Turkish Director Faysal Soysal's film "Crossroads" tells the love story of Yusuf and Zeliha during the painful years of the Bosnian war. Apart from intense love, one witnesses the gut-wrenching tragedy of vulnerable people searching for their relatives and mass murders during the Srebrenica massacre. Actor Nik Xhelilaj was awarded the Golden Goddess for Best Balkan Actor for his role in the movie at the Pristina International Film Festival. The film is now competing in the Ankara International Film Festival.
Daily Sabah made an interview with the Director Faysal Soysal and Actor Nik Xhelilaj about the film and their experiences during the shootings.
Nik Xhelilaj: "I am against all wars"
Daily Sabah: How did you decide to become an actor?
Nik Xhelilaj: I thought studying at law school was not really my cup of tea. Then, I came across an advertisement for television courses for actors. My trainers advised me to sign up for the Academy of Arts in Tirana. In 2004, I enrolled in the acting department.
DS: Are there any differences between the Turkish and Albanian film industry?
NX: The Albanian film industry and television series suffer from a lack of private initiatives. Actors can take necessary courses only at theater institutions. I believe the situation is similar in other European countries.
DS: How did you become popular in Turkey? Have you appeared in any other Turkish television series or films before "Kayıp Şehir" (Lost City)?
NX: I met with Turkish casting director Harika Uygur at the Berlin International Film Festival. Meanwhile, she was selecting the cast for "Üç Yol" (Crossroads) to be directed by Faysal Soysal. I was recommended to him. Later, the project designer Tomris Giritlioğlu asked me to perform the character Kadir in "Lost City." I previously played in "Her Sevda Bir Veda" (Each Love is a Farewell).
DS: Can you tell us about the character Bünyamin in "Crossroads?"
NX: Bünyamin is a young poet from Hasankeyf, a district of the southeastern Anatolian province of Batman. His biggest obstacle is the inner conflicts within himself.
Bünyamin is a well-behaved man, but he feels responsible for the tragic death of his girlfriend and never forgives himself. His emotional pressure brings his past back to him in his dreams. Instead of being himself, he turns into his brother Yusuf who struggles to find his true love Zeliha (Zrinka). I found it difficult to play this role.
DS: "Crossroads" enlightens the recent history of the Balkans. What do you think about the ethnic war?
NX: I was a little child when the war in Bosnian broke out. However, I clearly remember the last war that occurred in the former Yugoslavia. The savage attacks by the Serbian military were horrifying.
I am against all wars. The Balkan people are surrounded by unlucky political issues. Otherwise, they could live in peace and prosperity.
DS: Do you prefer to take the stage in Hollywood or European cinema?
NX: I believe the gap between Hollywood and European cinema is no more than a big misunderstanding. As a stage actor, you cannot stick to the conditions or philosophy of the film industry you are in. I reflect the character, nothing else.
If the character is both rational and convincing, I can even perform on Mars.
Faysal Soysal (Director)
"It was my dream"
DS: "Crossroads" asks the question, "How far can you go to follow a lost dream?" Do you have any similar dreams?
FS: Indeed, this film was my dream. I have one bigger dream, though: writing a moving poem. Many artists have such big dreams... "Crossroads" reveals a dream which implies that people are afraid of dreaming or going after their dreams because of either fears or habits. The modern age makes us rest on our laurels, leaving aside our dreams for the sake of luxury and comfort. After a while, we realize we have become distant to ourselves.
DS: Do you mean consumerist society has given up on their dreams?
FS: The people whose time is stolen in today's consumer society forgets about going after their dreams. This is because they have no time to think about the future. Dreams reveal themselves when you are absent-minded or alone. Everything is based on consumption. We try to consume everything before thoroughly comprehending. In addition, we are waiting for something new and cannot look ourselves in the mirror.
We do not even have time for dreams, they are all afterthought.
DS: There are three cities mentioned in the film and the life of three people cross. Can you talk about this?
FS: There are three protagonists in the film. If you look carefully, these three characters do not come together in any of the scenes, except one. "Crossroads" features three different roads from Malabadi, Batman and Hasankeyf. The three roads are crossed at one point, carrying them to death. You take a journey to Malabadi, where Bünyamin's childish game leads to his childhood lover Zeliha's death. Toward the end, a new love comes between Yusuf and Serbian-Bosnian psychologist Zrinka in Hasankeyf. I want to leave the question of whether they come together or not to our audience. However, the film leaves Bünyamin and Zeliha's past behind during scenes in Bosnia.
DS: Your film looks like a dream with hurtful scenes. Do you think dreams or the reality of life hurt us?
FS: I believe dreams, poems and even artwork hurt us. They are more influential than the books we read or knowledge we gain over the years. Once, a man said, "I read one book and became another man." What makes him changed is not the book, but the artistic genius. Let's imagine someone who reads "Sürgün Ülkeden Başkentler Başkentine" (From the Exile Country to the Capital of Capitals) by Sezai Karakoç. We cannot turn into the same person and begin to look at love and ourselves from a different perspective. In this respect, dreams are very influential in our lives. A different atmosphere surrounds us in dreams such as seeing the girl you fall in love with. Dreams are a reflection of our consciousness.
DS: How did you select the film cast?
FS: At first, we negotiated with Mert Fırat for the role of Bünyamin and Sermet Yeşil to play the character Yusuf. When the deadline approached, our cast director Harika Uygun fell sick and we had to take a break. Meanwhile, Mert Fırat agreed to play in "Kelebeğin Rüyası" (A Butterfly's Dream). We felt sorry that he left us in the lurch. Later, Sermet Yeşil was also excluded from the cast list.
Fortunately, Uygun introduced us to Xhelilaj. We had some doubts about his Turkish at first, but he worked hard to accomplish it. Turgay Aydın was also suitable for the character Yusuf. Later, we met with Kristina Krepela. She successfully represented Zeliha.
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