The Bus to Amerika
Producers: Nefes Polat (Mars Production, Turkey), Antoine Simkine (Les Films D’Antoine, France), Melane Blocksdorf (Propeller Film, Germany)
Production Dates: May – June 2018
Total Budget: 1.000.000 EUR
Funding: Germany-Turkey Co-production Development Fund, Berlinale Co-production Market 2017 – VFF Talent Highlight Award
Training and co-production markets: Paris Co-production Village 2016, Produire Au Sud 2016, Brussels Co-production Forum 2016, Sarajevo Talents Pack&Pitch Program 2016, Berlinale Talent Project Market 2017, Financing Forum for Kids Content 2017, Warsaw Kids Film Forum 2017, Alentours Forum
Derya Durmaz studied Economy, Human Rights Law and Acting. Her first short film ZIAZAN received Armenia Turkey Cinema Platform Best Project Award and Turkish Ministry of Culture Production Support. Ziazan participated in over 40 festivals in 22 countries, won 11 awards and received full coverage in Washington Post and the Monocle. Her second short film MOTHER VIRGIN NO MORE (GRİ BÖLGE) was selected to the 65th Berlinale Generation 14plus Short Film Competition. It participated in over 20 festivals in 12 countries and won 2 awards. Both films’ world sales and distribution were acquired by Kurz Film Agentur Hamburg.
Durmaz is one of 20 filmmakers selected to International Toronto Film Festival Talent Lab 2015, Berlinale Talents 2016, and was among the three Berlinale Talents directors portrayed at the Deutsche Welle Arts.21 special “Close-up 2016, How Young Filmmakers See the World”. With her first feature film project in development The Bus to Amerika, she is among eight filmmakers selected to First Films First, Goethe Institut Young Directors Academy South East Europe 2016. The Bus To Amerika also received the Berlinale Coproduction Market 2017 VFF (German TV&Cinema Producers Association) Talent Highlight Award.
In line with her degree in human rights, she takes part in NGO projects on human rights, youth, children and arts. Recently she developed and coordinated the EU funded Project for Human Rights and Film Making for Children which reached over 300 vulnerable children in 14 cities in Turkey and in Amsterdam, NL.
Little Yazidi boy Sefran lives in a refugee camp in Turkey. He likes watching the suburban bus he calls The Bus to Amerika pass by the camp and dreams of taking off on it to America to become a pop star. But mistakingly eating the forbidden vegetable of their religion one day turns his daydreams of America, into nightmares where he is chased by a monster lettuce.
Through the plots of a boy who likes Sefran’s girlfriend, news spreads among camp’s children. When kids start talking about how his family will be banished because of his sin, Sefran decides to leave the camp to save them. He runs away on the Bus to Amerika, which only takes him to downtown, where he finds the courage to own up to his sin and face his community.
The Bus to Amerika is a fictional story inspired by my experience of giving filmmaking workshops to children in refugee camps for Yazidis – an ancient ethno-religious group from Mesopotamia. During my work I learned that eating lettuce was a sin for Yazidis. I was deeply moved by one boy’s effort of trying to assure me that it was OK for me to eat it; it was about his belief, not mine…
Right next to Turkey’s borders, there is an endless war for power going on, hidden under the pretext of religion. While Turkey also becomes party to that fight, along with the violence inside the country, my constant feeling for a while has been that ‘I cannot breath’. At such a time, this little boy’s attitude felt like a breath of fresh air.
That boy’s gesture of respect constitutes the core issue of The Bus To Amerika. The story will be told from the perspective of the imaginative 10 year-old Yazidi boy Sefran, who one day accidentally eats the forbidden vegetable of his religion. The choice of following the perspective of a 10 year-old is not to soften harsh realities. It is because children are fascinating with their pure minds, untainted with taboos and rules of societ, and their ability to seize the moment.
Through this story I want to explore how society, taboos and exclusion work, by putting the microcosmos of the children in the camp in the centre of the film and following how rumors and manipulations affect the course of life, both in the children’s world and the surrounding outside world. And opposed to that, how understanding and respecting each other, therefore, living together in peace and harmony, can work.
We live in a time where we are bombarded with instant news and images of tragedy every day. As a consequence, people do not react to human tragedy anymore. Therefore, I believe we need to change the narrative and create optimistic counterpoints, where the positive and personal side is in the fore, without ignoring the negative.
Told from a child’s perspective, the film will be an uplifting drama with a predominantly whimsical visual style, especially when depicting the kids’ world. In sequences related to the protagonist’s vivid imagination – dreams and nightmares – stop motion animation and in-camera effects will be combined with live action, which will add a certain element of fantasy to the film. Balance of the dramatic reality and the playfulness will be achieved by using natural light and hand-held camera.
With The Bus To Amerika, I would like to reach anyone of any age who has their own version of a dream, has ever cheated a little for something very tasty, ever made a sacrifice for their loved ones, and ever had the courage to face the consequences of their mistakes. When I do so, I hope the viewer will be able to put themselves in my hero’s shoes and realize that ‘the refugee’ could be anyone, even themselves.