Interview with the director Ersin Çelik
“Ji bo Azadiyê” (For Freedom, English title: The End Will Be Spectacular) addresses the resistance of the YPS (Yekîneyên Parastina Sivîl), the civil defence units, against the siege by the Turkish military in the Sûr district of Amed from December 2015 to March 2016 (Diyarbakır). The film was shot in the northern Syrian city of Kobanê. Ji bo Azadiyê” celebrated its debut at the 25th International Film Festival in Calcutta, India. From March onwards, film screenings should have taken place in numerous cities, but many have been postponed because of the Corona situation. In an interview, Ersin Çelik explains how the film emerged and why and with whom it was shot.
Could you tell us something about the film commune of Rojava and its role in the production of the film “Ji bo Azadiyê”?
The Rojava Film Commune produced the film. The commune was founded in 2015 in Rojava. It has produced numerous films, documentaries and music videos to date. The commune has also organized a film festival. As part of its mobile cinema, it has also organized film screenings in the North Syrian villages especially for children.
The film “Ji bo Azadiyê” was not created by the Film Commune alone. Dozens of institutions in Rojava and hundreds of people were involved in the production. Up to 100 volunteers worked on the shootings, which lasted almost six months. For example, the support of the neighbourhood councils in Kobanê, the women’s and youth communes, and self-defence units was crucial for the shooting of the film.
How did you turn the story into a film and establish contact with the people who survived the war in Sûr?
During the scenario development process, we were able to contact four people who survived. We had begun discussions with them. One of the main reasons for choosing this topic was the diary written in Sûr. Moreover, the burning of hundreds of people in the cellars of Cezîr was broadcast live on television. Over 300 people were burned alive in the cellars. In Sûr, a history was wiped out. When all this happened, the world was just watching. In the same region, massacres and attacks on the people were already taking place. There was a massive wave of refugees. This film is a critique of that silence.
Is it difficult to work with people who are not professional actors?
It is always difficult to work with people who have not received adequate training for this activity. But it might have been harder to make this film with professional actors. Two people who were involved in the resistance in Sûr, Haki and Korsan Şervan, played themselves. And the other actors were mostly young people who had their part in the fight against IS or grew up in the war. So, they were not actors, but had true feelings and experiences. That is why I did not want the actors to “act”. I tried to make sure that they were themselves, that they behaved as they usually do. I think that if we had made this film with professional actors, it would not have achieved its actual success.
How close are the events in the film to reality? What is the situation today in Sûr?
The film, the story, is based on true facts. The foundation is mostly real stories and the diary kept by the fighters during the Sûr resistance. The film was shot in a district of Kobanê, which was largely destroyed during the city’s resistance, just as it happened with Sûr. The curfew is still in place in part of Sûr. The greatest destruction has hit historical Sûr since the end of the war. They have taken revenge on the city. This long-term genocide is not only targeting the society but also its history and future. Just as the historic Heskîf (Hasankeyf), for example, is flooded, the historic Sûr was razed to the ground.
While the film was being shot, the great war against IS continued in Raqqa. Turkey had also begun to bomb Efrîn. How dangerous was the shooting for you?
Yes, like today, there was, on the one hand, the resistance and on the other the intervention, and the bombing of Efrîn by Turkey also had begun. We shot the film in the city of Kobanê, which had received international attention as a democratic experiment. Where there is life, a film can also be made there. Yes, there were many risks, but it is our home. Just as all the people there live in danger, we were also in danger. Our set could have been bombed. I and all the members of the film crew were prepared for anything. We wanted to make this film under any circumstances. The cinema is part of this democratic resistance. It is as risky as politics and as dangerous as war itself.
What is the current situation of Kurdish cinema?
The situation of Kurdish cinema is like the Kurdish question. Films are made, but in the country itself fascism and war are raging. It is difficult to make a film and bring it closer to society. Moreover, there is the Kurdish society in the diaspora and its films. Kurdish cinema will produce important results as a part of the societal opposition by the Kurds, because in our homeland there are dictatorships on the one hand and a democratic resistance oriented towards the liberation of women on the other. Kurdish cinema must be oriented towards the latter. There is also the reality of refugee stories, but I also think that the return of many Kurdish refugees is an even more important issue. Kurdish cinema can also illustrate the pioneering role of women in the political, military and cultural spheres.