Screening This Week :: ’My Child’ Explores LGBT Parents in Turkey


EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 13, 2013

My Child, Can Candan's film about parents of LGBTs in Turkey, will be screened on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 8:00pm at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as part of the 18th Annual Boston Turkish Festival's Documentary & Short Film Competition.

It will be screened in the Museum's Remis Auditorium, 161. For more information, visit the MFA website.

According to the film's website, the film is a "feature documentary about a very courageous and inspiring group of mothers and fathers in Turkey, who are parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender individuals. They have not only gone through the difficult path of accepting their children for who they are, but also have taken the next step to share their experiences with other LGBT families and the public. In 'My Child' seven parents intimately share their experiences with the viewer, as they redefine what it means to be parents, family, and activists in this conservative, homophobic and trans-phobic society.

"In five homes in Istanbul, Turkey, seven parents of LGBT individuals talk about their experiences of becoming parents; about their children growing up and opening up to them; about the difficult path they had to go through in dealing with this; about themselves opening up to their families, and re-learning how to be a parent. They talk about themes such as denial, trauma, helplessness, fear, shame, acceptance, and re-birth.

"They say nothing has prepared them for this experience. None of the parenting guides, nothing passed on from their elders or schooling mentioned how one could be a parent of a LGBT child. They had to learn it from scratch. When they talk about how they experienced the coming out of their children, they refer to it as the death of a child and birth of a new one. They say this extremely traumatic experience has also led to their own rebirth, as they have been questioning what it means to be an individual, to be true to oneself, and to be a parent. In a conservative society, where family ties are important, they had to deal with their fears about what "others" would say, whether they would be ostracized if they were to come out to their own parents, families, and friends.

"They say that they are very lucky that they have children who have come out to them and their children have become their teachers in this process. In their weekly meeting, as members of the support and advocacy group LISTAG, together with two LGBT-rights activists, who have been supporting LISTAG since its inception, we witness their activism for visibility, acceptance, and equal rights. At a monthly meeting, we sit with the parents and the volunteer psychologists where issues such as sexuality, sexual identities, orientation and transformations one goes through are discussed.

"There we meet other LGBT parents as well. At a monthly dinner party, we meet their children for the first time. Also, parents and children from other cities join us. At the end of the film, in preparation for the annual Pride March in Istanbul, the parents and activists meet up to make the signs and banners they will be using at the march. In the Pride March, the parents march with their banners as they are joined by thousands."

Can Candan is a documentary filmmaker and an academician. He holds a BA from Hampshire College (USA) in film and video, and an MFA (a terminal degree) from Temple University (USA) in film and media arts. His works have been screened internationally at festivals, conferences, in galleries and on television. His documentaries include "Boycott Coke" (1989), "Exodus" (1991), "DuvarlarMauernWalls" (2000), "3 Hours" (2008).

He has taught film and video courses and workshops, both in universities and media education centers in the United States and in Turkey. Between 2000-2005, he was a faculty member, department chair and director of the MA program at Istanbul Bilgi University’s Film and TV department. Between 2005-2009, he taught at Sabanc? University and since 2007, he has been a faculty member at Bo?aziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. He is also a founding member of docIstanbul - Center for Documentary Studies.

"My Child" is his third feature documentary film.

In a director’s statement, he said: "The first time I encountered the parents featured in ’My Child’ was at a conference in 2010,where they were talking very openly and movingly about their experiences of parenthood. As I sat there listening in tears, both as an adult child and as a parent of a young boy, I realized that, although they were talking about their unique personal experiences, they were also addressing something that each of us can relate to: a person’s struggle to be who s/he really is, and to be accepted as such within the family and in the society. They were also fundamentally questioning what it means to be a parent, a family, and also an activist. I decided to make this film, because their stories needed to be heard by many more, and I wanted each viewer to feel what I was feeling as I was listening to their stories. When the parents responded with enthusiasm to the idea of making a documentary, we decided that this film had to be made and it had to me made right away, and it has been a very rewarding collaboration since then.

"For me, the challenge was in bringing these moving stories to the audiences through a documentary without further marginalizing the subject, without perpetuating the existing prejudices and fears of the general public when it comes to LGBT issues. I decided to make a very simple film, where the viewer is left alone with the stories and the protagonists, who recount their very own intimate experiences, demanding the viewer’s attention and participation. This film is less about activism per se, but more about a human experience of struggle, transformation and hope that each viewer, through empathy, can relate to.

"What these parents have been able to do in a very short amount of time in Turkey is something that activists struggle to do for years of political activity. They have brought the plight of LGBT individuals from the margins to the center of this society. By sharing their stories, they have been able to touch people’s hearts, change their minds, and move them into action.

"Since we decided to make this film in the fall of 2010, tens of LGBT individuals have been killed in hate crimes in Turkey, and hundreds elsewhere in the world. We have to stop the violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals right now. In this basic struggle for human rights, we have a lot to learn from these courageous and inspiring parents. Listening to their stories and reflections, participating in their activism through this film could be a good place to start with."

My Child will be screened on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 8:00pm at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as part of the 18th Annual Boston Turkish Festival’s Documentary & Short Film Competition. It will be screened in the Museum’s Remis Auditorium, 161. For more information, visit the MFA website.