Prison Nr. 5

When he said there could be no poetry after Auschwitz Adorno was drawing attention to the constraints of analogy in the face of trauma. The question of how an atrocity witnessed can be translated into the language of literature or cinema is one that calls for careful deliberation. Especially if ‘official history’ has striven to gloss over the particular instance of violence and bury it in the dark pages of the past… Between the years 1980-1984, 32 people were killed and hundreds more crippled in Diyarbakır Prison. In discussing the ordeals experienced here, the documentary film Prison nr. 5 addresses this self-same question. Director Çayan Demirel uses first-hand accounts to successfully convey on screen things which are hard to articulate and confront. The scars left on these stoic witnesses by their experiences are manifest in the lines on their faces, the tone of their voices and their gestures. And at times, words simply dry up and are replaced by swallowing, silence and tears. It’s then that a flock of doves takes wing, snow-capped mountains appear or a poignant folk song begins playing. And perhaps devices such as these help salve the wound. The achievement of Prison nr. 5 lies in its ability to transpose material that is notoriously difficult to portray into the language of cinema. Unpeopled landscapes, shadows on the wall, sketches, dirges, and the empty prison with its long corridors, suggestive of a ghost house… This all helps to convey the inexpressible. Through these absent images we are faced with ‘shameful’ moments of the country’s recent history. Collective memory finds expression in the inferences of different images as much as in archive footage and interviews. Finally, another important point highlighted by the film is the timeless currency of confronting and challenging the past. Ahmet Gürata


Çayan Demirel

Koray Kesik

Burak Dal

Çayan Demirel

Ahmet Tirgil

Best Documentary Antalya

15th Festival on Wheels