Nationality: Turkish. Born: Yilmaz Putun in village near Adana in southern Turkey, 1937. Education: Educated in law in Ankara; studied economics in Istanbul. Career: Worked for film distribution company, 1952; began working with director Atif Yilmaz, 1958; sentenced to eighteen months in prison and six months exile for publishing "communist" novel Equations with 3 Strangers, 1961; began career in commercial cinema, as writer and actor, known as "Cirkin kral" ("The Ugly King"), 1963; founded Güney-Filmcilik production company, 1968; arrested on charge of sheltering wanted anarchist students, imprisoned without trial for twenty-six months, 1972 (released under general amnesty, 1974); alleged to have shot judge in restaurant, sentenced to twenty-four years hard labor (later commuted to eighteen years); while in prison, allowed to continue scripting films and overseeing productions, 1974–80; films banned following military takeover, 1980; escaped to France, 1981, stripped of Turkish citizenship. Awards: Best Film (co-recipient), Cannes Festival, for Yol, 1982. Died: Of cancer, in Paris, 9 September 1984.
Films as Director:
At avrat silah (The Horse, the Woman, and the Gun) (+ sc, role)
Bana kursun islemez (Bullets Cannot Pierce Me) (+ sc, role); Benim adim Kerim (My Name Is Kerim) (+ sc, role)
Pire Nuri (Nuri the Flea) (co-d, + sc, role); Seyyit Han "Topragin Gelini" (Seyyit Khan, Bride of the Earth) (+ sc, role as Seyyit Han)
Ac kurtlar (The Hungry Wolves) (+ sc, role); Bir cirkin adam (An Ugly Man) (+ sc, role)
Umut (Hope) (+ co-sc, role as Cabar); Piyade Osman (Osman the Wanderer) (co-d, + sc, role); Yedi belalilar (The Seven No-goods) (co-d, + sc, role)
Kacaklar (The Fugitives) (+ sc, role); Vurguncular (The Wrongdoers) (+ sc, role); Ibret (The Example) (co-d, + sc, role); Yarin son gündür (Tomorrow Is the Final Day) (+ sc, role); Umutsuzlar (The Hopeless Ones) (+ sc, role); Aci (Pain) (+ sc, role); A it (Elegy) (+ sc, role as Copano lu); Baba (The Father) (+ sc, role as Cemal, the Boatman)
Arkadas (The Friend) (+ sc, role as the friend); Endise (Anxiety) (co-d, + sc)
Zavallilar (The Poor Ones) (co-d, + co-sc, role as Abu) (begun 1972)
Le Mur (The Wall) (+ sc, role)
Alageyik (The Hind) (Yilmaz) (co-sc, role); Bu vatanin cocuklari (The Children of This Country) (Yilmaz) (co-sc, role)
Karacao lanin kara sevdasi (Karacao lan's Mad Love) (Yilmaz) (co-sc); Tütün zamani (Arlburnu) (role)
Clum perdesi (The Screen of Death) (Yilmaz) (asst d)
Dolandiricilar (The King of Thieves) (Yilmaz) (asst d); Kizil vazo (The Red Vase) (Yilmaz) (asst d); Seni kaybederesen (If I Lose You) (Yilmaz) (asst d); Yaban gülü (The Desert Laughs) (Utku) (co-sc); Dolandiricilar sahi (Yilmaz) (role); Tatli-Bela (Yilmaz) (role)
Ölüme yalniz gidilar (The Dead Only Perish) (Yalinkilic) (sc); Ikisi de cesurdu (Two Brave Men) (co-sc, role)
Hergün ölmektense (Ceylan) (sc, role); Kamali zeybek (Hero with a Knife) (Akinci) (sc, role); Da larin kurdu Kocero (Kocero, Mountain Wolf) (Utku) (sc, role); Halimeden mektup var (Doğan) (role); Kocao lan (Demirel) (role); Kara sahin (Akinci) (role); Mor defter (Ergün) (role); 10 Korkusuz adam (Basaran) (role); Prangasiz mahkumlar (Ariburnu) (role); Zimba gibi delikanli (Jöntürk) (role)
