The Bus to Amerika
Derya Durmaz studied Economy, Human Rights Law and Acting. She received the Armenia-Turkey Cinema Platform’s Best Project Award and production support from the Turkish Ministry of Culture for her first short film, Ziazan. Ziazan screened at more than 40 festivals in 21 countries, won 11 awards and received full coverage in The Washington Post and the Monocle Magazine.
Her second short film Mother Virgin No More (Gri Bolge) was selected for the Generation 14 plus Short Film Competition at the 65th Berlinale. The film participated in 20 festivals in 11 countries since then and won two awards. Both films’ world sales and distribution were acquired by Kurzfilmagentur Hamburg.
Derya Durmaz is one of the 20 filmmakers selected to participate in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Talent Lab 2015. She was also selected to participate in the Berlinale Talents 2016 programme and was one of the three Berlinale Talents directors portrayed in the Deutsche Welle Arts.21 special “Close-up 2016 – How young filmmakers see the world”.
As an actress she played in over ten feature films, including Blue Wave which was in the Generation competition at the 64th Berlinale, and many TV productions. She works with the Persona Theater from Athens and took part in their international productions in Greece, Turkey and Iran.
In line with her degree in Human Rights Law, she also takes part in NGO projects related to human rights, refugee rights, youth and arts. Recently she co-ordinated the EU-funded Human Rights for Children and Film Making project.
THE BUS TO AMERIKA
Sefran is a 10 year-old Yazidi boy living in a refugee camp in Turkey. He and his family are from Mount Sinjar in Iraq, by the Syrian border. They fled from their home when news broke that ISIS was approaching their town.
One of Sefran’s favorite things is watching the suburban bus he calls “The Bus to Amerika” pass by the camp. He dreams about taking off on it to America together with his family, and becoming a pop star.
One day, after participating in a theatre workshop provided by the resident camp NGO, Sefran and his friends get rewarded with a dinner outside the camp. At the restaurant, waiters are warned not to serve any lettuce – because it’s a sin for Yazidis to eat it. Yet, some cabbage disguised in red colour finds its way to the table and into the tummy of Sefran, who just loves it. Sefran’s girlfriend Corcina realizes that he ate cabbage. Because of all the things that ISIS did to Yazidi women and girls, already having fears of very bad things happening to them if they don’t follow their religion’s orders, Corcina gets very upset. Sefran’s culinary joy gets interrupted by Corcina panicking and shaming him for eating cabbage, almost the same as the forbidden vegetable.
Hesen, a manipulative older boy who has his eyes on Corcina, takes this opportunity to get rid of Sefran. Through Hesen’s plot, the news of Sefran eating the forbidden vegetable get more and more exaggerated and spreads among children. Wherever he goes, Sefran hears whispers about the horrible things that will happen to him because he sinned. His daydreams turn into nightmares where a giant man eating cabbage appears wherever he turns. He can run, but he cannot hide…
Kids start talking about how his family will be banished and cursed because of his sin. Sefran ends up thinking he has no choice but to leave the camp to save them. One morning, while everyone is still asleep, he runs away on the Bus to Amerika. The bus does not take him to America, but only to downtown, where he will meet lettuce-eating people and find the courage to own up to his sin and face his community. His journey will end at a place familiar, yet unexpected, where acceptance outweighs exclusion and hope outweighs despair.
The Bus to Amerika is a fictional story inspired by my experience of working with Yazidi refugee children. During my work, at a dinner I learned that eating lettuce was a sin for Yazidis. I was deeply moved by one boy, Kazim, and his effort to assure me that it was OK for me to eat it, that it was about his belief, not mine…
There’s an endless religion-based war at the other side of Turkey’s border. While we also became party to that fight, and it’s used as a pretext to create more fighting within the country, my constant feeling for a while has been that ‘I cannot breathe’. At such a time, Kazim’s attitude felt like a breath of fresh air.
We live in a time where we are bombarded with instant news and images of tragedies. As a consequence, people don’t react to human tragedy any more. Therefore, I believe we need to change the narrative and create optimistic counterpoints, where the positive and personal side is present, without ignoring the negative.
Told from a boy’s perspective, the film will be a playful comic drama, mostly having a whimsical visual style. I will use elements such as low angle shots, floating camera movements, lens flares and wide-angle close-ups depicting the kid’s world. Dream sequences where animation will be combined with live action will bring a fantastical feeling, to an extent. Balance of dramatic reality behind the playfulness will be provided with using natural light and handheld footage.
Through the Bus To Amerika, I would like to reach anyone who has their own version of the American dream, who has ever cheated a little for something too tasty to give up on, who has ever had to make a sacrifice for their loved ones and who has ever had the courage to face the consequences of their mistakes. And when I do so, I would hope that the audiences of the film will be able to put themselves in my hero’s shoes and realize that ‘the refugee’ could be anyone, it could be even themselves.