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Watching the Unwatchable: Films Confront Torture

Sunday, January 31, 2010
6:00 p.m. The Wall
Yilmaz Güney (France, 1983)

(Le mur). An impassioned depiction of life in a Turkish prison by Yilmaz Güney, who himself spent twelve years as a political prisoner. The Wall, made in France, was completed three years after Güney’s escape and a year before his death in 1984. In the film, prison is clearly a metaphor for Turkey under military rule, where life, however distorted, goes on in all its fullness and strangeness. In this enclosed system, where women and men are segregated but political prisoners are cast in with violent felons, all are created disenfranchised, but some more so than others. Güney focuses on the most powerless group, teenage boys, who are prey to the sexual whims and taunts of guards and prisoners, and so thoroughly beaten down that when they pray, they ask God not for freedom but for a better prison. The revolt of the children is based on a 1976 uprising in an Ankara prison, which was brutally suppressed.

• Written by Güney. Photographed by Izzet Akay. With Tuncel Kurtiz, Ayse Emel Mesci, Malik Berrichi, Nicholas Hossein. (117 mins, In Turkish with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta from 35mm, From mk2)