Eve Dönüş (Home Coming) (2006)
Director: Ömer Ugur.
Starring: Sibel Kekilli (Memet Ali Alabora), Savas Dincel, Altan Erkekli, Cengiz Küçükayvaz, Perihan Savas, Civan Canova, Huseyin Uysal, Can Yasin (Sehmuz).
a movie about the 1980 Turkish coup d'état
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
The beginning of September 1980, Istanbul. Some radicals paint anti-American slogans on the walls. One of them is "Down with American Imperialism." The police arrive and there is a shoot-out with one student and one policeman down. Mustafa can see the gun battle from his apartment window. The landlord comes to the apartment to demand the late rent money. Mustafa doesn't have it.
Mustafa's wife Esma returns home. She tells a friend that she does not see much of her little girl or Mustafa any more. They purchased a new television set and are both working overtime to pay for it. Mustafa and Esma both work at the same factory, but they often have to work different shifts. Mustafa has absolutely no interest in politics or the business of the union. He totally resists being drawn into helping the union. The union officials have a moment of silence for union secretary Huseyin Uysal, who was shot by the fascists three day ago and died just two hours ago.
Mustafa returns home and wakes his wife. She has to hurry off to see her child before she goes on the next shift. The landlord comes again to ask Mustafa to move out. Relaxing after work in a cafe, when a car backfires, all the guys duck under the tables. The atmosphere is tense to say the least.
Mustafa wants to have sex with his wife, but it is hard for them to fit it in their schedules. After two weeks, he finally has sex with Esma. Mustafa forgets to pull out and his wife complains about the possibility of her getting pregnant again.
Mustafa, Esma and their little girl are to meet with his parents at the gate of Gulhane Park. But when Mustafa takes an early walk he is stopped by the military. Since he does not pay much attention to current events., he is very shocked. The guards have to inform him that there has been a military coup. Now everyone has to go through check points. As they do, many are taken out of line, put in handcuffs, put in trucks and taken to an interrogation place. The latest news is that commander Necdet Urug is now the chief of Martial Law in Istanbul.
Talking about the situation with his in-laws, Mustafa's father-in-law complains that the politicians gave way to the communists. They let them lecture at the universities. Grandfather is a veteran of the Korean War. Mustafa and his family have to leave before the curfew starts. At home the police bust into his apartment and rough him up. They start searching the apartment. They find some sex magazines and take them. Along the way they break the new television. The police take Mustafa away. They think he is a radical responsible for the recent killing of a police officer. The police keep hitting and kicking Mustafa. They tell him that two of his buddies have already talked. Esma goes to her father for help, but he says that he won't look for a commie son-in-law.
The police bring in a man known as the Professor. They ask him if he recognizes Shemuz (the man they think is Mustafa). The Professor says he does not know the man. He is given electric shocks for this. The police ransack Mustafa's apartment again. The landlord pulls out all the furniture and goods owned by Mustafa and Esma from the apartment and leaves them outside. The neighbors urge Esma to go life with her mother and father for a while.
Mustafa is tortured so much that he finally breaks and says he is Sehmuz. He confesses, but they still torture him. It is not enough just to admit he is Sehmuz. He has to give names and places to the police; names and places that he doesn't know. The Professor tries to help Mustafa. He tells him to never accept the accusations.
Esma is fired from her job. Now she has time to search more diligently for her husband. She learns that he has been taken to the political branch. She goes there and sees a lot of other women waiting outside the gate. A policeman comes out and has them write down their name and the name of the person they think is detained in the political branch. The policeman tells the women that he will find out if the missing men are in the building. The torturers tell Mustafa to write a false note to his wife saying that he is well and receiving good treatment. The note is given to Esma.
Grandfather watches television and readily accepts the lies of the government that they don't believe in or practice torture. He tells his daughter: "You see, there is no torture." This makes Esma so mad that she leaves the dinner table.
At the political branch, some of the policemen wonder if they might have the wrong man. Mustafa seems too naive to be a revolutionary. But the boss rejects the very idea. They bring in another tortured fellow and asks him if he recognizes Sehmuz. The man says that Mustafa is Sehmuz. The man also provides the policemen with another name: the Tourist.
The police bring in the Tourist and start breaking him down. They turn a heavy pressure water hose on him and knock him around the room. He also identifies Mustafa as Sehmuz. Mustafa now gets abused even more.
Later the Tourist talks with the Professor. It is revealed that these two men are actually revolutionaries. The Tourist says he misidentified Mustafa as Sehmuz to throw the police off the trail of the real Sehmuz. The Professor is tortured again. He finally gives the police an address. The police surround the place, killing one of the revolutionaries and wounding two of the others, one of which is the real Sehmuz.
Now the police realize that Mustafa is not Sehmuz. And now they start treating Mustafa nicely. They describe how terribly difficult and trying their job is and they say they made a mistake. They add that they are sorry, but warn him of dire consequences if he talks about what happened at the political branch. They give Mustafa a ride to his apartment. But his wife and child are at his in-laws' house. He goes there next.
They are all shocked to see how terrible Mustafa looks. They have him take a shower to remove some of the blood and dirt. Esma sarcastically remarks to her father: "Your men certainly looked after him well." Grandpa responds: "Why are they my men now?"
Mustafa finds that he has no options for compensation or justice under the military dictatorship. His old friends are distant. He finds it impossible to have sex with his wife. He often thinks he sees the Professor on the streets. He goes with his family to the park, but cannot enjoy it. He is too scared. He obviously is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In the paper Mustafa sees the headline that the Professor was killed by the police. Mustafa goes to the address the Professor gave him. He knocks on the door; there is no answer; so he leaves. (Later a woman comes to the door. She and an older woman living with her are related to the Professor.) Mustafa's torturers find him on the street and ask him why he is so far from home. They warn him that if he doesn't stay at home they will arrest him again and this time will kill him. (In the conversation, Mustafa learns that it was his landlord that turned his name into the police.)
Mustafa walks into his old cafe to confront his one-time landlord. But the landlord seems to be very concerned for Mustafa. He says he is sorry to hear what happened to him. Two of Mustafa's former friends talk about how Mustafa must have been involved in something bad for the police to put him in jail. Soon after they utter these words, a police check of the cafe is made. They say they are looking for two men matching the descriptions of the crime perpetrators. The police pick the two one-time friends of Mustafa. The two men are shocked and scared and say there must be some mistake. The police take them in to be interrogated.
Sarcastic remark: Hey, but the police would never have taken the two friends in if they hadn't been involved in something illegal, right? Oh, very, very wrong.
September 12, 1980 - 1982. The National Assembly was closed down, the Constitution was canceled. Political parties, associations and unions were banned. 650,000 people were taken into custody. 50 people were executed. 171 died under torture. 299 died in prisons. 95 fell dead during "fights". 14 were dead because of "hunger strikes". 217 were dead in doubtful cases. 16 were shot on the run. 43 committed suicide. 30,000 professionals were registered and laid off. The military dictatorship created a constitution under which Turkey is still ruled today.
Powerful movie. It takes a strong stomach at times to sit through the movie. There is so much injustice and torture in the film and it really makes one mad at the police and the military dictatorship in Turkey. Innocent people are thrown in jail and most of the other citizens justify it by saying the person must have done something wrong. Especially the conservatives present various apologies for torture, as is the case with Grandfather in the movie. That is, until they, or a member of their family or a good friend is arrested. Then they suddenly start arguing that torture and lack of due process are important. But most conservatives and a lot of liberals don't think they would ever be arrested by the police, because they are "good" people and not criminals or bad people.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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