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This doc­u­men­tary film project which will serve as an archival ref­er­ence to the sto­ry of nov­el­ist Aslı Erdoğan, part­ly as a filmed biog­ra­phy, has pro­ceed­ed for a long time with the film mak­er’s per­son­al means.

It real­ly needs finan­cial sup­port for its final­iza­tion. You are prob­a­bly some of Aslı’s read­ers. Would you like to lend a hand? Even a small con­tri­bu­tion, even a drop will help…

We have nev­er stint­ed in our sup­port for Aslı Erdoğan and, with the inter­view that fol­lows, we con­firm our involve­ment by her side. If we were able to serve as a mod­est resource for the many sol­i­dar­i­ty ini­tia­tives that sprang up on all con­ti­nents, so much the bet­ter. Each and every one of us added a stone to the effort.

Here are the essential words shared with Adar Bozbay, the film maker responsible for the documentary currently in the works, “Incomplete sentences”…

• Dear Adar, did you have a pre­cise syn­op­sis in mind when you start­ed on this project? Or did you rather let your­self fol­low the flow where Aslı led?

I start­ed this project when Aslı Erdoğan was in prison. I had dis­cov­ered her lit­er­a­ture in the 90s, par­tic­u­lar­ly through her texts on the Kurds. The texts in which she spoke of the cru­el prac­tices car­ried out in the Kur­dish vil­lages… The fact that a ‘white’ Turk sided with Kurds, espe­cial­ly in a dan­ger­ous peri­od such as the 90s had great­ly moved me, as a Kurd. Then, she start­ed writ­ing in the news­pa­pers and her nov­els began to appear.

In oth­er words, I was one of those who fol­lowed and loved Aslı Erdoğan’s writ­ing and I admire her. When she was impris­oned, I felt it was my duty to ren­der her jus­tice… How can I say this. I felt behold­en. She stood in sol­i­dar­i­ty with us, she wrote about the Kurds even in the riski­est of times. I thought then I had to stand by her, the same way she had stood by us. At that time, I was the man­ag­er of a wom­en’s bar, Bigu­di. We orga­nized two events for Aslı in this venue. A col­lec­tive writ­ing work­shop for let­ters to be sent to pris­ons, and a spe­cial day of read­ing and talks, with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of two deputies from Ger­many also.

After this, I start­ed prepar­ing a video. Through Aslı’s case, I want­ed to speak of vio­la­tion of rights in Turkey. Aslı’s writ­ing brought me to this point, I could see that she was also writ­ing for those who were dis­crim­i­nat­ed against: Kurds, Arme­ni­ans, Jews, those affect­ed by sex­ist poli­cies… Not only in Turkey, she wrote for all the ones dis­crim­i­nat­ed against in the world. As a Kurd and also as a Queer, I had my own wounds. I had been sub­ject­ed to all kinds of dis­crim­i­na­tion. I tried to pre­pare the project I saw in my head. When Aslı was lib­er­at­ed, I sug­gest­ed this film to her. Hon­est­ly, I thought she would refuse, I knew through Mehmet Atak, her best friend who then became a com­mon friend, that Aslı was an author who was most­ly direct­ed inward toward her inner world, and I thought hav­ing her accept such a pro­pos­al would not be easy. But she accept­ed, I don’t know, I think she trust­ed me…

I explained that I had imag­ined the project in sev­en chap­ters: we would film in sev­en cor­ners of Istan­bul, talk about her sev­en books. In fact, we were unable to make the doc­u­men­tary this way. Fol­low­ing her lib­er­a­tion, Aslı was for­bid­den to leave the ter­ri­to­ry and was denied the return of her pass­port. Dur­ing the spring and sum­mer months, we saw each oth­er reg­u­lar­ly and talked. End of August, ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, we start­ed film­ing in Istanbul.

Fol­low­ing these ses­sions, Aslı Erdoğan had to go to Ger­many to receive the Erich-Maria Remar­que Peace prize. So I went with her. But she was unable to return. The news­pa­pers said very dif­fer­ent things, the tri­al with a request was ongo­ing, request­ing a sen­tence in per­pe­tu­ity. Clear­ly, return­ing was very risky. She could have been arrest­ed at any moment, sent back to prison, and her health was not the great­est. All this was very wor­ri­some. She said: “I can­not return from this trip to Ger­many I took for a few days with­out even clos­ing the win­dows in my apart­ment.” It was some­thing very painful. A very dif­fi­cult deci­sion. She could express this much bet­ter her­self, but there you have it, I was one of the peo­ple with her when she took this dif­fi­cult decision.

