To mark 100 years since the momentous population exchange between Türkiye and Greece, SAT-7 TÜRK has created one of its most ambitious productions to date. Feature-length film Yakamoz, which tells the emotive story of two families caught up in the exchange, is already attracting mainstream media attention in Türkiye ahead of its release next year.
National TV channel Kanal D and newspaper Hürriyet have reported on the film, which will be launched at various film festivals before its scheduled release in 2024, coinciding with the one hundredth anniversary of the exchange. Yakamoz will then be shown in cinemas all over Türkiye.
SAT-7 TÜRK has collaborated with a renowned Turkish screenwriter, famous actors, and Greek and Turkish academics on this project. It is hoped that the high-quality production will reach a wide Turkish-speaking audience with two key messages: firstly, it is possible for Greeks and Turks to live together in peace; secondly, Türkiye’s Christian heritage is important.
“We at SAT-7 TÜRK believe that Türkiye’s Christian heritage should be highlighted and celebrated,” says Melih Ekener, SAT-7 TÜRK Executive Director and one of the actors in the film. “That is why we are determined to ensure these stories and facts are not lost to history. Christians have always existed and flourished in these lands together with other populations, and we want to educate the Turkish Church about its heritage, and also showcase this more widely in the country.”
Yakamoz focuses on the story of two families – one Greek and one Turkish – who have lived together for many years in Gelveri, Cappadocia. This in itself is a story worth telling; such co-existence is rarely depicted in the media. These families set the tone for the film and give context to the heart-breaking experience of many Greeks and Turks during the exchange: saying goodbye to dearly loved people and places.
The exchange resulted from a particular historical context. In 1919, six months after the end of World War I, the Greeks sought to extend their territory eastward, triggering a three-year Greco-Turkish war. It culminated in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century: the burning of Smyrna (modern-day Izmir, Western Türkiye). Shortly after the war, a peace treaty between Greece and Türkiye was signed. But for the Greeks living in Türkiye and the Turks in Greece – around two million in total – this only signalled more disruption, as they were forced to relocate to their respective ancestral nations.
Many who watch the film may not feel accepted in their communities even now, forever being treated as guests or foreigners. But the Christian message of peace shines through the film, bringing to light the truth that Greeks and Turks have much in common, and by the grace of God they can live peacefully side by side.
Three quarters of all those displaced were Greek Orthodox Christians. Forced from their homes in the largest organized displacement of modern times, these Christians often faced serious problems integrating into their new communities, and some of their social, housing and education problems have persisted to the present day.
Many faith-oriented stories, such as the Turks of Karaman – who were sent from Türkiye to Greece simply because they were Christians – are included in the film. Other surprising facts, such as how many Christian house- and land-owners were forced to migrate, will challenge viewers about what it means to live in an accepting, multicultural society.
Excitement is building ahead of the film’s release, and the involvement of a well-known Turkish singer is helping to attract attention. Niran Ünsal has recorded a famous Turkish folk song in Greek – translated by Şemsa Deniz Bakır, presenter of SAT-7 TÜRK program Homemade – for the film’s soundtrack. In an article about the production, the Hürriyet newspaper anticipated that the song “will be loved and break streaming records”.
It seems that God is smiling down on this ambitious project. Those involved in the filming testified to the help of God in enabling them to finish the production in just two weeks, an extraordinary achievement for a feature film. Amazingly, despite the tight timescale, the team reported that the process was entirely stress-free!
- for Yakamoz ahead of its release, that God will use this film to bring disunited people together and raise awareness of Türkiye’s Christian history.