Kurdish Cinema: Yol (Yilmaz Guney, 1982)

Film Diary, Film Review, Kurdish - نووسینی کوردی

YOL: The Road of Yilmaz Guney
by Karzan Kardozi

For more visual analysis of Yilmaz Guney’s cinema, read my article on Guney’ Arkadas (1974) HERE

Yol (Yilmaz Guney, 1982)

Yol is the gem of the Kurdish cinema, it is perhaps the best Kurdish film to have come out of the Kurdish cinema and still is the most honored of all the Kurdish films, winning Best Picture the Palm’Dor and International Critics’ Prize at at Cannes Film Festival in 1982. The film was written, partially directed and then after his escape from prison edited by Yilmaz Guney, who was in jail for alleged murder of a Judge. In September, 1980, the new Turkish military junta made a law to ban all of Yilmaz Guney’s works, including his films, book and publications. Knowing that all his future work will also be censured by the military, Guney declared, “There are only two possibilities: to fight or to give up, I chose to fight” and he fought back by making Yol.

Seyit Ali played by Tarık Akan

Yol chart the journey of 5 prisoners on paroles who are given a week to leave. The films open in the island prison of IMRALI, the prisoners take their journey in the vast landscape of Turkey in search of their freedom, all but one travel to ADANA in Kurdistan and the surrounding areas, each encounter an obstacles and have to face their past mistakes, it is Guney’s epic vision of a Turkish landscape under control of the military junta, a man’s search for its right and liberty.


SEYIT ALI is on mission to do an honor killing, he travels eastward to the showy Kurdish mountain, to an isolated village of SANACK, from there he must find his wife in farm and punish her fro cheating on his with another man according to the local custom. MEHEMT, who is guilty of leaving his brother-in-Law to be killed after a failed bank robbery must travel to DIYARBAKIR in hope of meeting his wife and children, although his In-Law family are against seeing him and blame him for their son’s death. OMER, a Kurdish farmer, travel to his village, BIRECIK in occupied North Kurdistan, a village on the wired and minefield border between Turkey and Syria in order to meet his family, he find his village in a bloody battle between the Kurdish fighters and the Turkish army, he waits to hear news from his brother who is fighting with the Kurdish fighters to free North Kurdistan from Turkish occupation. OMER like other Kurds, find himself and his land under Turkish occupation that deny him his basic right to speak Kurdish. The Young YUSUF, who is traveling to meet his new young bride, goes as far as BURSA before being arrested again for forgetting his pass papers. Handsome, MEVLUT travel to GAZIANTEP to meet his fiancée under the watchful eyes of her family.  The journey end back to the prison in IMRALI for most, for others death is the only way out, and for some, a new-found freedom and redemption give them a glimpse of hope.


Making the film while in prison, Guney portray Turkey under the military dictatorship as an open prison, the outside world seems by far more dangerous and more of a threat to the prisoner than inside the prison. Perhaps none of the prisoner’s life is as desperate as young OMER, a former farmer who now return to his village only to find destruction and death as a result of a constant, bloody battles between the Turkish army and the Kurdish freedom fighters or separates as the army call them. Although he is love with a beautiful girl of the village, custom and tradition force him to marry his brother’s wife and take care of her children after tragedy strike and  he find out that his brother have been killed in the fight. Faced with a choice of going back to prison in IMRALI and marrying his brother’s wife, he decide to take off and ride to the snowy mountains and join the Kurdish  fighters in search of his freedoms.

Watchful Eyes

The dramatic appearance of the legendary Yilmaz Guney at the Cannes Film Festival ceremony and the winning of Palm Do’r after his escape from prison was  giving a standing ovation and weeping from the audience after showing of the film, chanting his name “Guney, Guney” and constant applauding, it was a tribute to a man who is by now considered the founding father of the Kurdish cinema, a man who spend timeless time in prison for standing up for the basic human rights of others. His arrival and the entry of Yol at Cannes was announced at the last-minute due to objection of Turkish government. The French government gave Guney immunity from extradition to Turkey and allowed him to stay in France for a temporary time.

Military Dictatorship

Yol had an ever lasting impact on the jury, the critics and the audience, it brought an everlasting fame and recognition to Yilmaz Guney known as  “The Ugly King” in Turkey, a bigger than life character , a one man show who was mix between Che Guevara, James Dean, Clint Eastwood and Pablo Pasolini. Even today the name Yilmaz Guney is closely mentioned with Yol , and the two name are still echoed  by young Kurdish filmmakers and critics alike. It has been almost 26 years since the death of Yilmaz Guney, he is still  an inspiration for all.

Yilmaz Guney at Cannes

Directors: Serif Gören, Yilmaz Güney
Writer: Yilmaz Güney

Original Music by :
Sebastian Argol
Zülfü Livaneli

Cinematography by:
Erdogan Engin

Film Editing by:
Hélène Arnal
Yilmaz Güney
Elisabeth Waelchli


Tarik Akan     …     Seyit Ali
Serif Sezer     …     Ziné
Halil Ergün     …     Mehmet Salih
Meral Orhonsay     …     Emine
Necmettin Çobanoglu     …     Ömer
Semra Uçar     …     Gülbahar
Hikmet Çelik     …     Mevlat
Sevda Aktolga     …     Meral
Tuncay Akça     …     Yusuf
Hale Akinli     …     Seyran
Turgut Savas     …     Zafer
Engin Çelik     …     Mirza
Hikmet Tasdemir     …     Sevket
Osman Bardakçi     …     Berber Elim
Enver Güney     …     Cindé


One thought on “Kurdish Cinema: Yol (Yilmaz Guney, 1982)

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