Posted by: hevallo | March 26, 2011

>The Heros and Heroines of Ozgur Gundem!


ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

In his debut feature, director and writer Sedat Yılmaz follows a group of journalists in Diyarbakır during the early 1990s, when Turkey topped the list of countries with the greatest number of journalists killed. ‘Press’ is at once very real and heartbreaking

The film ‘Press’ tells the story of a group of journalists in the Diyarbakır office of the daily Özgür Gündem.

Hrant Dink, Abdi İpekçi, Ahmet Taner Kışlalı and Uğur Mumcu are a few of the names who have given journalism a whole new meaning in Turkey since the late 1970s.

They all were killed pursuing truth, human rights and the right to information. It’s hard to imagine Turkey leading any list when it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of the media. But there is actually one list that Turkey tops: the greatest number of journalists killed in any country in 1992.

In fact, the number of journalists killed between 1992 and 1994 is a staggering 30, while the number becomes even more alarming with 17 distributors and sellers included into the list. Director and writer Sedat Yılmaz’s recent drama “Press” delves into this disgraceful period when the Turkish press received the most fatal hits in its history.

The film tells the story of a group of journalists in the Diyarbakır office of the daily Özgür Gündem. The first issue of the newspaper was published on May 30, 1992. During its total run of 580 issues in less than two years, it was hit with a record number of 486 lawsuits.

While “Press” is a feature film with a real newspaper in its center, the characters are fictional journalists inspired by real journalists. Journalist Bayram Balcı, a correspondent for Özgür Gündem during it short-lived life, is the script consultant and the name behind the story.

The daily staff meeting in the beginning of the movie looks a lot different than the one you would imagine for a national newspaper. First, the office looks less like an office than a run-down apartment. Second, an ominous atmosphere dominates the meeting. There is nothing light-hearted or routine in the meeting, as well as the subsequent ones we see later throughout the film.

‘The truth is bulletproof’

Exposing human rights violations, drug trafficking, the role of the military and the state in all of these is not your run-of-the-mill journalism in the most heated time of the armed conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdish terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Led by the poised, calm Bureau Chief Hasan (Kadim Yaşar), the journalists’ quest to track human rights violations and the intricate dynamics behind these are constantly intervened in by the occasional threats through the phone.

Sadly, these threats turn into prophecies as journalists are murdered one after another. “The truth is bulletproof,” says one journalist, and they continue pursuing the truth not unlike walking in a minefield. The unlikely hero of the film is not any one of the journalists of the newspaper but a young man who seems at first to be nothing more than an office boy, transforming before the audience into a full-fledged journalist.

Winner of a special jury prize at the recent Golden Orange Film Festival, Aram Dildar’s Fırat cleans the office, runs the office errands and fixes the broken fax machines and the typewriters, but mostly, he brightens the otherwise grim office with his boyish charm and flair for life. He becomes the life of the newspaper when the special governor halts the distribution of the newspaper during the state of emergency. Fırat secures the distribution of the paper with his army of little boys.

A budding sexual tension between the only female journalist and one of the journalists, the distinctive quirk of each character, their passionate but at times flawed take on the news all help in establishing a world that is at once heart-breaking and very real. With such a sense of reality bordering on documentary, it’s such a big surprise to learn that director and writer Yılmaz wasn’t a journalist in Özgür Gündem’s Diyarbakır office and hadn’t even been to the city prior to starting production of the film. That says it all about a great filmmaker in the making, someone we hope to see move and inspire us with many more pictures to come.


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