Kasimpasali (Akinci) (sc, role); Kasimpasali recep (Akinci) (sc, role); Konyakci (The Drunkard) (Basaran) (sc, role); Kirallar kirali (King of Kings) (Olgac) (sc, role); Ben öldükce yasarim (Sa iro lu) (role); Beyaz atli adam (Jöntürk) (role); Da larin o lu (Atadeniz) (role); Davudo (Kazankaya) (role); Gönül kusu (Gülnar) (role); Sayili kabadayilar (Kazankaya) (role); Kan Gövdeyi götürdü (Atadeniz) (role); Kahreden kursun (Atadeniz) (role); Haracima dokunma (Kazankaya) (role); Kanli bu day (Ceylan) (role); Korkuszlar (Evin) (role); Silaha yeminliydim (Inci) (role); Sokakta kan vardi (Turkali) (role); Tehlikeli adam (Kazankaya) (role); Torpido Yilmaz (Okcugil) (role); Ücünüzü de mihlarim (Olgac) (role); Yarali kartal (Dursun) (role)
Burcak tarlasi (Utku) (sc); Aslanlarin dönüsü (Return of the Heroes) (Atadeniz) (sc, role); Esrefpasali (Tokatli) (sc, role); Hudutlarin kanunu (The Law of Smuggling) (Akad) (sc, role); Yedi da in aslani (Seven Wild Lions; The Mountain King) (Atadeniz) (sc, role); Tilki Selim (Crafty Selim) (Hancer) (sc, role); Aanasi yi it do urmus (Kurthan) (role); Cirkin kiral (Atadeniz) (role); Kovboy Ali (Atadeniz) (role); Silahlarin kanunu (Atadeniz) (role); . . . Veda silahlara veda . . . (Jöntürk) (role); Yi it yarali olur (Görec) (role) At hirsizi banus (Jöntürk) (sc, role); Seytanin o lu (Aslan) (sc, role); Balatli arif (Yilmaz) (role); Bomba Kemal (Kurthan) (role); Büyük cellatlar (Duru) (role); Cirkin kiral affetmez (Atadeniz) (role); Eskiya celladi (Jöntürk) (role); Ince cumali (Duru) (role); Kizilirmak-Karakoyun (Akad) (role); Kozano lu (Yilmaz) (role); Kuduz recep (Sa ir lu) (role); Kurbanlik katil (Akad) (role)
Azrail benim (The Executioner) (sc, role); Kargaci Halil (Halil, the Crow-Man) (Yalinkilic) (sc, role); Aslan bey (Yalinkilic) (role); Beyo lu canavari (Görec) (role); Canpazari (Görec) (role); Marmara hasan (Aslan) (role); Öldürmek hakkimdir (Ergün) (role)
Belanin yedi türlüsü (Seven Kinds of Trouble) (Ergün) (sc, role); Bin defa ölürüm (Aslan) (role); Cifte tabancali kabadayi (Aslan) (role); Güney ölüm saciyor (Aslan) (role); Kan su gibi akacak (Atadeniz) (role); Kursunlarin kanunu (Ergün) (role)
Imzam kanla yazilir (I Sign in Blood) (Aslan) (sc, role); Sevgili muhafizin (My Dear Bodyguard) (Jöntürk) (sc, role); Seytan kayaliklari (Devil Crag) (Filmer) (sc, role); Cifte yürekli (Evin) (role); Kanimin son damlasina kadar (Figenli) (role); Onu Allah affetsin (Elmas) (role); Son kizgin adam (Davuto lu) (role); Zeyno (Yilmaz) (role)
Cirkin ve cesur (Ozer) (role); Namus ve silah (Görec) (role)
Sabte yar (Görec) (role)
Izin (Leave) (Gürsü) (sc); Bir gün mutlaka (One Day Certainly) (Olgac) (sc)
Sürü (The Herd) (Ökten) (sc, pr supervision)
Düsman (The Enemy) (Ökten) (sc, pr supervision)
Yol (The Way) (sc, pr supervision, ed)
By GÜNEY: articles—
"Entretien avec Yilmaz Güney (1977)," in Positif (Paris), April 1980.
Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), June 1982.
Interview with Marcel Martin, in Image et Son (Paris), July-August 1982.
Interview in Casablanca, no. 36, December 1983.
"Güney's Last Journey," an interview with C. Gardner, in Stills (London), October 1984.
On GÜNEY: book—
Armes, Roy, Third–World Filmmaking and the West, Berkeley, 1987.
On GÜNEY: articles—
Weales, G. "Istanbul Journal," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1975.
