The screening of the film ‘Ji Bo Azadiyê’ (‘The End Will Be Spectacular’), directed by Ersin Çelik, was removed from the Sulaymaniyah 5th International Film Festival on 18 December, shortly before the film’s screening. Five days after the film was removed from secreening, no official announcement has been made.
‘Ji Bo Azadiyê -The End Will Be Spectacular,’ directed by Çelik and made by the Rojava Film Commune, is a film about the historical resistance of Kurdish fighters in the Sur district of Diyarbakir (Amed) during the curfews announced by Turkey in 2015.
Following the film’s removal from the festival programme, the Rojava Film Commune issued a statement announcing that it was also withdrawing the films ‘Dema Dirîreşkan’ (‘Blackberry Time’) and ‘Ronak’ from the festival. The statement noted that they joined the festival at the request of the festival organisers, but that there was an “external” influence on the festival.
Director Ersin Çelik spoke to the Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) about why the film was censored at the festival.
“The festival organisers sent us an invitation in October and asked us to join. We came to Sulaymaniyah to attend the festival upon their invitation. The film ‘Ji Bo Azadiyê’ was going to be screened in the evening on 18 December, on the second day of the festival. The festival management called us a few hours before the screening and said that the film would not be screened due to festival ‘rules,’ claiming that the film was shot in 2019,” he said.
It is a political decision
Çelik stated that the justification put forward by the festival management does not reflect the truth: “When we sent copies of the films to the festival management, we informed them that it was made in 2019. And there is no indication that old productions can’t be shown at the festival. We also informed them that ‘Ji Bo Azadiyê’ was banned in Sulaymaniyah in 2019 on the grounds that it could disturb the ‘security of the city.’ They knew about it. The main reason for the censorship is that they are under pressure from the Turkish Consulate. They do not openly say that, but we know that the decision was a political one.”
Kurdish directors should have reacted
Çelik drew attention to the fact that there was no reaction from Kurdish directors against the censorship. “Cinema and art should be free from pressure. If we had heard that another film was banned, we’d react, regardless of who shot it. If a film was censored in this way, we would withdraw our film from the festival without hesitation. Even if the directors couldn’t withdraw their films, they could at least react. That’s all that matters.”
Noting that there are two Kurdish films among the 16 feature films in the main competition section of the festival, Çelik said: “There were two films made in Kurdistan. These were the films ‘Dema Dirîreşkan’ and ‘Ji Bo Azadiyê.’ One of these two films was banned from screening, and the other was withdrawn in response. Now, there are no featured Kurdish films at the festival.”
He continued: “As long as Kurdish directors do not change their attitude, Kurdish cinema will not develop. Art begins first and foremost with a stance. There have been no festivals for two years due to the pandemic. The important thing for us is not whether we participated in the competition, we were invited, catalogs were prepared.”
“At the very least, the screening should have been held at the specified time, although the film was not included in the competition. But that wasn’t done either. Even if 50 years pass, this will remain a black mark for the Sulaymaniyah International Film Festival.”