Eylem Kaftan documents her quest for truth

York Film & Video alumna Eylem Kaftan (MA ’00) will premiere her documentary, Vendetta Song, at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto on April 25. The festival is North America’s largest documentary festival, annually presenting a selection of more than 100 cutting-edge films.

Right: Eylem Kaftan with Kurdish children.  Photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada

“Hot Docs is very selective in the documentaries it chooses,” says Kaftan. “It receives hundreds of films from all around the world. Apparently, this year they had a record number of entries, and only a limited number from Canada got selected. I’m thrilled Vendetta Song is part of this year’s lineup. The recognition is fabulous.”

Vendetta Song is about Kaftan’s personal journey investigating the honour-killing of her aunt in a small Kurdish village in Turkey. On screen, the film unreels with Kaftan gazing down from her hotel window over the bustling streets of Istanbul. She is preparing for a 1,400-km journey into the heartland of her Kurdish ancestry. Armed with only a few contacts, a faded family photograph and a passionate urge to discover the truth, the Montreal filmmaker embarks upon the heavy task of travelling deep into eastern Turkey to try to unravel the 30-year-old mystery of her aunt Guzide’s murder.

Vendetta Song is the story of my incredible journey – an account of a senseless vendetta killing, the antiquated customs that brought it about, and one woman’s search for connection and closure in an ancient culture she’s never known,” explains Kaftan.

Left: Kaftan with men from both sides of the vendetta. Photo courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada

Vendetta Song will be broadcast on Vision TV on May 17 and Télé-Québec next fall. The film was screened in Montreal this February at the festival Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, where it won the Quebec Film Critics Association Best Medium-Length Documentary Award.

Currently, Kaftan is co-directing a film about Montreal’s non-status Algerians for Télé-Québec. Her first documentary, Faultlines, which investigates the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Turkey in 1999, won Best Short Film and the Jury Prize at the Planet Indie Film Festival in Toronto.

Kaftan has also contributed to several Canadian documentaries on social and political issues, including immigration, women’s rights, mental illness and culture shock. She wrote, directed, edited and collaborated on several short films, including the award-winning shorts of Turtle Productions.

Born in Turkey, Kaftan earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Bogazici University in Istanbul before embarking on graduate studies in film at York. Her thesis focused on the identity crisis in post-1980 Turkish cinema.

Vendetta Song was written and directed by Kaftan and is a co-production of Canada’s National Film Board and DLI Productions. The 52-minute film is available in both English and French versions. It screens at Hot Docs on Monday, April 25 at 6:45pm at the ROM Theatre at the Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen’s Park, Toronto. For information on the festival, visit www.hotdocs.ca.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena, publicist, Faculty of Fine Arts.