David Gould Director and Producer of documentary film Two Sides of the Moon. www.twosidesofthemoon.com
Over four years ago, the former Deputy Director of the University of Iowa’s Center for Human Rights, Chivy Sok invited me for coffee. Over the course of our conversation, Chivy challenged me to produce a documentary on “honor crimes.” Chivy, a victim of the “Killing Fields” in Cambodia, described the grave need for awareness. “Our understanding of the horror and scope of honor crimes”, she said, “is where child slave labor was when I began my work.” Up to that point my films had been stories about Iowa; people and places familiar to me. While I had no idea where to begin, I couldn’t bring myself to tell Chivy “no.” My compromise was to send five emails to various organizations around the world fighting violence against women. I asked each of them one question: “If you could tell just one woman’s story, in an effort to emotionally move an audience to action, which would you choose?”
Weeks later, I was once again absorbed into my busy schedule. That is until I returned to my University of Iowa office one afternoon to find all five replies waiting for me. Even more remarkable, they all proposed the same name: Hatun Aynur Sürücü. I knew at that moment, whether I made the film or not, I had to learn more about this woman.
Initially, the only mention I could find was a small article published in the Boston Globe. The piece presented the basic facts: Hatun was a Kurdish woman living in Berlin when she was murdered by her youngest brother, Ayhan. The two siblings were close, but somehow on February 7, 2005, Ayhan felt compelled to shoot his sister three times in the head. The murder was quickly classified as an honor killing, and while two of her brothers were released for lack of evidence, Ayhan was in jail.
Committing to this project defied logic. I had never been out of the country, don’t speak a word of German, knew nothing about the culture, had a deceased subject, an uncooperative family, and fearful friends. But somehow every time I believed I could I go no farther, something would happen to move me on. Whether it was a good friend who suddenly wired me money to begin production, or a German filmmaker who unexpectedly arrived on campus and volunteered to help, I drew strength from those who also believed Hatun’s story could make a difference.
To say making the film was easy, however, would be a lie. I confided in those close to me that I felt as if I was in a long, dark room, trying to make my way to a light in the distance. Instead of moving directly ahead, I banged my way forward, crashing from one wall to the other.
Along the way, I created many powerful memories. Most of them are the small artifacts of a life cut short: a piece of tape placed across Hatun’s mailbox, inscribed with the word “murdered”; frosted holiday decorations, still clinging to Hatun’s apartment window; an action figure belonging to Hatun’s son, left behind in a ransacked storage bin; the indentation on Hatun’s apartment door, made by the police as they broke it down.
The film was eventually titled Two Sides of the Moon, and three promises were made to the people who chose to help me:
Two Sides of the Moon premiered at the 2011 Rhode Island International Film Festival, and won an Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Short. It will be screened throughout North America in 2012.
David L. Gould
Director, Two Sides of the Moon
January 1, 2012