Kazan, Elia, "The View from a Turkish Prison," in New York TimesMagazine, 4 February 1979.
"Guney Issue" of Positif (Paris), April 1980.
Armes, Roy, "Yilmaz Guney: The Limits of Individual Action," in Framework (Norwich), Summer 1981.
Elley, Derek, "Yilmaz Güney," in International Film Guide 1983, London, 1982.
Giles, D., and H. Sahin, "Revolutionary Cinema in Turkey: Yilmaz Güney," in Jump Cut (Berkeley), July 1982.
Rayns, Tony, "From Isolation," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1983.
Bassan, R., "Le Mur: L'Itinéraire escarpé de Yilmaz Güney," in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), June 1983.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 12 September 1984.
Finlayson, E., "Levantine Approaches: On First Looking into Güney's Turkey," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), October 1984.
Listener (London), 15 January 1987.
Hellier, C., "Hope Deferred," in Index on Censorship, vol. 20, no. 3, 1991.
Naficy, Hamid, "Phobic Spaces and Liminal Panics: Independent Transnational Film Genre," in East-West Film Journal (Honolulu), vol. 8, no. 2, July 1994.
On GÜNEY: film—
Stempel, Hans, and Martin Ripken, Besuch auf Imrali (Portrait ofYilmaz Güney), 1979.
* * *
Yilmaz Güney's life was fully as dramatic as any of his films. The son of a rural worker, he supported himself through studies at university in Ankara and Istanbul. Though his career was interrupted by a series of arrests for political activities, he established himself as a scriptwriter and actor in the 1960s and developed a wide popular following. More than a film star in the conventional sense, he became something of a popular myth, a figure in whose sufferings and ruthless quest for vengeance the poor and oppressed could see their lives and aspirations reflected.
When Güney turned to directing in the late 1960s, his first films were in the same commercial tradition as his early hits. But the early 1970s saw a fresh burst of creativity, brought to an end by a new prison sentence of two years. After his release he completed one of his most interesting films, Arkadas (The Friend), in 1974, before finding himself back in prison, this time on a murder charge for which he received a sentence of twenty-four years imprisonment. But even this could not put a stop to his career. He maintained contact with the outside world and continued scripting films, some of which, like Sürü (The Herd), achieved international success. When he finally made his escape from Turkey in 1981 he was able to work on yet another film he had scripted, Yol (The Way), which won the Cannes Grand Prix in 1982.
Perhaps Güney's major achievement as an actor-director in the early 1970s was to make the transition from the heroic superman figure of his early films, such as Ac Kurtlar (The Hungry Wolves), to the vulnerable individual of his later work. In the series of masterly films that begin with the ironically titled Umut (Hope) in 1970, the failure of the isolated individual acting alone becomes the uniting thread of Güney's work. Already, in The Hungry Wolves, the picture of Turkish society portrayed by Güney is most remarkable for what is lacking: no concerned government to maintain the law, no self-help for the terrorized peasants, no acceptable role for women, no vision beyond instinctive revolt on the part of the bandits. These factors continue to form the background for the series of defeated individuals in both rural settings as in the bandit film A it (Elegy) and the urban environment as in Baba (The Father) and Zavallilar (The Poor Ones). The one film which posits a set of positive values is his last completed work as a director before his arrest in 1974, The Friend. But even here the vision is a dark one, for the intellectual hero (played by Güney) confronts an erstwhile friend with his empty life and thereby drives him to suicide.
The next film Güney began, Endise (Anxiety), was completed by his friend and former assistant Serif Gören following Güney's arrest. He was to spend eight years in prison, but he continued to write film scripts indefatigably. Among his best films of this period are those which offer a vivid picture of the life of peasants in the still feudal world of his native district, Adana: Anxiety and The Herd, the latter directed by Zeki Ökten. Güney's final Turkish work, Yol, which he edited himself in exile, is even wider in its scope, offering an image of the whole breadth of Turkey through its intercut stories of five detainees released from prison for a week who travel home to their families. Despite Güney's strong political commitment, his films are social studies rather than overtly political tracts. He himself never failed to make the distinction between his political activity, which is directed towards revolutionary change in society, and his filmmaking. For Güney, the fictional feature film remained first and foremost a popular form, a way of communicating with a mass audience, and, as Yol shows, he used in an exemplary way the possibilities it offers for stating and examining the contradictions that underlie modern Turkish society.