The narrative of Yol is set in the early Eighties after Turkey’s last and most divisive military intervention with all five male characterisations caught between the oppressive forces of conflicting political ideologies, modern industrialisation and tribal feudalism. And although Güney’s text does highlight the Kurdish nationalist cause (as well as the covert paramilitary operations of the [so-called] Kurdish ‘freedom fighters’ through the characterisation of Ömer), the text essentially revolves around the five characters’ relationships with women (and not their political aims or ambitions), with each man’s story differing and raising questions concerning other equally pressing social issues such as marriage, sexuality, honour, responsibility, tradition and revolt. Having gained a considerable underground reputation as a ‘bootleg film’, smuggled out of Turkey as a late entry at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982, Güney and Zeki Gören’s Yol won the prestigious Palm D’Or, sharing it with another controversial text, Constantine Costa-Gavras’ Missing.
And whilst it can be claimed that no other Turkish film before or since has had the worldwide international impact of Yol, even though Güney’s film did address such polemical issues as military oppression, Kurdish nationalism and the notion of a separatist state, its cinematic appeal went far beyond the confines of ‘playing’ to the nationalist dreams and autonomous desires of the Kurdish diasporas in Europe and America. For example, with an artistic sense of visualising the immense expansiveness of the snow-covered plains of Elâziğ in winter, and then juxtaposing this incredible image to Turkey’s lush, green and sun-baked borderlands with Syria (around the outskirts of Urfa), Güney ‘invited’ Euro-American audiences to glimpse the fundamental ‘Otherness’ of his native land from the safety and sanctity of the cinematic festival ‘experience’. (Full story available for £2.50 using PayPal)