And so, Aslı did not return and stayed in Ger­many. She obtained a lit­er­ary grant, she want­ed to con­tin­ue writ­ing over there. I returned to Turkey. But since Aslı had stayed in Ger­many there began a peri­od of Euro­pean trips for me. I fol­lowed Aslı, through all the prize recep­tions that fol­lowed. The Simone-de-Beau­voir prize for wom­en’s free­dom in France, the Swedish PEN Club’s Tuchol­sky prize… We man­aged to film dur­ing some of the cer­e­monies and not dur­ing oth­ers for rea­sons con­nect­ed with Aslı’s health. But I wit­nessed all these events, and I was dis­cov­er­ing Aslı more and more, from up close. So, of course, the doc­u­men­tary took a dif­fer­ent turn…

In a way, Aslı was liv­ing through the life of the char­ac­ters she had built in her books. As with The Stone Build­ing. She wrote The Stone Build­ing, after which she was arrest­ed and expe­ri­enced prison… Yes, at first, there was a syn­op­sis for the film but it changed four, five times… With each change, we filmed anew. The “vio­la­tion of rights in Turkey” angle of the begin­ning of the project was trans­formed. The doc­u­men­tary veered toward Aslı’s health prob­lems, her life in exile and the dif­fi­cul­ties of writ­ing in these dif­fi­cult con­di­tions. Because I saw Aslı every day, and every day, her phys­i­cal as well as her psy­cho­log­i­cal health were declin­ing. On one side, ill­ness, stress and on the oth­er side life in exile affect­ed her deeply. More­over, her tri­al was ongo­ing in which she was at risk of a sen­tence in per­pe­tu­ity. Aslı was strug­gling with all that…  So I worked on these aspects in my film.

In look­ing close­ly at Aslı’s expe­ri­ence, I start­ed think­ing about all the peo­ple who are in the same sit­u­a­tion and liv­ing with the same prob­lems. The lives of many jour­nal­ists, aca­d­e­mics, activists are filled with these same dif­fi­cul­ties… Among all of these peo­ple, Aslı appears as a sym­bol. Since she is known, she is more vis­i­ble, but a num­ber of oth­er peo­ple have the same expe­ri­ences as she does. And that in itself is a tor­ture. In its final form, the doc­u­men­tary tells about the dif­fi­cul­ties Aslı must bear, the health prob­lems, exile, writing.


• You start­ed film­ing three years ago. I think you felt the need to recon­sti­tute the pre­ced­ing peri­od. The times of the news­pa­per Özgür Gün­dem, the tri­al, impris­on­ment, the inter­na­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty… What archives did you con­sult for your research?

Work on the doc­u­men­tary last­ed more than three years, in fact… We began film­ing in 2017 to mark a sig­nif­i­cant date, Sep­tem­ber 1st, “the World Peace Day”… But of course there was prepara­to­ry work before that. From March to Sep­tem­ber, par­tic­u­lar­ly in July and August, we met with Aslı. When she was with her moth­er in Altınoluk, we had long phone con­ver­sa­tions. I spoke very often with her best friend, her moth­er and her prison friends. I start­ed to know Aslı’s uni­verse better.

Dur­ing this peri­od, I also con­duct­ed research. We delved in the archives, of course. Those at Kedis­tan are a part of it. I worked with a num­ber of jour­nal­ists in Turkey, I had the sup­port of press orga­ni­za­tions. Aslı’s child­hood, her days in Rio… We con­sti­tut­ed the pho­to­graph­ic archives of these peri­ods. This was an entire archival effort in and of itself…I re-read her books again and again. I re-opened the press archives, her arti­cles in Özgür Gün­dem, in Radikal… I looked at ini­tia­tives car­ried out in the four cor­ners of the world in the sol­i­dar­i­ty campaign…

See­ing all this, my admi­ra­tion for Aslı Erdoğan kept on grow­ing (she laughs). This was rel­a­tive­ly dif­fi­cult for me; you are an admir­er and you are mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary. I had to find my place as film mak­er but a woman stood before me and the more I knew her, the more I admired her. She was one of the first Turk­ish physics spe­cial­ists to work on the Hig­gs Boson at the Euro­pean Nuclear Research Orga­ni­za­tion (CERN). She has writ­ten on Africans, on Kurds. She was threat­ened for all that… She’s a woman with a clas­si­cal dance back­ground. She has a pro­found­ly musi­cal soul. Her books, her pen are mag­nif­i­cent. There is so much, in this way… She learned to read at age four or five. She is con­sid­ered as excep­tion­al­ly gift­ed. Her life is inter­wo­ven with her books…

I learned these things from her moth­er, from her friends, and I was filled with enthu­si­asm with­out real­ly know­ing by what end I should begin. A woman with so many sides and who suc­ceeds in so many areas, there were moments when I thought I would lose my foot­ing for the doc­u­men­tary. Every­thing was impor­tant. But I could not deal with every­thing in a sin­gle doc­u­men­tary. I had to find an angle and stick to it. If I start­ed talk­ing about every­thing this mul­ti­ple-facetted women does, I would have to do a series of doc­u­men­taries (she laughs). I had to approach the top­ic from a pre­cise angle and I had a lot of trou­ble choos­ing it. Then, as I said ear­li­er, with the back and forth with Aslı, the accom­pa­ni­ments, the vis­its, the doc­u­men­tary took shape spontaneously.

