A Film Review: ZAP BRIDGE THAT CONNECTED THE EAST WITH THE WEST

1103-zap_afis_02_fl1960s was the period for hope and rebellion. For Arthur Marwick 1960s was a cultural revolution. With the destruction of Berlin Wall and the decline of USSR, many viewed 1960s as a failure. Maybe it was politically a failure; however, the values of 1960s still exist with feminist, civil right, black, LGBT movements, etc. Director Bahriye Kabadayı’s documentary” Devrimci Gençlik Köprüsü” is a look into the 1960s student movements in Turkey. To tell the story she uses film clips from the 1960s movements all over the world, footage of Hakkari and interviews with local people, the politicians of the time, and then students who went to Hakkari to build the Zap Bridge. It is an interesting and didactic documentary for the audience to look at the 1960s from the perspective of the main actors of the era- students.

In Turkey, revolutionary youth built a bridge in Hakkari since they “believed in the possibility of a different world”. Working class people, military, youth and the peasants came together for the “revolution”. The publication of the poem, Anayasso, in the late 1960s by Şemsi Belli in Milliyet was about the difficulties of Hakkari people in passing the Great Zap to go to Şavata. Meanwhile government was planning to build a bridge in the Bosphorus to reduce the İstanbul traffic. Revolutionary youth claimed that it would cause the establishment of other bridges and unplanned urbanization in İstanbul, environmental problems (some neighborhoods were destroyed for the bridge) and create unequal regional development. The government, on the other hand, viewed them as anarchist and resisting the change.

Bahriye Kabadayı gives in the first place, brief information of the era which paves the way for those who are unfamiliar of the history of 1960s. She then focuses on students to explain what really pushed for students to build that bridge in Hakkari. She points out the fact that in the first place, the student movements emerged for equal education opportunities for everybody and a democratic university. However, with the civil rights defined in the new constitution of 1960, it easily turned into a protest against “anti- democratic government actions, American imperialism, common market, and assembly industry.” The young people believed that they had a mission and they could do something beneficial for this country as they were the educated minority in Turkey.

At this time the world was talking about the first man, Armstrong, walking on the moon while Turkish media published a picture showing people passing the Great Zap with a wire. This led to the emergence of a campaign for building a bridge in Hakkari. The educated young people would build it and also get a chance to get to know the Kurdish people. They found the East isolated and consisted of bandits. Railways were ignored and people were afraid of the terror. It was like a different planet says then students in the interviews who were mainly coming from the cities. Local people also surprised that they were working for the benefit of them who mostly never hold pickaxe before. Deniz Gezmiş was especially a symbol of the movements of the 1960s. Since he was in jail of Bursa, he could not participate in the establishment of Zap Bridge. However, local people identified the bridge with Deniz Gezmiş.

Throughout the documentary, Kabadayı speaks as the narrative and explains his experiences when she goes to Hakkari. Through the interviews we learn that people could not speak Turkish and make themselves visible for Ankara at that time. They even did not know what tomato or aubergine is. Thus there were inadequate infrastructural, educational and health structure. However, by not providing subtitles for those of us who cannot speak Kurdish, the audience can only learn the feelings and experiences of the local people through the interviews made with then students or the politicians of the time.

Kabadayı emphasizes that 1971 memorandum and 1980 coup also created an apolitic youth and new debates surrounded in the Kurdish question, debates on secularism, increasing terror and migration to urban areas which left the East especially more isolated. As a result, Boğaziçi Bridge could not solve the traffic problem in İstanbul and led to the creation of more bridges which are all costly despite governments’ promises over its free status. With the increasing population of İstanbul, the city lost its socio-cultural and historical structure and turned into an unplanned metropolis.

Since Zap Bridge was the symbol of a good future for the people in Hakkari “where people wishing the peace live in”, this bridge for the young people also connected the West with the East. However; in May 1999, Zap Bridge was destructed although it is unclear who did this. Throughout the interviews we see that whoever did destroy the bridge are the ones wishing for the “war” rather than the “peace”. In the last scene of the film Bahriye Kabadayı sums up the main argument of the film by saying that “the only solution is to look at the life from the perspective of the people”.

Gülşen DOĞAN

 

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