MARDİN - A Syriac man, whose life story is like a film, is a part of this year's Sinemardin Film Festival in the southeastern Mardin. Well-known journalist and director Nuri Kino, who was born in Midyat but raised in Sweden, says, 'I have seen many red carpets in my life, but I have never been this emotional and happy to participate in a film festival.'
He finds pleasure in getting to know people of different ethnicities. As soon as he arrived in Mardin, he met his friends, who were Kurdish, Jewish, Arab and Turkish, and had lunch together in Midyat. He later screened his Golden Palm awarded film, "Assyriska: A National Team Without a Nation."
Discussions in Sweden
Kino, who is also an activist, is now in the middle of discussions in Sweden, where he lives, about how journalists can also become human right activists.
"It is a debate going on, and according to many, if you are a journalist you cannot be a human right activist. They say you give up your entitlement as a journalist if you help a raped girl or save immigrant children," he said. "For me, it’s what we call ’doing good and it will come back to you.’ It’s a religious belief. I am doing my own thing. Either people accept it or not."
Kino migrated to Germany with his family when he was 4 years old. Like many other immigrants in Germany during the ’60s and ’70s, they became guest workers. "Factories were our lives. We had schools, kindergartens and associations. We grew up with all kinds of Turkish ethnicities," he told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
In 1974, his mother took him and his siblings to Sweden to see her parents, who were from Mardin. After their trip to Sweden, his parents decided to stay because Germany was full of factory workers and Sweden needed workers. "We never had a chance to say bye to our friends," Kino said.
His life in Sweden started with acting but not on stage. To get into the country, he pretended to have an epileptic fit in front of the police so they smuggled him in. "I was a pretty good actor as a child," he said.
Day by day the Assyrian town in Germany emptied, and each morning a new group of relatives or neighbors from Germany arrived in Sweden and stayed with Kino’s family.
"Now all those people are a part of my life. That actually gave me a platform as a journalist because I do understand conspiracies, and I had the opportunity to experience different cultures," Kino said. He also grew up among his activist and feminist aunts and their friends. When he was young, he used to sit and listen to their demonstration and project plans. He said it’s a privilege to grow up with strong women.
Kino, 44, has many stories to tell. "Well, I was also kidnapped when I was small, but that’s another anecdote," he said laughing.
Visiting grandmother’s house
When Kino arrived in Mardin for the film festival Sinemardin, he visited his grandmother’s former house. "She is the daughter of ... a well-educated, high-class Assyrian family [in Midyat]. I also have relatives from Hasankeyf, Syria and Iraq," he said. He sat on the stairs and thought of what his grandmother told him: "You can never be a prophet in your hometown."
"But Sinemardin gave me the chance to be a prophet in my own hometown," Kino said and added that this part of the world always makes him emotional. According to him this year’s International Sinemardin Film Festival made a very good opening. He sees this as an opportunity for different ethnicities, religions and nationalities to come together and discuss current issues. "I am so happy that Turks and Kurds see me as a part of them," Kino said. "They don’t see me as Swedish."
This is one of the most dynamic countries on earth but it is still ignored, according to Kino. He has never seen a Turkish film screened at the festivals in Sweden. He believes festivals such as Sinemardin will be an example of Turkey’s mosaic of attractions for those outside of Turkey.
"People are surprised when they see me hugging a Kurdish friend of mine because I am an Assyrian. Many things remain as a taboo in this country because they are not discussed, which creates prejudice," he said. He thinks films are a good tool for overcoming these prejudices and educating the public.
Nearly 40 people watched his film at the festival in Babil Hall. The crowd was a mixture of Assyrians, Kurds, Turks, Americans and Swedes.
Kino’s film tells the story of Assyrians through an established football team. "Assyriska: A National Team Without a Nation," filmed in 2005, is the story of an Assyrian soccer team from Södert?lje, a small town in Sweden that was able to reach the national premiere league. Against all odds as the first ever immigrant team in Europe, it succeeded. Yet the documentary still shows the controversy views. Some people do not agree that Assyrians can have a national team because they don’t have a nation. The film made headlines worldwide, and Kino won the 2006 Golden Palm Award.
"It was hard to shoot the documentary," Kino said and added that he has learnt how to be patient while filming the documentary.
After filming about Assyriska, many series were filmed about real stories and real people. According to Kino, it’s a new art, letting people tell their own stories. "I always tell people, whoever you are, start with a topic from your environment. And if you are tough enough to do that, risking losing your family and your friends, then you are a real documentarian."
According to Kino, it was the August 1999 Marmara earthquake that has made him a worldwide journalist. He was in Istanbul when the earthquake happened. All of a sudden "I was interviewed by CNN, the Swedish evening sheet Aftonbladet, radios and many other press agencies," he said.
The German newspaper Bild-Zeitung also used Kino’s article with the title "Killers." "Everyone knew that those buildings were too weak to stand a strong earthquake. Many of the newspapers blamed the construction companies, using my article as an example," he said.
Kino continues his studies full speed: A new book is on the way, research will be completed, and film project’s scenario is half way done, he said.