Asli Erdogan

• You moved for­ward a project requir­ing a lot of com­mit­ment, and you did so with your own means. I sup­pose the appear­ance of the pan­dem­ic cre­at­ed addi­tion­al prob­lems. Can you talk about the dif­fi­cul­ties you encoun­tered, and the sup­port you received?

Yes, I moved for­ward with my own means. In any event, I had start­ed the project on my own. But cin­e­ma is an artis­tic field that requires col­lec­tive work and (she laughs) it is the most expen­sive artis­tic field in the world… At the same time, it is the most pow­er­ful of the arts, the one that res­onates the most. Of course, you can change things with a book, a paint­ing or a draw­ing, these are very pow­er­ful artis­tic branch­es. A book is not read by mil­lions of peo­ple, except for best-sell­ers, but mil­lions can see a film. Sev­er­al peo­ple can share a film in a house at the same time.

Cin­e­ma is an artis­tic field that is both pow­er­ful and dif­fi­cult. It requires huge bud­gets. It can­not be done by one per­son alone, off in her cor­ner, like a writer who picks up his pen­cil and starts to write. You are talk­ing about a team. Pho­tog­ra­phy direc­tor, cam­era, sound, assis­tants, if it’s a doc­u­men­tary, archivists, if its fic­tion, actors, actress­es, if there’s ani­ma­tion, the artists, fol­lowed by the edit­ing, sound, col­ors… There are so many stages and dimen­sions that I can’t name them all. So it’s a dif­fi­cult process that requires impor­tant means. Of course, all those who work on it earn their liv­ing this way and nat­u­ral­ly, must be paid for their work, so the project calls for a large budget.

For three years I han­dled all this on my own because I did­n’t have a pro­duc­er. Dur­ing that time, I had oth­er activ­i­ties. I man­aged the bar Bigu­di, I made clips…I financed this film with the rev­enues from these activ­i­ties. In fact, it was a rel­a­tive­ly expen­sive doc­u­men­tary because the sim­ple fact of going with Aslı on her trips in Europe required a bud­get all its own. After the begin­ning of the doc­u­men­tary, my com­pan­ion Melek Bal took on the job of assis­tant direc­tor and helped me a lot. Beyond assist­ing, she act­ed as a pro­duc­er and was a great help, for the finan­cial aspects as well as the orga­ni­za­tion and the reflec­tion. I was able to car­ry the film this far thanks to her but, of course, we have a num­ber of oth­er friends who con­tributed in dif­fer­ent areas.

adar bozbay asli erdogan incomplete sentences filmThings were very dif­fi­cult dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. Like all the oth­er bars, Bigu­di shut down in March. Re-open­ing has not been autho­rized yet. Thus, my main source of rev­enue dried up. But the final stages of the project are close, we are at the post-pro­duc­tion phase.

Sup­port? I did not receive much finan­cial aid. At the very begin­ning the Göte­borg Book Fair gave us a bit of a hand, a few peo­ple offered their per­son­al sup­port. But of course, these aids were not suf­fi­cient to cov­er a project run­ning over three years. In this final phase we final­ly came to an agree­ment with Jor­gen Lorentzen, a Nor­we­gian doc­u­men­tary film pro­duc­er We decid­ed that the col­or and music would be han­dled in Nor­way. And our pro­duc­tion relay in France is assured by our friend Tahin Demi­ral. But we still need an impor­tant bud­get, par­tic­u­lar­ly for the ani­ma­tion sequences that must be incor­po­rat­ed in the film.

This film is meant to trav­el in fes­ti­vals. We want to do every­thing so that it can reach the great­est num­ber of view­ers. This film will be pow­er­ful because the writer it fea­tures has a very pow­er­ful pen. I would also like for peo­ple to see, under­stand and be sen­si­tized to the destruc­tion exile pro­duces on human beings. Some­where, you are enter­ing a note in His­to­ry and the more you can make it vis­i­ble, the hap­pi­er you will be. You want to send your film to tele­vi­sion sta­tions, this requires a bud­get. You want to enter it in fes­ti­vals, for sure this is also a bud­getary ques­tion… In fact, once a film is fin­ished, the finan­cial need continues…

The film would appear to be ready for com­ple­tion in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary or late March 2021. And for this final surge, we need to find emer­gency funds. This is why we have opened a fund­ing dri­ve. We hope peo­ple will sup­port us to help us through the final phase, so that our doc­u­men­tary may reach a wide audience.

