marriages currently taking place both in Cyprus and the Turkish mainland. It should act as a call to arms for anyone wanting to allow all children - especially girls - to grow up in their own way, unfettered to their fathers' patriarchal intentions.
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