A new Turkish film loosely based on the life of murdered Turkish gay activist Ahmet Yıldız is winning awards and opening worldwide in January.
“Zenne” (Zenne Dancer, or “dancing man, man dancer” in Turkish) won five Golden Oranges at the Golden Orange Film Festival, Turkey’s most prestigious film event. It is co-directed by M. Caner Alper and Mehmet Binay.
Yıldız was shot on leaving an Istanbul cafe in 2008. He tried to flee in a car but it crashed and he died. It is believed that he was a victim of a so-called ‘honor’ killing, gunned down by his father.
Yıldız had gone to police after being threatened by his family but the case was dropped. No one has been arrested for his murder.
A friend of Yildiz told the Independent:
He could have hidden who he was, but he wanted to live honestly. When the death threats started, his boyfriend tried to persuade him to get out of Turkey. But he stayed. He was too brave. He was too open.
Turkey has a history of honor killings. A 2008 survey estimated that one person every week dies in Istanbul as a result of honor killings.
In the film, Yıldız is one of three friends. The others are Can, a belly dancer and openly gay man who is protected by his family, and Daniel, a German photojournalist who provides an outsider’s perspective on Turkish attitudes to homosexuality.
Says newspaper Hürriyet:
“Zenne” aims straight at the heart of patriarchy coming in all shapes and sizes, from state-induced laws, to the treatment of gay men in the military and to hate crimes. The film comes with a twist on the prevailing honor killings that have taken and continue to take the lives of many women.
The twist is why “Zenne’s” Golden Orange success and its erstwhile inclusion in a film festival in eastern Turkey mean something a whole lot more. The Malatya International Film Festival had invited “Zenne” to be one of the eight films to be included in its national competition.
However, Alper and Binay say that, uniquely, their film was asked to provide a permit from the Culture and Tourism Ministry for the Malatya festival. “Are disguised obstacles being placed in front of ‘Zenne’?” they said. The film ended up not being shown.
Censorship, particularly online censorship, is a source of growing concern in Turkey. There have also been thwarted attempts to close LGBT organizations by bureaucrats.
The film covers how gay men in Turkey, to avoid the draft, are asked to provide photographic or video evidence. Der Spiegel reported last year that the Turkish armed forces had “the world’s greatest porno archive” because of its policy.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International issued the report ‘Not an illness nor a crime’: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Turkey demand equality. It said that:
In cases of violence within the family, protection mechanisms are not available for many individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. It was frequently reported by activists that transgender women and men, gay men, but most frequently lesbian and bisexual women were subjected to various forms of violence within the family.
Picture by Zenne Dancer