Author: Pınar Selek; Translation: Nihan Köse; Editing: Begüm Acar
To go… How a powerful word… It evokes revolution. Avoiding, revealing, coming out… But always like this? Don’t they, who go, experience running or not running away?
I watched the movie “To Go” also with similar associations. The movie, which is directed by Hüseyin Karabey who wrote the screenplay with Ayça Damgacı, tells people’s collective story who are caught in war, destitution and estrangement through a love story. We all see that Hama Ali’s and Ayça’s tragedy is just a part of the tragedies of womanhood, humanity and the land.
And the heroes are real “heroes”. Meaning, they are in majority at this age in which even to remain standing requires being a hero. They are not beautiful, rich, fearless or strong. On the top of it, they attempt to look for love. But the most important thing is that this story has been inspired by true lives. In this movie, Hama Ali Khan and Ayça Damgacı play their own “love story” and their journey. With this role, Ayça, who has taken Istanbul Film Festival the Best Actress Award, both juxtaposes her own story together with Hüseyin and plays the love story which she has lived with Hama Ali again. It should be an exciting experience to juxtapose life, love, journey again and to share this juxtaposition with millions of people.
Hüseyin Karabey who is known for his documentary films like “Sessiz Ölüm” (Silent Death) and “Boran” has created a surprising composition between real material and fiction on his first long range shooting movie. For example, all the love letters and the videos in the movie are real… From the beginning to the end, the movie which has been shot in Diyarbakır, Mardin, Silopi, Van, Urmiye of Iran, Erbil of North Iraq and Süleymaniye, flows multilingual. On the movie, Kurmanci and Sorani dialects of Kurdish, Turkish, Persian, Arabic and English are spoken. The things that we see through the road are documentary-qualified. Yes, “To Go” is a quasi-fictional movie in which documentary materials are poured into fiction and fictional scenes are mirrored in documentary simplicity, gives us an untold excitement of magical realism. The stories that flow around the narration are entering to our lives with an emotional lens. With their utmost genuinity…
The movie starts with a scene of a crowd walking on Istiklal Street. Ayça appears in the middle of the crowd. Being an “ordinary” woman with her everything… Ayça is a theatre acctress who lives in Istanbul on her own. A loser. She is presumed to be overweight for daily fashion. For ongoing beauty criteria, she is average… Neither in theatre nor in her personal life is she successful. She has no friends, a limited circle of acquaintances, she’s in arguement even with her neighbours. As a woman, she is struggling to remain standing not belonging to any organization. After the movie, in one of the interviews she has made about her real life, she says: “Neither in the cinema nor in TV series, there’s a place for a woman like me. It is maybe about physical criteria, maybe my attitude… If we talk about acting, I’m on the side of it, too. I feel like I have an awkward soul and an awkward body or rather, it is what I am made to feel like.”
Hama Ali is a North Iraqi, overweight and a bald actor at his fifties. After living in mountains as a peshmerga, he started his job in the cinema sector. He is the hero of B type movies like “Superman in Iraq”… But he gives a peaceful impression about himself, his acquaintances and his dreams.
These two “heroes” meet and fall in love with each other on a movie set, taking place in Turkey. They understand one another in English but they really succeed to speak. After shootings finish, Hama Ali and Ayça turn back to their routine lives to Iraq and Istanbul but they can’t break with each other. Hama Ali sends her video letters with smugglers and truck drivers. So, Ayça, escaping from her misery, stands alone where she lives on her own with her “Marlon and Brando”, who loves and misses her very much. Ayça is very happy just because she has found a “lover” but she is unhappy because she can’t trust this relationship’s future, even its reality, sha can’t trust Hama Ali, herself, anything. She wants to put a stop to this uncertainty, and firstly to convince herself that she really lives a love. Because of this, she counstrains Hama Ali to live together. She wants from the man to whom she told, “My only way is you” to make her dreams real. At that while, Iraq War starts. Hama Ali says at first that America will save the Kurds on the cassettes that he could send rarely now, but then, he accepts the horror, as well. And Ayça joins anti-war and anti-USA protests but only with one motivation: To save her lover whom she has had for the first time in her life… At last, she can’t resist and takes the road to Süleymaniye… When she sees that the meeting she has expected for two years, is in danger now, she can’t wait anymore and starts a conversely journey. To the middle of war, into the fire… Ayça goes towards where love is. She tells to those who want to stop her: “In my life, there has been no man who loves me that much. This happens once in life. If you don’t fight for it, it runs away from your hands…”
This journey starts in Istanbul. Ayça firstly starts to look for contacts in order to go to Süleymaniye. So, she meets with Kurds and refugees in Turkey. She learns Kurdish. She steps into new streets, new houses, new lives. In spite of all her awkwardness, she contacts with people who can make her pass through the border and she takes the road to Diyarbakır directly. Then, goes to Silopi from there. When she can’t pass the border which is closed, she arranges a meeting with Hama Ali in Urmiye, a Kurdish city in Iran. Ayça goes to Van and Hakkari from Silopi. And then to Iran.
