“Mother tongue comes with birth!”
Where is My Mother Tongue?, in the National Competition, is
the first film by Veli Kahraman who worked as art director for many
films in the sector. Kahraman’s parents play themselves in the film
which follows the Zazaki language threatened with extinction, and
resists use of language as a political tool.
Where is My Mother Tongue? will be screened on Tuesday, April 10 at 13.30 at Atlas Movie Theatre.
Interview: Ceyda Aşar - 09.04.2012
- Was the issue about Zazaki a problem that you have been
observing since your childhood? Why is this the right time to shoot the
Parents like mine try not to reflect issues such as mother tongue,
contempt, or alienation to their children. They act like this in order
to not let rage accumulate. They are interested more about the future
because of their children. Therefore they did not tell us anything about
our mother tongue for years. When we asked why they hid it, they told
us it is for our own good.
- Do you know Zazaki?
I don’t speak either Zazaki or Kurdish.
- Why don’t you want to define your film as “political”?
Whenever you say “mother tongue” in Turkey, it is considered a political
issue. Even my best friends told me “You made a political film” when
they heard the name of the film. Mother tongue is an existential
problem. Mother tongue comes with birth. I don’t think it is something
to be discussed with the reductionism of politics.
- What about the UNESCO report emphasised in the film?
This is the original starting point. In 2008, UNESCO reported that 18
languages were about to be extinct. Two months ago, only 15 languages of
these 18 had lasted. Three of them were already extinct. I think there
is a problem of perception on the extinction issue. When it is claimed
“they are about to extinct”, it is thought that they already are. I
think if we remove the conditions causing extinction, we can change the
situation. Besides, language is an important issue. A language cannot
just disappear. Language involves culture. Language is the universe of
meaning. When we say language, we just don’t mean daily communication.
People whose universes of meaning are destroyed go through traumas years
later. Even if they overcome the problem, this trauma is transferred to
next generations. We should not consider languages as problems. All
languages should be liberated.
- Did the story begin with your father’s desire to go back to Zazaki in reality?
The film is actually the story of my father. We talk about a man who
learns Turkish when he goes to primary school. Alienation to your own
language was a problem my father experienced and kept inside for years.
As I speak to my father, these stories he kept inside and hid from us
came out. While I was thinking about these issues, my father tried to
recall Zazaki words. Simultaneously, both of us began thinking about the
- Was it easy for you to keep your father and mother in their natural forms?
They are characters in the film, who play themselves. But of course, as a
director I have led some parts. I tried to express my ideas in a
simple, plain, and natural way. This is not a film with big and shocking
claims, but it is not a “production film” either.
- What did you feel when you were informed that you were accepted to the competition at the Istanbul Film Festival?
I thought “The film has found itself a place.” I was delighted because I
thought that the movie could draw more attention as a part of the
National Competition. People told me that my rivals were really strong.
But I don’t think of it as “rivalry”. Demirkubuz, whose cinema I like,
is in the competition. If somebody makes a good film, I will be glad to
watch it and think, “it’s great that he shot a film like this.” Maybe my
motives set me in motion to shoot a good, simple, and plain film.
Besides, this festival has been the reason why I want to be a filmmaker
ever since I was a student. Considering there were no DVDs those days,
we experienced the joy of cinema thanks to the festival.