Yılmaz Güney

Yılmaz Güney ( Pütün; 1 April 1937 – 9 September 1984) was a Kurdish film director, screenwriter, novelist, and actor.[2][3][4] He quickly rose to prominence in the Turkish film industry. Many of his works were devoted to the plight of ordinary working-class people in Turkey. Güney won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982 for the film Yol (The Road) which he co-produced with Şerif Gören. He was at constant odds with the Turkish government over the portrayal of Kurdish culture, people and language in his movies.

Yılmaz Güney
Yilmaz Guney Cannes.jpg
Yılmaz Pütün

(1937-04-01)1 April 1937
Yenice, Karataş, Adana, Turkey
Died9 September 1984(1984-09-09) (aged 47)
Paris, France
NationalityTurkish revoked in 1983
Other namesÇirkin Kral (Ugly King)
CitizenshipTurkey (until 1982)[1]
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, actor
Years active1958–1983
(m. 1967; div. 1968)

Fatoş Güney
(m. 1970)

After being convicted of killing judge Sefa Mutlu in 1974 (a charge which he denied[5]), Güney fled the country and was later stripped of his citizenship.[6][7] A year before his death in 1983, he co-founded the Kurdish Institute of Paris together with the Kurdish poets Cegerxwîn and Hejar among others.[8]

Early life and educationEdit

Yılmaz Güney was born in 1937 in the village of Yenice in Adana province.[9] His father, Hamit, who was from Siverek in Şanlıurfa province, moved to Yenice after both of his brothers were murdered.[10] His mother was from Varto in Muş province.[1][6] His parents migrated to Adana to work as labourers in the cotton fields and the young Yılmaz grew up surrounded by the Kurdish working class. Besides working in the fields he had several other jobs including movie delivery boy, horse-cart driver and writing short stories for a local magazine.[11] His first article was published in August 1955 and his first poem a week later while he was still attending high school.[9] His writing brought him into difficulties with the authorities, especially for a short story he wrote about a person aiming for a better world, which was deemed Communist propaganda and for which he had to stand trial.[12] These experiences laid the ground for his future work which generally focused on a realistic portrayal of the downtrodden and marginalised in Turkish society. In 1957, Güney started studiying law at Istanbul University but was quickly drawn into the film industry in which he already had connections from his time in Adana. In Istanbul he met the novelist Yasar Kemal, who connected him with other people from Adana working in the Istanbul film industry.[13]

Film Career in TurkeyEdit

Through Yeşilçam, the Turkish studio system, a handful of directors, including Atıf Yılmaz, began to use cinema as a means of addressing the problems of the people. Until then state-sanctioned melodramas, war films and adaptations of plays had mostly been performed in Turkish theatres.[citation needed] The new filmmakers began to shoot and screen more realistic images of Kurdish and Turkish life.[citation needed] Yılmaz Güney, a gruff-looking young actor who earned the moniker Çirkin Kral (Turkish: The Ugly King) or "Paşay Naşirîn" in Kurdish, was one of the most popular new names to emerge from this milieu. After working as an apprentice screenwriter for and assistant to Atıf Yılmaz, he began appearing in as many as twenty films a year and became one of Turkey's the most popular actors.[citation needed]

