TIFF Docs

The Legend of the Ugly King

Hüseyin Tabak

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Director Hüseyin Tabak explores the legacy of Yilmaz Güney — political dissident, convicted murderer, and visionary Kurdish filmmaker — who directed the 1982 Palme d'Or–winning Yol from inside prison and died in exile just two years later.

As part of the TIFF Speaker Series, scholar Robert Austin will join the filmmaker for an extended conversation at the second public screening.

A visionary artist whose works balance polemic with a haunting lyricism, Kurdish filmmaker Yilmaz Güney belongs in the upper echelons of world cinema. Sadly, 33 years after his death, Güney's renown is in danger of fading. But this searching, beautifully rendered documentary from Hüseyin Tabak serves as a galvanizing remedy.

Güney was born to Kurdish parents in Adana, Turkey, and studied law and economics in Ankara and Istanbul — facts essential to understanding his dedication to the plight of marginalized peoples. Güney became a hugely popular actor, but beginning in 1960, as the country slid deeper into repression, he ran afoul of the government and spent the next 20 years in and out of Turkey's penal system. He made several masterworks in this period, such as Umut, but all of them were eventually banned in Turkey, and in 1981 Güney went into exile. Yol, which he helmed in absentia from prison, won him the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1982. Güney died of cancer two years later, having never returned to his homeland. He was 47.

Eschewing chronological order in favour of a more personal, investigative trajectory, Tabak begins Legend with the Cannes triumph and slowly makes his way back to Turkey to interview Güney's surviving collaborators and family, fashioning a rich biographical tapestry and a heartfelt homage to a filmmaker whose relentless integrity and creativity inspire to this day.

THOM POWERS

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