Slovak filmmaker wins European cinema award at Cairo Film Festival
“Dying to Divorce”: British documentary on Turkish domestic violence in the race for the Oscars
ANKARA: A film highlighting domestic violence in Turkey has been nominated as the UK’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film at the Oscars.
The five nominees for Best International Feature Film are expected to be announced in February, ahead of the Oscars on March 27.
While a movie cannot reduce domestic violence and murder numbers overnight, “Dying to Divorce” has already sparked a global public debate on the issue that has universal relevance.
Shot over five years by producer Sinead Kirwan and director Chloe Fairweather, the film revolves around the testimonies of two Turkish women victims of abuse, Arzu Boztas and Kubra Eken.
The documentary also follows Ipek Bozkurt, a provocative lawyer in Turkey who fights the culture of violence through the courts, and Aysen Kavas, a women’s rights activist. Personal narratives and a critical look at systemic shortcomings give the film an added emotional impact.
Boztas, a mother of six, married at 14 in central Anatolia in a conservative environment, remained disabled after being shot six times at close range in her arms and legs while filing for divorce from her husband.
In the film, her conservative father, who authorized the marriage, said: “I ruined the lives of my children just to stay in the tradition.”
Eken, a successful Bloomberg News TV presenter in London, was repeatedly punched in the head by her producer husband two days after giving birth to their daughter. She suffered from a severe brain hemorrhage during the attack that prevented her from speaking and walking for years, although her husband blamed her situation on the cesarean operation she underwent.
The two victims struggled to seek justice for what had happened to them and to obtain custody of their children. But with the help of lawyers and activists in Turkey, they finally won legal victories after years of court battles.
Although coming from different socio-cultural backgrounds, the women were united in the desire to tell their stories to the world.
The film, currently showing in UK cinemas, has already received several awards and nominations at European film festivals and has been nominated for a British Independent Film Award.
Figures show that in recent years, more than 400 women have been murdered each year by their partner or family members. Some attackers have even had their sentences reduced for citing provocation or for showing good behavior during their trial.
Domestic violence and femicide remain a major problem in Turkey, where 38% of women experience partner abuse, according to data from the World Health Organization.
Bozkurt, who will attend a number of special screenings of the documentary in Scotland, is part of the We Will End Femicide platform which has been monitoring cases of violence and murder daily for 11 years.
The lawyer told Arab News that the power of the documentary came from its framing the problem from a global perspective without reducing it to just a national problem for Turkey.
She said: “Domestic violence is also a major problem in many Western countries, including the UK. We have tried to demonstrate the inner strength of these two ladies and their relentless struggle to stay alive using the power of the media. And I believe that such a story will inspire many women around the world.
Bozkurt stressed that gender inequality permeates various social segments and is not limited to disadvantaged communities.
“However, tackling it requires a holistic and integrated approach. Not only politicians, but also the media and activists have an essential responsibility. This documentary, by not using pornography of violence, focused on the core of their fight against impunity and attempted to show that these women have a cause to defend not only for themselves but also for the rights of their fellow human beings, ”she added.
In recent years, more and more women in Turkey have come forward to fight for justice on domestic violence and for legislative changes to protect them.
Kavas, a representative of the We Will End Femicide platform, noted that the movement has empowered women to speak out.
She told Arab News: “We gave them a helping hand not to give up the fight for their rights. But we, the women of Turkey, would rather have more top-down lives than be the subject of Oscar nominated documentaries.
“I don’t fight because it’s something that can happen to me. I fight because it can happen to anyone.
On November 9, Basak Cengiz, a 28-year-old architect, was stabbed to death by a man wielding a samurai sword as she walked down a street in one of Istanbul’s crowded neighborhoods. His attacker admitted that he just wanted to kill someone. “I preferred to kill a woman because I thought she would be an easier target,” he said.
Kavas assisted Boztas in his legal case. “She now lives with prosthetic legs and has undergone several operations after the violence she suffered. However, she still says that in the past she felt less free when married to her ex-husband.
“With the campaigns that we have been leading for years, women are no longer silent on the subject of violence. We made a lot of noise and they don’t feel alone anymore, ”Kavas said.
Further information on the documentary is available at http://dyingtodivorce.com