Interview with Filmmaker Nesli ERGÜN (KOYUN)

KOYUN played to rave reviews at the August 2019 Female Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nesli ERGÜN: It seems a fair share of moral confusion is pervading the world today about women who wear the Islamic head scarf. This confusion is no accident. It’s easy to get away with oppressing women if the general public, and even women underneath the veil, can’t rally behind a unifying consensus that compulsory veiling is wrong. George Orwell said once that the prime responsibility lay in being able to tell people what they did not wish to hear.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

About 4 months.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Critical, Unashamed

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Whether or not to put my name on it.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was deeply moved. I have never seen anyone (apart from my friends and family) react to my work before. I have not shown this film in Turkey. This film was not selected to be screened in the festivals where I thought it would be most relevant (the Islamic world). I honestly had no idea what people actually thought about what I made before watching the clip you sent. This exchange, what we are doing here in this moment, is maybe the most powerful engagement a filmmaker could ask for. A festival centered on the idea of giving and receiving feedback allows filmmakers to reflect in ways most standard interactions fall short from allowing. As a result, FEEDBACK Female Film Festival is the most valuable festival I have ever had the honor to be a part of.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I don’t know. I’m never good at remembering these things. The only thing I do remember is that I drew the thumbnail storyboard on my dining room table in about 15 minutes.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I don’t think I watch films over and over again so I think I’m going to skip this question 🙂

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

If an interaction like the one I’ve been talking about with you guys is possible, then I’ve got to love the platform that made it possible for me to meet you in the first place, right?

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I sure did listen to Color Him Country by Linda Martell a whole lot.

Also Lhasa, Slowdive, Nina Simone – I mean there are so many to list.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m building a community center in Istanbul. I want to make a positive impact on the trajectory of the Turkish nation-state by injecting a spirit of hope and wonder in a traumatized, undervalued, economically depressed & culturally polarized population. By creating value in gatherings outside of religious, governmental & educational institutions, I want to enable a much needed critical look at our Turkish experience as community members. Filmmaking will very much be a part of this center. In other words, I’ve just begun.

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