Yilmaz Güney

Active - 1968 - 1983  |   Born - Jan 1, 1937   |   Died - Sep 9, 1984   |   Genres - Drama, Crime, Action

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Turkish filmmaker Yilmaz Güney, considered a mouthpiece for the common man, was virtually unknown outside of Turkey until after 1981. His highly politicized films about the effects of government upon Turkish people were so controversial that to even write about him, let alone view his films or speak of him was forbidden by the government. As a young man Güney studied law and economics at Ankara and Istanbul universities; he then began a screenwriting apprenticeship with Atif Yilmaz. Soon after, he began acting in films and became the most famous actor in Turkey. At his peak, Güney, known as "Cirkin Kral," or "the Ugly King" for his rugged looks, was appearing in up to 20 films per year. Soon after the 1960 political reform in Turkey he was imprisoned for a year and a half for publishing a "communist" novel. By the mid '60s he had become an active filmmaker involved with the Turkish studio system, Yesilcam. Contrary to the typical melodramas and war films sanctioned by the state, Güney began to make films about the daily problems faced by common people. In 1968, he founded his own production company, Güney Filmcilik where he continued making films such as Umut/Hope (1970) to inspire his people. Just before finishing Endise and beginning preproduction on Zavallilar in 1972, he was arrested for protecting anarchist students. While imprisoned, his assistant, Serif Goren finished the former film, thus setting up a strange but effective partnership where the imprisoned Güney would write the screenplays, and Goren would direct them. In 1974, Güney was granted amnesty and released. He was later re-imprisoned for shooting a judge. Again he wrote screenplays for Goren to direct until 1981 when he escaped from prison and fled to France where his autobiographical screenplay--directed by Goren--Yol won the coveted Palme d'Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. In 1983, he began directing again. With help from the French government, Güney made his final film, Le Mur, a chilling chronicle of imprisoned children.

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