Fall 2010, Issue#24
-BROCHURE (inside)
Making of the Documentary “Voices Unveiled”
A scene from the documentary "Voices Unveiled" by Binnur Karaevli.

Voices Unveiled: Turkish Women Who Dare - Poster


Before September 11th, many of my friends in the US, could not identify the countries in the Middle East, let alone name the capital of Turkey. When I told people that I am from Istanbul, many teased me about the movie, “Midnight Express” and asked me if we rode camels in the city (and my answers would be, “No, I have never been in a Turkish jail and no camels!”). All that changed after the twin towers collapsed and suddenly the media started talking about the Middle East. However, what I felt was missing from this new interest in the region was the mention of the tremendous gender inequality. In many countries of the Middle East, men and women live separate lives dictated by old traditions. Women are sequestered in their homes and they are rarely heard from.

Turkey differs vastly from other Middle Eastern countries concerning gender equality. Bordering Iran, Iraq and Europe at the same time, Turkey is a country curiously positioned at the juncture of modernism, and traditional religious-based values. Turkish women do not fit into a prescribed mold. Some dress like their counterparts in the West while others cover up with the religious garb. Some hold CEO titles of large corporations while others need permission to go outside of their houses.

Growing up in an educated and liberal family in Istanbul, I was provided with a great education and encouraged to pursue a career by my family. However, I still felt society’s pressures in how I should behave and act as a woman. “What would the neighbors think?” is a common worry for a lot of Turkish women no matter how liberated their families might be. For the privileged, this subtle oppression might be irritating but a larger segment of women’s lives are dictated by the notion of the woman’s purity of reputation and honor. In many less developed parts of Turkey, “honor” means a woman’s obedience. “Honor killings”, the practice of murdering women at the hands of their family for transgressions such as extra-marital sex, are still practiced in the impoverished provinces.

As I set out to make the documentary, “Voices Unveiled”, my goal was to discover Turkish women who defied restrictions in the pursuit of their own dreams and thereby convey their stories. During the filming, I met women from all walks of life but decided to concentrate on the stories of an artist, an activist and a dancer representing a cross section. Belkis (60s), Nur (50s) and Banu (20s), reflected different aspects of my personality. I felt a strong connection to Belkis’ art because she combines East and West in her work and constructs a unique synthesis. Her art is rooted in the traditional form of kilim, (Turkish Tapestry) and yet she creates abstract, minimalist and forceful designs that break out of the box and transcend the form. I immediately responded to Nur’s compassionate and diligent efforts on behalf of the less privileged women. I also appreciated her self-deprecating sense of humor. Being a fairly new mother myself, Nur’s constant juggling act of being a mother, wife and activist touched me. Many taboos concerning “professional dance” still exists in Turkey. Banu, a champion ballroom dancer, had to fight against her family that did not accept her desire to dance publicly. She had to continually walk the line between rebelling and reassuring, pressing on while demonstrating that her dancing is a legitimate pursuit. However, Banu’s growing spirituality as a novice “whirling dervish” is what resonated with me the most. She is a follower of the 13th century mystic and poet, Rumi, who preached love, harmony and tolerance.

As I explored the main problems Turkish women face, I realized that these concerns are not unique to Turkey. Gender inequality, and lack of education, economic freedom, and sexual and bodily rights afflict many women in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. In the film, Nur, the activist says, “Democracy is impossible without women being empowered”. My goal is to communicate to the audience the link between democracy and gender rights in the world.

During the process of making “Voices Unveiled”, I contemplated the concept of “daring”. I tried to define what it meant to me. The dictionary describes it as, “showing a courageous or reckless disregard for danger; unconventional or ahead of its time and therefore likely to shock, upset, or offend.” I know that around the corners of the world and throughout history, many brave men and women dared to right wrongs, fight for justice and overcome oppression. Many of these courageous people sacrificed their lives for what they believed in and paved the way for a better world. However, for me and for my own growth as a woman and a filmmaker, the idea of “daring” is an inner quest, a journey that brings lasting change to the soul and manifests itself as meaningful change in the world. A scholar in my film sums up these feelings by saying, “daring is really looking inside yourself first and seeing what is really your own personal evolution.” I am content that the women of “Voices Unveiled” embody this definition.

For more information, visit:
UPCOMING SCREENINGS: New York City, October 6



Binnur Karaevli was born and raised in Istanbul and earned her BFA in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University and her MFA in Film Production from University of Southern California. Her short narrative films, Dance of the Whirling Dervish and Evelyn of the Desert received top prizes from festivals including, Nürnberg, New Orleans, and Istanbul International Film Festivals. She has worked on various international documentaries and narrative films. Her commercial production experience includes working for Ridley Scott & Associates, PBS and BBC. She produced and directed Searching for Paradise, which won the Best Documentary awards at the Moondance and WinFemme International Film Festivals. She is currently working on a narrative feature film about the Ottoman Harem. She splits her time between Istanbul and Los Angeles.

Related links on the Lightmillennium.Org:
- Women Who Dare (2005)
- Space Camp Turkey (2004)
- Searching for Paradise (2003)
- Profile of Binnur KARAEVLI (2003)

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