Taglines: The story of three families’ search for freedom.
The film is a portrait of Turkey in the aftermath of the 1980 Turkish coup d’état: its people and its authorities are shown via the stories of five prisoners given a week’s home leave. The film has caused much controversy in Turkey, and was banned until 1999 due to Yılmaz Güney’s involvement rather than its content.
Yol tells the story of several prisoners on furlough in Turkey. Seyit Ali (Tarık Akan) travels to his house and finds that his wife (Şerif Sezer) has betrayed him and works as a prostitute. She was caught by her family and held captive for Seyit Ali to end her life in an honor killing. Though apparently determined at first, he changes his mind when his wife starts to freeze while travelling in the snow. Despite his efforts to keep her alive, he eventually fails. His wife’s death relieves Seyit Ali from family pressure and he is saved from justice since she freezes but he has an internal struggle and must return to jail.
Mehmet Salih (Halil Ergün) has been arrested for his role in a heist with his brother-in-law, whom he abandoned as he was being shot by police. His in-laws want nothing to do with him, and he is finally forced to tell his wife Emine (Meral Orhonsay) the truth. Emine and Mehmet Salih decide to run away and get on a train. On the train, they get caught in the toilet while having long-awaited sex with each other. They are saved from an angry mob by the train’s officers and held in a cabin before being handed over to officials. There, a young boy from Emine’s family who boarded the train shoots both Mehmet Salih and Emine.
Ömer (Necmettin Çobanoğlu) returns to his village. Being a border village, it has a struggle with the army due to smuggling. Ömer visits and arranges to cross the border to escape prison. Though Ömer is clearly determined, he gives up after his brother is shot dead while smuggling. Through his brother’s death, Ömer has inherited the responsibilities of his brother’s wife and children as dictated by tradition. Each prisoner in the film suffers from a conflict that threatens his freedom, with tradition also imprisoning him.
Yol is a 1982 Turkish-Kurdish film directed by Yılmaz Güney. The screenplay was written by Güney, and it was directed by his assistant Şerif Gören, who strictly followed Güney’s instructions, as Güney was in prison at the time. Later, when Güney escaped from prison, he took the negatives of the film to Switzerland and later edited it in Paris. As a result, the film was selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 55th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.
The rights to Yol were disputed for a long time. Even during Yilmaz Güney’s lifetime, there were major conflicts about the ownership of the film between Güney and Donat Keusch, the head of a Swiss-based service company called Cactus Film AG, who claimed to own the entire rights of the film. After Güney’s death, the dispute escalated between Keusch and Güney’s widow.
When Keusch filed for bankruptcy with his Cactus Film AG in 1999, the situation became even more complicated and resulted in numerous lawsuits in both Switzerland and France. There still are numerous sellers in the market claiming to be the sole owner of the world rights to Yol, and the film is offered in different versions through different distribution channels. According to the RCA-directory of the French CNC, Donat Keusch acquired the exclusive rights for Yol on March 4, 2010.
Directed by: Serif Gören, Yilmaz Güney
Starring: Tarik Akan, Serif Sezer, Halil Ergün, Meral Orhonsay, Necmettin Çobanoglu, Semra Uçar, Sevda Aktolga, Hale Akinli
Screenplay by: Yilmaz Güney
Production Management: Kerim Pulli
Cinematography by: Erdogan Engin
Film Editing by: Hélène Arnal, Yilmaz Güney, Elisabeth Waelchli
Music by: Sebastian Argol, Zülfü Livaneli
Distributed by: New York Film Festival
Release Date: October 6, 1982