Turkish film on refugees eyes international award

Europe’s Trial With the Refugees nominated for best short documentary director at Amsterdam International Filmmaker Festival

Turkish film on refugees eyes international award

By Nilay Kar Onum


A Turkish documentary telling of the desperate journeys of migrants seeking refuge in Europe is expected to take home two awards from the Amsterdam International Filmmaker Festival to be held in August.

Produced by senior Turkish journalist Ayse Bohurler and directed by Enes Hakan Tokyay, Europe’s Trial With the Refugees was nominated for both Best Director and Best Editing of a Short Documentary.

“Many documentaries on refugees are being filmed across the world as well as in Europe . So, it is [a] proud [moment] for me and my country that a Turkish documentary team is advancing to finals in a [European] festival,” Bohurler told Anadolu Agency.

Bohurler, together with Tokyay, traveled to six countries to witness the plight of refugees and the challenges they faced while traveling to Europe.

Bohurler's journey started from Turkey’s southwestern Bodrum coast in the Mugla province and continued on the Greek island of Kos, then the Thessaloniki region and Macedonia, Austria, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The filming process of two parts of the documentary, which lasted around one year, came after the images of 3-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who lost his life while trying to cross into Greece with his family in September 2015 made newspaper front pages around the world.

The death of Kurdi -- who washed ashore on a Turkish beach -- prompted an international outcry about the refugee crisis in Europe.

“At that time, there were stories on refugees circulating in Europe media every day. There were images of refugees in mud waiting at the borders. […] Many European countries actually just watched all these [happenings] despite all of its universal values and its laws on refugee admissions," Bohurler said.

She continued: “We’ve observed that Europe’s universal values started changing rapidly together with [rising] refugee influx and we’re actually narrating all these things in this documentary.”

The European migrant crisis began in 2015 when an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants arrived in the European Union.

“More than 1 million people arrived in the European Union states, most of them fleeing war and terror in Syria and other countries,” according to European Commission figures.

Turkey hosts some 3.5 million Syrians -- more than any other country in the world.

Ankara says it has spent around $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.


Bohurler also spoke of heart-rending moments during the filming process.

“There are abandoned migrants, especially on Greek islands. They -- including Afghan, Pakistani and economic migrants -- can't return to their countries and can't go to Europe due to the European refugee laws. The world sees them as a ‘garbage’ consisting of people. I have been very affected by their situation.”

"As a documentarian, I can also not forget the moment of a 7-month [migrant] pregnant woman who fainted just after getting on a train following a tiring journey that she took."

The two parts of the documentary have already been screened on Turkish TV. Shooting of the third part is currently underway.

“When we started filming the documentary, the refugees were on the way to Europe. Now in the third part, we're shooting what changes have come into their lives in Europe,” she said.

The documentary -- which will be competing at the festival set for Aug. 11-18 -- is expected to win the two awards.

Documentary producer Bohurler is hopeful of taking home an award.

"I'm very happy to be nominated. Hopefully, we will get an award at this festival," she said.

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