New Turkish Film Shatters Taboos (Video)

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.

Related stories:

Trans Woman Wins European Human Rights Case Against Turkey

Turkish Outrage: Supreme Court Says 13-Year-Old Girl ‘Consented’ to Rape

Turkey Jails Trans Activists for ‘Insulting Police’

Picture by Zenne Dancer


Annemarie Vidal
Anne-Marie Vidal6 years ago

As a belly dancer, I am subject to some slurs about my art. But hearing a male dancer or anyone is murdered because of sexual preference is heart rending. What a brave, honest man who was murdered by a coward. Thanks for the info.

Allan Yorkowitz
.6 years ago

If this film was made in Turkey, this is important. Honor killings=Muslim ignorance.

Joan S.
Joan S6 years ago

big deal that they actually got this film made. yest another small step

Vicky Locke
Vicky Locke6 years ago

Sad to say, but maybe his martyrdom will help the cause of equality? I am NOT urging ANYONE to sacrifice themselves, but sometimes the powers that be need a figurative slap upside the head to take an issue, or people, seriously.

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

There is no honor in killing, only further strife and destruction of humanity. I'm sure this film will be groundbreaking and I hope it's a successful endeavor that helps open people's minds.

Roxane Connor
Roxane Connor6 years ago

None are free till all are free to be who we are.

sherry l.
sherry luciano6 years ago

I don't know how brave he was just maybe he thought his father wouldn't kill him or have someone do it for him. Can't we just live in peace with others that aren't like us? Simple question tough answer for some.

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

So very sad....

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

Looks like an important film and I hope it's successful. Will probably not see it - too heartbreaking.

Sofia Loverdou
Sofia Loverdou6 years ago

Very interesting article. And thanks, Cathy, for pointing out that hypocrisy reigns supreme... I didn't know about turkish baths but homosexuality seems also to be common in monastic and other church circles in Greece (my country) -- and some months ago there was much noise over pederastic scandals in the Catholic church... But is has to do with covered - not openly declared - homosexuality and "difference". I look forward to seeing the movie.