Kurdish filmmaker Lisa Çalan received Spirit of Cinema Award at Kerala International Film Festival

Kurdish filmmaker Lisa Çalan received the Spirit of Cinema Award at the Kerala International Film Festival (IFFK) in India for her short film The Language of the Mountains.
Kurdish filmmaker Lisa Çalan received the Spirit of Cinema Award at the 26th Kerala International Film Festival (IFFK) in India for her short film Zimanê Çîya (The Language of the Mountains). The artist received the award from Pinarayi Vijayan, the head of government of the state of Kerala in south-west India. At the ceremony, the left-wing politician paid tribute to Çalan for using the medium of cinema for “social change” to fight against oppression and authoritarianism. This award, presented for the first time, is also intended to recognize the festival’s commitment to the equality and advancement of women and the fight against misogyny in Indian cinema, according to Vijayan.
“We Kurdish women are against patriarchy and any kind of gender-based violence. Cinema is a revolutionary medium of expression. It should be provocative,” said Lisa Çalan, as usual combative, after an acknowledgment in which she named Rosa Luxemburg, Simone de Beauvoir and Karl Marx as her sources of inspiration. “I never stopped defying the system. I have come a long way to accept this award. My story is long too.”
Lisa Çalan
Lisa Çalan was born in Amed (Diyarbakır) in 1987 to a family of ten children. Her childhood was shaped by the state repression of Kurdish society in Turkey. After graduating from high school, she refused to attend a Turkish university because she demanded education in her native language, Kurdish. Instead, she studied film at the Aram Tigran Conservatory, which was founded in 2010 by the then Amed city government. The Conservatory only lived six years. With the first “blow against Kurdish local politics”, the conservatory was closed by State order in 2016.
During the two years she spent at the conservatory, Lisa Çalan got closer to the stories of Kurdistan and her perspective shifted to the struggle of Kurdish women. She was inspired by the villages and towns she visited and began collaborating on political documentaries about war events and the forced displacement of the Kurdish population. She later worked at the Amed Film Academy and took part in various festivals with the projects that were created there.
Victim of Islamic State attack
On 5 June 2015, just two days before the parliamentary elections in Turkey, a bomb by a mercenary belonging to the Islamic State known to the police exploded in Amed on Istasyon station square in the midst of a large HDP rally. Just like the HDP’s election campaign, the rally was held under the slogan “For the great mankind. Five people – Ramazan Yıldız, Necati Kurul, Şehmuz Kaçan, Civan Arslan and Ali Türkmen died in the bomb attack, hundreds more people were injured, sixteen of them seriously. Lisa Çalan was one of them. She lost both legs in the attack.
I survived it
“I survived, but I had to put my film projects on hold for a few years,” Çalan said in her speech at the Kerala Festival. “But now I’m fully recovered and full of energy.” During the rehabilitation process, Çalan also began to become more involved as an activist again and to work more for women’s liberation and the victims of ISIS crimes. Her film Zimanê Çîya deals with the topics of assimilation, the ban on the Kurdish language in Turkey and the diverse reprisals by the Turkish state against the Kurds. Lisa Çalan expressed her special thanks to the Kurdish women fighting ISIS.”
Lisa Çalan presented Zimanê Çîya at an event organised within the Venice Film Festival in September 2021 and is one of the women directors taking part in the Eurimages (the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe) sponsored project Purple Meridians, that bring together 18 women directors from Kurdistan-Turkey, Catalunya-Spain and Italy.

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