Sibel, the new film by the Franco-Turkish duo, was released in French cinemas on March 6th. Çağla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti’s third feature is about a young farmer, Sibel, beautifully portrayed by Turkish actress Damla Sönmez, and once again they explore themes dear to them, such as difference and emancipation within a patriarchal society.
Sibel is 25 years old. She lives with her father, the village mayor, and her younger sister. Dumb from birth, she is rejected by the community and expresses herself only through her region’s traditional whistled language. To win the respect of her neighbours, she decides to hunt the wolf which is terrorising the village. In the forest she comes across a wounded fugitive, whom she hides and heals. He is the first person who sees the young woman from a different perspective.
The directors based the story on a Turkish woman they met in the village of Kuşköy, where the film was shot, who communicates by whistling. The name of the village, lost in the valleys of north-eastern Turkey, means “bird village”. It is home to an ancestral language based on whistling, invented four centuries ago to communicate across the mountains. Damla Sönmez, who is well-known in Turkey, spent 6 months learning the language so she could play Sibel. This is the first time the two directors have worked with a professional actress.
The film has won awards at several international festivals: the Locarno Film Festival awarded it the Youth Jury Prize, the Press Prize and the Ecumenical Jury Prize, while Cinemed (Montpellier) awarded it the Audience Award and the Critics’ Prize.