When Turkish filmmaker Nefin Dinc was a graduate student in Great Britain, she noticed that while her Greek friends and Turkish friends "liked each other a lot," they also repeated similar ideas about the other that favored their own country: "the Turkish side would say that the Greeks had 'Megali Idea', which means they want to expand and get Turkish lands still, and the Greeks would say that Turkey would attack Greece if she had the chance." Dinc realized that the basis for many of these stereotypes and prejudices came out of not only nationalistic education in Turkey and Greece, but also the influence of the media, national ceremonies, and religious ceremonies in both countries. Together with Hercules Millas, she made the documentary The Other Town "to show how we are affected by the nationalistic education in both countries."
The film has been screened at film festivals in Turkey and Greece and is being distributed by Third World Newsreel in the United States. Dinc is currently focusing on screening the film at educational institutions in Turkey, Greece, and the United States, and has begun negotiating with musems in both Turkey and Greece to screen the film. She is also the co-Project Director of the Film Turkey project, which resulted in 18 short films on democracy and human rights issues in Turkey created by 72 Turkish students from 6 cities. You can watch the student films here.
What has the audience reaction been like for "The Other Town"?
DINC: We premiered at Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival and we were nervous, actually - we were there with Hercules Millas (the main character in the film) and the hall was full. It was nerve-wracking the first time to screen it in a full house of Greeks, but they liked it, apparently; they laughed wholeheartedly, and we got the audience award for that film festival. The reaction to the film on both sides actually was in general very positive. There were one or two comments saying, "oh, the other side is more nationalistic" but we attribute that to our nationalistic education, and there were only a few instances like this. When we screen it in the U.S., we screen it at educational institutions and they already know what we are trying to say, just like many other audiences in Turkey or Greece, so there hasn't been a negative reaction to the film in general.
Can you tell me more about the Film Turkey project?
DINC: The project started in 2008, at State University of New York at Fredonia, with Atlantik Film and the U.S. State Department, to teach 72 underrepresented Turkish students how to make short films on democracy and human rights. So we went to 6 cities in Turkey that are not big cities and found 72 students and taught them the technicalities of video filmmaking but also talked about these main social issues in Turkey like democracy, human rights, environment, economic development, women's issues, etc. In one and a half years they took courses, decided on their subject matter, filmed it and edited it down themselves, and in the end we had 18 short films - 9 fiction films and 9 documentary films that you can see online. 18 of the students came to the U.S as well to work with American students to finalize their films, so it was a great experience for both the Turkish students and American students. The films are finalized, we've screened them all around the world including Turkey and the U.S., and now some of the students are working on becoming filmmakers and studying filmmaking at some universities in Turkey.
Was some of the motivation behind this project based in your own personal experience?
DINC: I studied in Ankara in the late 80s to early 90s, and at that time there weren't many film schools in Turkey, so it was very hard for me to learn how to make films - it was a long adventure. So I knew there were many students all around Turkey who would be very interested in making films, and we were also aware of the fact that now filmmaking is much easier with high definition cameras and simple editing software, and we knew we could teach these students how to make short films in a very short amount of time. But I also knew that it was very important for the students to start discussing democracy and human rights in Turkey, so I think that was the main inspiration.
What are you working on now?
DINC: We just finished publishing a little booklet for The Other Town that will go together with the film and can be used in classrooms or seminars or conferences as a teaching tool, and right now I'm editing a documentary film on these Turkish students that is going to be done in 5 to 6 months that will show their journey from knowing nothing about filmmaking to becoming filmmakers and screening their films in front of an audience in the United States. And very lastly, I'm also working on a documentary project on World War I in Istanbul and that will come out with the centennial of The Great War.
* Dinc invites anyone who wants to get in touch with her about these projects to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org