Metin Yegin

Annihilated with Silence

The film is about the Turkish penal system and comprised of interviews with former political prisoners of isolation prisons. ANETTE OLSEN talked to the filmmaker.

F is the name of the isolation prisons used for political prisoners in Turkey. In the film, Yegin interviews former prisoners who protested against the Turkish penal system by engaging in a hunger strike that lasted more than 100 days, making it the longest in history.

The filmmaker has been there himself twenty years ago. I asked him how long his hunger strike lasted.

MY: “Me? Just 29 days. I didn’t do more [laughter]. In 1984 four people died in a hunger strike of just 42 days. And in 1996, twelve people died in a 69-day hunger strike, because at that time they didn’t know how to keep themselves alive. Now, more than two hundred days is possible, because the prisoners have learned to take B-vitamins, water, etc.”

The former prisoners in the film still bear visible marks – physical and mental – of the effects of the hunger strikes. At times it is unbearable to see how difficult it is for some of them just to talk. The filmmaker asks them whether they didn’t love life or if they wanted to die, questions that seem quite provocative. But Yegin explains his motivation for being so blunt:

MY: “My understanding of making documentaries involves experiencing the subject matter of the documentary in person (e.g. before making a documentary about shrimp hunters, I would try to work with them before filming or only I would film documentaries about trekking if I have done some extensive hiking myself, etc). This is because I think one has to feel what it is like before attempting to reflect upon it in a documentary. In the film *F‚ I knew the prisoners and was familiar with the death strikes, which in turn helped me to understand what they lived through and enabled me to ask them provocative questions.”

AO: Was it difficult to get permission to film?

MY: “A little. They still don’t know the film has been made. Maybe they know the film has been shown at two festivals in Turkey, but the police authorities did not see it.”

AO: Did you need permission to get into the prisons?

MY: “Now, after the hunger strikes, some prisoners have become very ill, so the government has released them.”

AO: So you interviewed them in their own homes…

MY: “Yes, sometimes their homes, sometimes hospitals. And I’m a lawyer, so I have the argumentation ready…”

AO: You know your way around the system…

MY: “Yes, I know the ’other side’. I was also a prisoner twenty years ago, and I joined the hunger strikes, so I know very well how it is. I have made two documentaries on political prisoners, I know these people, some of them are my old friends, which is important because they trust me. I had just a little time, and I shot the film in a very short time – maybe a week.”

F has been shown at festivals in Europe and even Turkey, but it is impossible to show it on Turkish television.

Metin Yegin stresses that the film is not just about the prisoners but about the whole idea of isolation in Western society.

MY: “This film not only deals with Turkish human rights issues. The film is a resistance to the very idea of isolation. Prisons generally reflect the system that creates them. They are the most extreme instruments of power a regime can wield. As a matter of fact, the industrial system is gradually advancing towards isolation and human beings are becoming increasingly isolated. For example, the body of a person who died watching TV in his home in Hamburg was not discovered for five years. This shows how little individuals interact with each other in a modern society. That is why Europeans in particular should resist isolation. If we don’t criticize isolation in prisons, then the whole society may suffer from the adverse affects of the isolation.”

AO: How did you get the film funded – for which money?

MY: For which money? [laughter] My own! My team worked for free, as well as the studio I worked with.

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