Oldenburg 2016. Review of “The Circle” by Rûken Tekeş

Kurkish director Rûken Tekeş’s first short film “The Circle” is a story of discrimination and violence inflicted on minorities and vulnerable groups; a poignant and relevant medium in the advocacy for human rights. Hot off its showcase at this year’s Short Film Showcase in Cannes where it won the Audience Choice Diversity Award, the short headed to the Oldenburg International Film Festival, snatching the Award for Best Short Film on closing night.

Based on a true story and dedicated to her father, “The Circle” is set in Mesopotamia where Zelal, an Ezidi Kurdish girl, attends school with Zeki and Bekir. There, classroom education is Turkish but schoolyard play is a melting pot of ethnicities, religions and languages. An ordinary school day turns into a life-altering event for Zelal and her introvert admirer Zeki after their teacher introduces them to the letter “O”, writing it in chalk on the board. This chalk circle becomes a suppressive tool of playground malice as Zelal is seen as a “devil worshipper” because of her religious beliefs and is held captive in a “devil’s circle” like many others in the region have been before her and are even today.

“The Circle” artistically explores Ezidi marginalization in the Middle East through Zelal’s story of exclusion while criticizing the Turkish education system’s policies of assimilation in Kurdistan as well as the impending flooding of the ancient city of Hasankeyf. In reality, “The Circle” is inspired by a true story of the director’s father who was a member of the revolutionary movement in 1968. When Tekeş asked him about his regrets before his death, he told her a story from when he was seven years old; a story that has had a profound impact on Tekeş and has shaped what is “The Circle” today. Tekeş’s aim, with her short film, is to tackle a universal problem through a regional one, thus showing various layers of oppression toward diversity that intends to impose the monotypic “coexistence” for all those who are different from the “majority” in power. Therefore, the short’s purpose is to bring to the public attention the tragedy of the Ezidi people and the impact racism and religious and language discrimination has on children. Zelal also represents here the ancient and annihilated communities and cultures. Moreover, the film’s narrative is timeless in the sense that it alludes to repeating cycles of suppression of the above-mentioned assimilatory tendencies of imposed coexistence by those in power.

Shot precisely for that purpose in Kurdish, Turkish and Arabic, with raw and truthful performances by Delila Kaya, Emircan Kaya, Şehmuz Demirtaş, Müfit Aytekin and other thirty-six local children of Mesopotamia, Kardeş Türküler’s engaging and folkloric score and a crisp lensing with natural light and the static framing of the breath-taking and poetic Mesopotamian scenery, courtesy of d.p. Deniz Eyüboğlu Aydın, “The Circle” is a naturally integrated, moving and highly symbolic film. But, more importantly, it is also a powerful political and cinematic statement on human rights.




O.T.: “Hevêrk”

Production: Sarya Films (Turkey 2016)

Producer: Rûken Tekeş

Director: Rûken Tekeş

Screenplay: Rûken Tekeş

Cinematography: Deniz Eyüboğlu Aydın

Music: Kardeş Türküler – Instrumental composition of “Bingöl”

Editing: Özcan Vardar

Cast: Delila Kaya, Emircan Kaya, Şehmuz Demirtaş, Müfit Aytekin and 36 local children of Mesopotamia

Color – 13’56 min.

Premiere: May 2016 (Cannes Short Film

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