These roads flow with a tale-like reality one after another… They pass through burned villages on love’s journey, road searches, secret graves, war, destitution, anticipation and desperation. But we do see all these things, not Ayça. As far as we see from the screen, Ayça, whom was made selfish by life, is busy with only herself and her journey… She even doesn’t see how kinship relations are spoiled, how people break up with each other, how one must get permission from the state to be able to continue his/her personal life. She moves ahead alone in this fight as a woman… She lives verbal and phychological abuse forms again and again. She has hardship just because she always walks around with men. She covers herself in Urmiye. She moves into a hotel. And keeps looking for Hama Ali. She accuses him of being slow, loveless, and lying to her: “If you don’t want me, if you don’t want to be in danger for me, just tell me.” Her dissatisfaction and insecurity are growing day by day and she wants from him a “proof” without considering the circumstances of their “love”. After that, Hama Ali invites her to a Kurdish village on Iran-Iraq border. He would pass the border and the lovers would meet there. Ayça goes to that village. She talks to nobody there but she lives the same thing that she’s experienced since she set to the road: People could understand each other without talking. The doors open quietly. Pain partnership renders her safe. And Ayça waits… Her waiting meets other borderline waitings. Becomes a part of the big anticipation. She watches war and death news together. She also learns the news of Hama Ali’s death on this watch. The news of a Kurd who has been shot at the border.
She cries alone, too, like everyone.
“To go”, the story of the present time. It doesn’t finish well. Are we in times that a story would finish well? Who doesn’t know this? In real life, Hama Ali and Ayça have already departed but on this movie, death is sepearating them. Besides, Hama Ali says, in one of the cassettes he sent to Ayça, that: “We have no future.”
Is that so? Don’t we have a future? Simple answers like yes or no can’t be given to this question ofcourse, but this story tells us that there can’t be a happiness with running away, going, not seeing, ignoring.
Going but where? It’s clear for Ayça from where to go. She wants to go from loneliness, unsuccessfulness, lovelessness, constriction. But she just runs away because she has no power to struggle. She goes to a man whom will love her, save her, die for her if necessary, treat her like a princess, which means that she goes to a man who will make her feel like a “woman”. To the man who says to her: “You’re my most beautiful and bravest woman in the world… I’ll come to you flying. I’m your mountain-man…”
What will happen when she goes? There are some other distances between Ayça and Hama Ali. One is a Kurdish man, the other one is a Turkish woman… They both experience the disadvantages of two distinct kins of being oppressed.
Hama Ali, who has also experienced being a peshmerge, with his conscious of being oppressed, is in organization and sociability, in his sense. Therefore, he is more comfortable… He tells her love with stones, mountains, flowers, and his friends. Suggests patience and says: “Here is very dangerous now, I can’t come, either. We had better wait…” He is a realist as we could see. Meaning that he is a man.
Ayça cannot avoid from being a “woman” even though she has stolen the role of Ferhat in the epic story. Also, she is a loser in virtual and double-faced relations. She just tries to fight against the forms that are insisted upon her being with anger as she hasn’t been interested in feminism. Not because she refuses them but because she can’t reach them… Ayça, who is always in a fight with herself and her circle of acquaintances and who carries with her the revenge of these experiences that have not been analyzed, tries to save herself with selfishness, revenge, obscurity. Consequently, she is unhappy. She is devoid of mannish comfort. All her dreams brighten when a man appears and tells her that she is a princess. All her dreams, poems, and the images of beauty inside her come to life. All the things she writes in her letter…
“ You are my Diego Rivera. You are stars, moon and clouds, F-16s on the news. That huge body on my red bed. You are the last cigarette in my drawer, the huge green velvet jacket which covers me. You are the man that I want to go flying as if a bird, you are Iran, you are Syria. You are the soldier guard in Habur, the wildest crimson corn poppy in Mesopotamia, the endless grey canyon that I lie on, you are Marlon and Brando, the fat angel that lies on my bathtub, my joy, my pains, my all desires, my partner on theatre and on Istiklal Street, you are the last letter of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And I’m the fat widow that spurts lust everywhere in Zorba…”
All these years’ hunger and missing rebel on the shadow of these romantic images. And ofcourse, her feeling of insecurity… What would they live together after the roads that she has passed without seeing anything? Would they see each other really? Have they seen? Could there appear a love on the ground of selfishness?
Hama Ali also sends the movies that he played in to Ayça. One of these is a very simple tragedy. A woman in a wedding dress and a man in military clothes. Opening fire when they run to each other with exaggerated moves and the man is shot. On this stage to which we are used from fourth class Turkish movies, it is told that the two creatures, who are dressed in uniforms of gender identities, can’t come together. But at first, you don’t even take this movie seriously. But in fact, you ask yourself, what is the difference of our lives from this cheap tragedies? Yes, is romantic love possible in these circumstances? Especially the meeting of a woman in wedding dress and a man in military clothes with love?
Maybe something may have happened only if they burried their clothes… But it’s still hard to live love like a tale
Simply going is not enough.