Turkish short film ‘Ziazan’ opens borders

Turkish short film ‘Ziazan’ opens borders

Emrah Güler
Turkish short film ‘Ziazan’ opens borders Derya Durmaz is both a household name, thanks to her roles in popular Turkish TV series like “Ihlamurlar Altında” (Under the Linden Trees), and a name familiar to moviegoers, an actress in such recent films as Tayfun Pirselimoğlu’s “Saç” (Hair) and Serkan Acar’s “Aşk ve Devrim” (Love and Revolution).

It was a pleasant surprise for many to hear of her directorial debut (written and co-produced by Durmaz as well), “Ziazan,” which won the special jury prize earlier in May at the South-East European Film Festival in Paris, SEE à Paris, where it received its world premiere. The film also, more recently, won first prize at the Atıf Yılmaz Short Film Contest.

“Ziazan” takes a delicate political issue and subverts it into a bright story, a 15-minute journey told through the eyes of a 4-year-old girl. The political issue is the closed land border between Turkey and Armenia, and the repercussions of it through the informal luggage trade between the two countries.

The little hero is the Armenian Ziazan, meaning rainbow, one of the reasons her little friends taunt her.
Another reason for the little bullies’ taunting of Ziazan is the Çokkolet she’s been consuming, the tubes of chocolate that comes as presents from her uncle during his trips to Turkey for the luggage trade. “Go get us some more,” yells one of the kids when hearing that the tubes of Çokkolet are finished, the fresh traces still smeared over little Ziazan’s face.

Ziazan’s face breaks your heart with the dawn of exclusion from her friends when they abandon her. The little face soon brightens with an idea that will surely impress her friends. She quietly empties her uncle’s luggage while he is asleep, and makes herself comfortable in the luggage, along with a few of her coveted items like a plush toy in a plastic bag.

From Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform to screen

So begins little Ziazan’s journey in her uncle’s pick-up truck across the border from Armenia to Turkey, a smile plastered over her face under the sunlight and the fresh air. The Hürriyet Daily News talked to Durmaz about her film, the conception of the idea, working with children, and what the future holds.

Durmaz remembers reading a story in the Daily News about three years ago on the informal luggage trade between Armenia and Turkey.

“When I pondered over the absurdity of the situation between the two countries, the story evolved into the story of a little girl,” said Durmaz. “I was shaping the story when I saw a call on the Internet a project development workshop by the Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform. I sent my story, and ‘Ziazan’ was one of the 10 films selected by the platform.”

The Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform, kick-started by a collaboration between Anadolu Kültür, a civil initiative established to foster mutual dialogue through arts and culture, and the Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival, has been bringing together young filmmakers from Turkey and Armenia for dialogue and collaborative work since 2008. The platform also organizes workshops, provides funds for films, facilitates opportunities and guides young filmmakers from both countries for joint productions.

“The workshop in Yerevan both helped me see beyond the border and contributed a great deal to my film,” said Durmaz. “Not only did I have the chance to work professionally with valuable people from the sector, but also had the opportunity to [influence] each other’s projects, both from Turkey and Armenia. The platform successfully encourages collaborative work and joint productions from both countries.”


Durmaz describes working with children as “the most
exhilarating and pleasant experience at the same time.”

‘Ziazan’ to make the festival circuit

Durmaz describes working with children as “the most exhilarating and pleasant experience at the same time.” One of the very first pieces of advice from her friends who studied cinema was that “the first rule taught in cinema studies is never shoot your first film with children or animals.”

“Not only did I break that cardinal rule, but I had to work with children whose language I did not speak,” said Durmaz. “Even if you don’t speak their language, you can communicate with the basic motive of playing games. If you can pull them into your game, they give you their own games in return. Games that surprise and delight you at the same time.”

As for the political theme underlying the film, “the children, thankfully, were totally unaware.” “Their world is not yet blackened by politics. They don’t care where the people they are interacting with are coming from, whether there is any animosity toward a certain group of people,” said Durmaz. “They either like you or don’t. And if you like them, they happen to like you back.”

What’s next for “Ziazan?” Where is the film headed to in the near future? “The film will compete in the Arbil, Festroia [in Portugal] and the Ankara International Film Festivals, Hamburg’s Mo & Friese Children’s Short Film Festival, as well as the Tokyo Kinder Film Festival,” said Durmaz. “Maybe other festivals will be added to the lineup.”

Maybe and hopefully, more moviegoers will have a chance to watch this delightful message of peace and hope.