Murray State's Cinema International Presents "Bliss" This Week
Murray State's Cinema International presents the Turkish film Bliss, directed by Abdullah Oguz, this week. Program director Dr. Thérèse St. Paul speaks with Tracy Ross about the upcoming screenings.
From the Cinema International website:
"Based on the acclaimed novel by Zülfü Livaneli and set amidst Turkey's natural wonders, Bliss is a riveting tale about love, honor, freedom, and redemption.
A 17-year-old girl, Meryem, has been raped. To uphold family honor, her parents turn to an ancient moral code that condemns Meryem to death. A distant cousin, Cemal, is ordered to carry out the task.
Instead, Meryem and Cemal embark on a surprising journey across traditional and modern-day Turkey in this unforgettable film. Winner of 12 awards in festivals worldwide."
"This film carries a message," St. Paul says. "It is pulling the wool from one's eyes on the practice called traditional crimes of honor. It takes place in Turkey, but it's perpetrated in many societies around the world."
St. Paul explains that while crimes of honor are often associated with Muslim cultures, the practice also occurs in Christian communities, Pakistan, other parts of Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and the United States. "It targets women," she says.
"The definition of honor killing is a reaction to a behavior perceived as breaking a code of honor," St. Paul continues. "It is ancestral. It is attached to the concept of honor and put upon a woman. The woman of the family basically carries the honor of the family."
"Anything she does to bring shame to her family, and, by extension, the whole community, is subjected to an ironclad law of death. The majority of the victims are women. The victim is blamed even if she's raped. A male member of the family is delegated to kill her. If the family doesn't do it, they're under pressure to move away or be ostracized."
These "ancestral, feudal, and medieval" ways of life often occur in rural areas of eastern Turkey. "Sociologists have a lot to say about that because it's really ritualistic, superstitious," St. Paul says.
"It ties into the bigger scope of violence against women. The subjugation of women and control of women's bodies. We know that is something that is in all cultures. Just think of some law in Texas, right? There are laws. They are hard-pressed to fight it."
To get around laws prohibiting human rights abuses, these remote communities hide their crimes or disguise them as suicides. "They get around the law," St. Paul says. "Many women don't have birth certificates. So, they don't exist."
Some families will delegate a minor, a boy, to commit the honor killing. "The law is lenient on minors. Can you imagine the trauma on this young boy?"
Despite its dark subject matter, Bliss does offer a glimpse of hope. The film follows three characters who are "running away from traditional conventions. Ultimately, they help each other as they go forward," St. Paul says.
"Bliss does a really good job to balance the harshness of this situation the characters are in. The pain, the twists, and the difficulties they have to deal with. They balance that with absolutely breathtaking views of landscapes inside the mountains of Turkey and seascapes."
"The story does have a romantic twist, which some critics said lack realism. But that will be up to one to judge because it is a beautiful story that brings hope for change," St. Paul concludes.
MSU Cinema International presents Bliss on Thursday, September 16th, in the Barkley Room and on Saturday, September 18th, in the Curris Center Theater. Both screenings are at 7:30 pm, free, and open to the public. Masks are required.
For more information on the MSU Cinema International program, including how to donate, visit their website.