The Kurdish-Turkish conflict continues to rage in south-east Turkey, despite several attempts to broker peace between the government and various insurgent groups. Back in 2015, after a ceasefire and lengthy negotiations between the two sides, fighting broke out again after it was alleged the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) were responsible for the death of a solider. So began a huge military operation by the government against the PKK, covered up by a complete media blackout, while locals living in the region were subjected to weeks of gunfire, shelling and rioting.
As if by divine intervention, on the night of November 17th 2015, 241 meteors fell from sky into the region. It’s a moment that Turkish director Gürcan Keltek uses to connect the suffering of the Kurdish people as their world is taken apart, with the mesmerising sight of these mysterious rocks arriving from deep space. Split across six chapters, he uses raw footage captured by locals on mobile phones during the fighting to turn the region into an eerie, alien terrain.
This is not the sort of war footage you may have become accustomed to seeing. Instead, the black-and-white grainy images of the conflict highlight the cascading sounds of life and war in motion. We hear first hand from children and families who talk about the martial law being imposed on them. Keltek intercuts this with actress Ebru Ojen whose poetry reflects not only on the damage being caused to the physicality of her town, but of the memories being obliterated out of sight with every bullet and bomb dropped.
Keltek's film is both a story about people trying to process more pain and bloodshed, and the presence of nature around them. As with most major conflicts, this is a war about territory. Yet the very ground being fought over is being destroyed as the argument between each side intensifies. The almost static footage captured by people on their phones suddenly becomes the last identifiable memory of a street or building that has been levelled out. Over time, after locations have moved elsewhere and given new names, the image almost becomes part of fiction, fading from reality and memory.
Meteors (Meteorlar) morphs into science fiction territory at times, creating an odd sense of observational immersion inside war torn Anatolia. There is a sense of wonder as we observe these meteors burning through the sky, illuminating the atmosphere and world below. Keltek show us various video camera recordings seen from inside buildings that capture the blinding light quickly splashing across quiet areas of their interiors. These sudden bright movements give life to spaces that are silent and dormant, as a small corner of the world welcomes the universe and the two share an intimate moment together. It’s as haunting as it is magical to witness.
Of course, Meteors is not a documentary for everyone, and it will perhaps only appeal to documentary aficionados, or anyone who likes to venture into the realms of experimental filmmaking. Keltek himself isn't sure whether to label this a documentary or fictional film - the truth being it sits somewhere in between. Elders living nearby call the meteor event a 'bad spell', saying the Gods were angry at mankind. Keltek has also conjured something just as bewitching, in a film that defines its own boundaries.
Meteors opens in select UK cinemas on Friday 7th December 2018.