Aslı Erdoğan

Aslı Erdoğan’s tal­ent and writ­ing are pre­cious. She is a woman of let­ters with an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion, very appre­ci­at­ed. But also, she is a sin­gu­lar and unique per­son. Would you have any­thing to say on this topic?

Aslı Erdoğan has a pow­er­ful and excep­tion­al pen. Already in 2005, she was includ­ed on the list of “Tomor­row’s 50 world writ­ers”. She is like no oth­er in the lit­er­ary world. As a human being, she is also very dif­fer­ent. For this rea­son, I had a lot of trou­ble for this doc­u­men­tary… I can say it like this: even if Aslı Erdoğan had not been a writer, a spe­cial writer, I would have want­ed to make a doc­u­men­tary of the woman she is… Tal­ent­ed, excep­tion­al­ly gift­ed, full of suc­cess but, at the same time, she car­ries kind­ness and heart to the point of endan­ger­ing her­self for oth­ers, for the oppressed. A woman who is not afraid to slide her hand under the stone. Yet, even if as a nov­el­ist she is turned toward her inner world, she can also sit there and con­verse with you for hours… When I am asked: “What would you like to say about Aslı?” I can answer so many things that time and pages would not suf­fice. I would get lost in the answer…

Some peo­ple are born in the world for the world, too rarely. In my eyes, Aslı is one of these rare peo­ple. It is as if she does not belong to this low­ly exis­tence, a sage. As if she bears on her shoul­ders the weight of know­ing the secret of things. She always sides with the vic­tims, in the ranks of the “oth­ers”. Yet she knows that defend­ing vic­tims can mean becom­ing a prey… She does not use pol­ished words, does not put on airs. She walks like a cat, with a silent and del­i­cate step. She speaks in writ­ing. With­out yelling, with­out vul­gar­iz­ing, she makes the words dance. You can see in her writ­ing that she is a bal­le­ri­na. And she is a physi­cist of her lit­er­ary equa­tions. Even if some­one attempts to cut her tongue, to rip off her wings, she resists with her words as the only weapon she knows, for which she would give up every­thing else: writ­ing. She is always alone, always silent, flees from those who want to undo her silence. In pub­lic moments, prize cer­e­monies, sem­i­nars, round tables, when she is expect­ed to speak, she steps back. Her mod­esty makes her be qui­et about her suc­cess. When some­one sings her praise, she smiles, like a timid child, she changes the sub­ject with “oh well…” Her words are in her writ­ing, always. As if she feared to make them lose their mag­ic by say­ing them out loud. She loves them, pro­tects them like her chil­dren. She loves words, she finds plea­sure in touch­ing them. She likes pour­ing them on paper feel­ing them, breath­ing them. She blows soul onto a white page, she is a god­dess of words. She is wound­ed to the point of say­ing “papa, papa, why did you leave me?” She is gen­er­ous to the point of say­ing at her last meal “take this body, it is yours.” She is brave, to the point of say­ing to her moth­er, when she was tak­en to prison “don’t ever cry, don’t ever low­er your head”

We could have con­tin­ued this inter­view for hours still. But the film awaits your support.


Call to solidarity for the documentary on Aslı Erdoğan directed by Adar Bozbay

Three years ago, Adar Bozbay start­ed a doc­u­men­tary on Aslı Erdoğan, a nov­el­ist now in exile who was once impris­oned and threat­ened with a sen­tence in per­pe­tu­ity for her writ­ing, pri­or to going into exile. Today, this doc­u­men­tary is done for 80%. But sup­ple­men­tary funds are need­ed for post-pro­duc­tion (music, col­oriza­tion and ani­ma­tion), rea­son for this par­tic­i­pa­to­ry financ­ing dri­ve, dur­ing these com­pli­cat­ed times and in a sit­u­a­tion clos­ing the door to sub­si­dies. We need you! Thank you in advance…

A Call to solidarity!

We have fin­ished the doc­u­men­tary on Aslı Erdoğan, the nov­el­ist in exile which we began film­ing in 2017. Cur­rent­ly, 80% of the doc­u­men­tary is fin­ished; but we still need mon­ey for post-pro­duc­tion (music, col­oriza­tion and ani­ma­tion). We are queer artists and have a lot of trou­ble obtain­ing sub­si­dies and sup­port in Turkey. We need you! 
Stay with peace, love from Istanbul,

Adar Bozbay (film director)


Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste 
Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.