A film fluctuating between documentary and fiction, Gitmek* is based on a true story that happened to the actress in the leading role, Ayça Damgacı. In other words, she is performing / reenacting the events from three years ago, only this time in front of the camera. The film’s docu-fiction nature is rather complex as it contains multiple layers of past and present in which reality and fiction merge.
Three years ago, Ayça falls in love with a famous Iraqi actor on a film set and they have a brief yet passionate time together. Upon her return to Istanbul, neither Ayça nor Hama Ali can forget the other. Their correspondence mostly depends on the video letters that Hama Ali sends to her, which she watches in her Istanbul flat. These videos depict his everyday life at a Kurdish village in Iraq amidst the violence and war that goes on. Fed up with his absence, Ayça decides to take a trip to Iraq to reunite with her lover.
Ayça’s story is already extraordinary because in search for love she travelled to a part of the world where it was considered extremely dangerous to go especially at a time when Iraqi people were leaving their own country to seek refuge in Turkey. But this story attains even more depth by the multiple meanings that are provided by the film’s form. The uses of documentary shots of present day events that vary from demonstrations of war in Istanbul to the conditions of immigrants at the Iraqi border, and the inserts of Hama Ali’s untouched video letters prompt us to ask questions regarding time and space. The character and performer are the same person in theory, but a three-year time difference separates them as well as a film camera, designed filmic locations, props and a written script. Hama Ali’s videos are entirely authentic, documenting the life in Iraq then and there, but still have a feel of now three years later. Moreover, this is the only way Hama Ali is included in the film, emphasizing the impossibility of their being together even more (and not even on film). Watching the film, you know that this is Ayça performing the events. This knowledge creates a strange consciousness that inhibits you from being lost in the film. It is almost as if the reenactments of events call you to imagine them more for yourself. When juxtaposed with present-time documentary shots, such questions become futile. Gitmek is one example of the many ways in which cinema is capable of creating time and detaching and attaching spaces to it.
The opening scene is a video shot by Hama Ali himself – and most probably edited by the film’s director -, on the set that he and Ayça met. Without any commentary, he first records the set, the director, the cameraman, the actors and the landscape. But it is clear that he actually wants to approach Ayça. So he gets nearer and zooms in to her despite a warning that comes off-screen that tells him it is time to put his camera down. Ayça is getting ready for the role; she is in costume and her make-up is being done. Upon seeing Hama Ali she smiles. Hama Ali starts a joke and tells her that he is coming to from the Oscars committee, to which Ayça naturally joins in and accepts a toy sword from him as an award in ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’. She then makes a mock speech telling the camera that she dedicates the award to her loved ones in fake tears. Then Hama Ali starts an interview, asking ‘My dear Ayça, do you like Kurdish people?’; she replies ‘Yes, especially Kurdish men’. He follows: ‘Do you think you could live here?’ and Ayça says, ‘Why not? We are like gypsies, aren’t we? As long as we are with our loved ones, I could live anywhere’.
The scene is significant in many ways, but I think it is especially powerful in terms of showing the relationship of the two protagonists in such a simple form and summarizing the reason behind Ayça’s long and frustrating trip to Hama Ali through her own words. Another thing about the scene is that it takes place on a film set and its transparency harbingers the unusual form that the film has.
*’Gitmek’ means ‘to go’ in Turkish.