An interview about sex, revolution and Islam
— Nefise Özkal Lorentzen, filmmaker
Interview with Nefise Özkal Lorentzen, director of:
SEYRAN ATES: SEX, REVOLUTION AND ISLAM
Biography of a lawyer, feminist and one of the first female imams in Europe
“After the film was launched, my life changed. Like Seyran, I could no longer return to my beloved Turkey. I suddenly understood Seyran’s desire through my heart, not just through my art or my intellect .” Turkish-Norwegian filmmaker, writer and university professor Nefise Özkal Lorentzen feels a connection with the protagonist of her latest documentary: Seyran Ateş, a Turkish-German lawyer, feminist and one of the first female imams in Europe.
,,As an independent filmmaker, I usually work on several projects at different phases at the same time. While developing the concept for Seyran’s film, I was also in post-production on another project called A Gift from God (2019), a critical documentary showing President Erdogan’s political strategy after the failed coup attempt. . So yes, Seyran’s will inspired me a lot!
In the 1960s, hippies championed the idea of a sexual revolution. They did not receive fatwas or bodyguards. Today, Seyran Ateş fights for a sexual revolution within Islam. In return, she was shot, received fatwas and death threats, and now has to live under constant police protection.
Seyran believes that the only way to fight radical Islam is through Islam. This is why there is no segregation or exclusion based on sexual orientation in his liberal mosque.
Nefise Özkal Lorentzen has made a fascinating documentary about Seyran’s personal and ideological struggle for the modernization of Islam. Her quest for change takes her on a journey around the world, where she meets different people bound by faith, from sex workers in a German brothel to young LGBTQ Uyghurs and traditional imams in China. It’s also a journey through Seyran’s life, from her humble beginnings as a young Muslim girl in the slums of Turkey to a woman leader who dared to challenge her own religion.
Lorentzen also has a long experience in film works on Islam. Over the past two decades, she has directed documentaries, short films, television series and a controversial documentary trilogy on Islam: “Gender Me”, about Islam and homosexuality, appeared in 2008. sequel, “A Ball for Allah”, about women and Islam followed in 2011 and “Manislam”, about the power, privileges and burdens of masculinity, appeared in 2014. She has received several awards and nominations . She is currently leading an international film project with 6 directors from Iran, Turkey, China, Bangladesh, USA and Poland.
“I first heard about the Seyran Ateş mixed mosque in Berlin from my mother,” says Özkal Lorentzen. “I immediately decided to make a film about his life. However, it took me time to penetrate the fortifications of the bodyguards and the thick walls of the publicity of his work. When Seyran watched my trilogy, she realized that not only do we share the same goal, which is the reform of gender and sexuality in Islam, but we also share the same artistic vision of storytelling. Seyran is used to giving hundreds of television and newspaper interviews, but she wanted to tell her story more creatively. When we learned that Carl Jung was one of our many common sources of inspiration, Seyran gave me permission to share his dreams, desires and sorrows.
-Did you encounter any problems similar to those of Seyran in his work during the making of this film?
Lorentzen: ,,Seyran Ates and I have the same mission, but we use two different tools to achieve our goals. She takes advantage of politics and makes a change with her actions. However, I use the art of cinema to show the possibilities of change within religion. There is an invisible wall between me and the public, but Seyran’s journey is clearly visible. She is in the middle of a battlefield. She is the most protected civilian woman in Europe. In other words, protection gives him freedom.
However, I have to face several challenges: I work at Integral Film and I have a small but great team. I don’t belong to a media company. I am 100% independent. Of course, this independence also poses challenges for me, such as credibility. “Are you sure you can do it?” kind of questions. The answer is yes. I can do it. I can make the changes I want in society with my very dedicated, creative and smart little team.
· How has your documentary been received in the Muslim world?
The film was screened at over 50 festivals. Such as Hotdocs, CPH:DOX, Hot Spring, San Francisco, Rhode Island, One World, Movies That Matter, Film From South, etc. Dutch embassies also showed the film at their premises in Iraq, Singapore, Malaysia, Palestine, etc. So far, the reactions from the Muslim world have been very positive. Especially the younger generation of Muslims who have seen the film are very happy to have discovered Seyran as an inspiring new leader. Recently, I attended the Addis Ababa Film Festival and saw the urge of the younger generations to have a sexual revolution. But it is a question of definition; if we define the muslim world through the very conversational and extremist groups, then of course they send out all their negative thoughts being an internet troll and don’t even use their real name.
Cieri Media International Corp.
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