An Interview with the Kurdish director Hiner Saleem *

Silence tells often much more than words

KurdishCinema.com / April 10, 2007

Why is your film called DOL?

"To us Kurds music is like nourishment which is
necessary both with birth and death. DOL means
‘drum/drums’ in Kurdish, but has also another
meaning. It can also mean ‘valley’. Thus DOL
refers to the musical life in a hilly country."

You are sharply criticising the political system of
Turkey in DOL. How did you decide to make this

"In Turkey the official state ideology is Kemalism.
This means that only one nation, one language
and one religion are allowed to exist. Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, oriented
himself very much towards the western life, forbade
however the multi-cultural and multinational reality of
the country.

Therefore, until today there are conflicts between the
Kurds and the Turkish state. This ‘dirty war’ which
has lasted for more than 20 years between the
Turkish Military and the Kurdish population, is not
enough considered in the world civic community.

I was familiar with the situation of the Kurdish people in Turkey and knew some about the
principles of Kemalismus. But when I for the first time visited North Kurdistan (southeast of
Turkey) I saw with own eyes ‘happy are those, who can call themselves Turks’ written in the
cities and also on the mountains. That was for me a reason for laughter, a laughter connected
with tears. I could not believe it before I had seen it with my own eyes - a state which publicly
says that its humans are better than other humans. It is obvious that it refers to the Kurds. That
is also the reason why these slogans are written in Diyarbakir and in other Kurdish cities.

I felt it as dishonour for mankind, but at the same time, it is also a kind of comedy. Because for
the world, such ideas disappeared for more than 50 years ago. It was somewhat a visual and
simultaneously a bitter truth of our people and a very bitter truth about the Turkish state. I could
not understand how a state with such philosophies can go into the 3rd millennium. I had all of
these concerns in my head and slowly they developed to a film script."

You shoot the film in the north of Iraq. Did you have difficulties during the shooting work?

"Kurdistan is not Iraq, meaning, that there you don’t have the security problems as in the rest of
Iraq. It is a peaceful country which tries to reconstruct itself. There is a kind of rebirth and
reconstruction there. We have a government and an elected parliament. In this Kurdistan we
have a total liberty to film, to write, to create. Thus, the autonomous government of Kurdistan
also supported us financially and materially.

One can say that I shot DOL not far away from the "Bermuda triangle", at the border to the
Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurdistan.

    My decor was a real village. When we arrived we
    first built a Turkish flag for the shooting. By
    daybreak I walked to the scene and gazed to the
    mountains: my flag was no longer there! The
    village inhabitants had destroyed it during the
    night. Fortunately I succeeded in persuading them
    that the flag is only a requisite for my film and that it
    will be removed the day after the shooting. They
    accepted this on the condition that after the end of
    shooting the Turkish flag would be replaced by a
    Kurdish flag. I left that one there finally as a gift.
Nevertheless, there are some specific characteristics for producing films in Kurdistan. The
countries which brought Kurdistan under their rule with force have hindered a development of a
cinema culture in Kurdistan. This concerns in particular south Kurdistan (Iraq). There are a lack
of film education and technical equipment. That was an enormous problem for us. I was forced
to bring with me a part of the film team from Europe."

You have worked together with the cameraman Andreas Sinanos. How did this collaboration
take place?

"Andreas is a good friend of me, and ‘DOL’ is the fourth film which I make with him. Before I
came to know him, I knew his work which he created with the great director Theodoros
Angelopoulos. I particularly value how Andreas work with the light. Like that our collaboration
was very good and harmonious."

DOL is a quiet film with few dialogues. Is that part of your film language?

"That is a characteristic of me. I like to let the pictures speak. Silence tells often much more
than words. Except for in my first film, there are few dialogues in my films. I recently ended the
shooting of a French film - in the whole film there are only 4 to 5 sentences to be heard."

The casting in DOL does not differ strongly from your previous film "Kilometre Zero"...
However, this time a well-known Kurdish musician also plays.

"I believed particularly in the artistic abilities of the
actors. That was the crucial reason for their
partaking. Nazmi Kirik is really very charismatic;
and Belcim Bilgin is also a very good actress. Both
had already played along in my film Kilometre Zero.
In casting of the singer in the film, I thought of
Ciwan Haco immediately. He is an outstanding
singer and his music influenced young Kurds
although his songs for a long time were forbidden
in Turkey. In the selection of my actors I did not pay
attention from which part of Kurdistan they come."

Today one often hears something about the Kurdish cinema. What can you say
about that?

"Kurdish cinema strives to go in the direction of the sun and the spring. Not only for me, but for
all Kurdish filmmakers it is a big challenge to work in this industry. Governments dominating
Kurdistan have always expressed themselves against the cinema and the establishment of the
Kurdish culture in general. Like that cinema reached Kurdistan very late. The outdated
conceptions in the Kurdish society play here also a negative role. Therefore it is not yet self-
evident, for example, for women to play in films. But I am happy that the Kurdish cinema
becomes more important every day."

* From the press kit of Dol