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Nearby Yet Far Away - The Isle of Burgaz

Documentary Film / 2005 / 60 Min.

Photo: Özgür Can Akbaş

Theatre actor Cüneyt Türel gets a scholarship in London and is about to check-in in a hotel run by Cyprus Greeks. The clerk asks him if he’s sure.

It’s 1974, and the Cyprus conflict is at its climax. People with Turkish passports are, to put it mildly, not welcome there. But Türel has no other alternative, and all other hotels are too expensive. A while later someone knocks at his room door. Türel fears the worst but hesitantly asks who is there. The voice behind the door answers in accent-free Turkish: “My name is Emilios Yorgos Eden. I am a Greek from Burgaz”. Thus begins the friendship between the two.

A few years later, Emilios goes to Athens - he is an ophthalmologist - and Cüneyt returns to the theatre in Istanbul. The correspondence between them becomes sparser, and they lose sight of each other - until the shooting of this film. Hazar and his team scheduled shooting according to Emilios’ schedule, who was to visit his home island Burgaz for the first time as an adult. Burgaz is one of the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul. During another Cyprus crisis in the 1960s, almost all Greeks living there were expatriated. Emilios’ father, for example, was the island doctor but had to resign and leave the country.

Such racist measures have become part of history today. Burgaz is very colourful now. With its seventeen different ethnic and religious communities, it has no equal anywhere in the world. Jews, both Sephardic and Ashkenazi, Aramaeans, Armenians, Chaldeans, Germans, Italians, Kurds, Alevis, and many more, reside or spend their summer holidays on one and a half square kilometres of land that the island has to offer. Meanwhile, Türel and his wife and colleague Tilbe Saran also live on Burgaz.

Tilbe Saran, Cüneyt Türel and Emilios Eden guide us through the history, present and ethnic patchwork of the island. The language of the film is emotional and often funny. Since there aren’t many Greeks there anymore, Alevis help out the Greek Orthodox Christians at the religious ceremony where young swimmers haul the cross out of the sea. The minorities imitate each other’s dialect. At the annual costume ball, they put on the clichéd costumes of the one another.

The film, available here with English subtitles, ends when Emilios suddenly has to say farewell during a feast, in order not to miss his flight back to Athens. All a utopia?

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Written and
Directed By

Nedim Hazar

Director of Photography

Bülent Arınlı

Production

Troya Medya

Producer

Ethel Kupas

Assistant

Özgür Can Akbaş

Project Idea By

Robert Schild

Music

Motion Trio (Poland)
Zoe Tiganouria (Greece)
Sabahat Akkiraz (Turkey)

Broadcast

NTV Turkey

Festivals

Munich Turkish Film Days

Nürnberg - German-Turkish Film Festival

Istanbul - 1001 Documentary Film Festival

Press Gallerz

Cüneyt Türel

Actor (1942 - 2012)

With over forty years of stage experience and roles in countless films, Cüneyt Türel was a talented, beloved and highly regarded actor in Turkey. His last performance in 2009 was together with French actress Jeanne Moreau in an open-air production by Israeli director Amos Gitai in a historic castle on the Bosporus.
Türel was a close friend and island neighbour* of Nedim Hazar.

* Between 2008 and 2015, Hazar and his wife Ulrike Dufner lived on Burgaz Island.

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