However, in 1957 Güney was accused of Communist propaganda just weeks after settling in Istanbul and was sentenced in May 1958 to seven and a half years imprisonment,[14] a verdict against which he appealed. His conviction lead to his dismissal by his conservative employer, but brought him new employment with the left-wing Atıf Yılmaz who was preparing a movie based on a work of Yaşar Kemal.[15] For this new job, he changed his surname from Putün to the Güney by which he is known today.[16] Atif Yilmaz introduced him to a career as an actor which began in 1958 when he was the supporting actor in the movie The Children of the Fatherland (Turkish: Bu Vatanın Çocukları) before becoming a main character the same year in the movie Alageyik (Red Deer).[16] The appeals court In Istanbul reduced his prison sentence to one year and a half, but before he could enter prison, the juridical procedures were interrupted by the coup d'état in 1960.[14] He was then imprisoned on 15 June 1961 on the grounds of the verdict before the coup[17] and released in 1962.[18] In prison he wrote what some labelled a Communist novel,[19] They Died with Their Heads Bowed.[19][20] Güney stayed loyal to his left-wing connections throughout his career[21] and his relationship with the authorities became even more tense in the ensuing years. Not satisfied with his star status in the Turkish film industry, Güney began directing his own pictures in 1965. From 1966 onwards he earned considerable amounts with the movies he produced which gave him some financial freedom.[22] He and his partner Nebahat Çehre were able to leave their apartment in Beyoğlu and settle in uptown Levent.[22] By 1968 he had formed his own production company, Güney Filmcilik (Güney Films). Over the next few years, the titles of his films mirrored the feelings of the underprivileged people of Turkey and he often portrayed people struggling against the mighty and powerful: Kasımpaşalı Recep (Recep from Kasımpaşa) or Konyakçı (the Cognac Drinker), both produced in 1965, are examples.[23] Other movies he worked in are Umut (Hope, 1970); Ağıt (Elegy, 1972); Acı (Pain, 1971); and Umutsuz (The Hopeless, 1971). Umut is considered to have been the first realistic film of Turkish Cinema and the American director Elia Kazan was among the first to praise it, writing "Umut is a poetic film, completely native, not an imitation of Hollywood or any of the European masters, it had risen out of a village environment".[24]


After the military coup in March 1971, Güney was in pretrial for weeks and decided to leave Istanbul to evade further trouble with the authorities.[7] Arrested for harbouring anarchist students, he was jailed in 1972 during preproduction for Zavallılar (The Miserable, 1975), and before completing Endişe (Worry, 1974), which was finished by his assistant, Şerif Gören. This was a role that Gören would repeat over the next twelve years, directing several scripts that Güney wrote while in prison.

Released from prison in 1974 as part of a general amnesty,[7] Güney was re-arrested that same year and charged with shooting Sefa Mutlu, the judge of the Yumurtalık district in Adana province, dead in a night club during a drunken row.[25][26] He was given a prison sentence of nineteen years but always declared his innocence.[7] During his incarceration, his most successful screenplays were Sürü (The Herd, 1978) and Düşman (The Enemy, 1979), both directed by Zeki Ökten. Düşman won an Honourable Mention at the 30th Berlin International Film Festival in 1980.[27] While in prison, Kazan visited and supported him, believing he had been jailed on account of his political activism.[28]

Personal lifeEdit

Güney's first marriage was to fellow Turkish actor and Miss Turkey, Nebahat Çehre, who co-starred alongside Güney in several films. Their relationship began in 1964 and they married in 1967. Before his marriage, Güney fathered a daughter, Elif Güney Pütün, from his relationship with Birsen Can Ünal.[citation needed]

Güney and Nebahat Çehre divorced in 1968 after he tried to crush his wife with a car, but many of those closest to Güney always regarded Çehre as the love of his life.[citation needed] In 2019 Çehre shared details of her relationship with Güney asa guest on the programme Şafak Yavuz's Visor.[29]

In 1970 Güney remarried to Jale Fatma Süleymangil, more commonly known as Fatoş Güney. They had a son named Remzi Yılmaz Pütün.[citation needed]

Exile and deathEdit

Güney's grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

In September 1980, Güney's works were banned by the new military junta causing Güney to declare: "There are only two possibilities: to fight or to give up, I chose to fight".[30] After escaping from prison in 1981 and fleeing to France,[31] Güney won the Palme d'Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival for his film Yol (The Road) whose director in the field was once again Şerif Gören. It was not until 1983 that Güney resumed directing, telling a brutal tale of imprisoned children in his final film, Duvar (The Wall, 1983), which was made in France with the cooperation of the French government. Meanwhile, Turkey's government revoked his citizenship and a court sentenced him to another twenty-two years in jail in absentia.[19]

Yılmaz Güney died of gastric cancer on 9 September 1984, in Paris, France.[19] He is buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.[32]



  • Alageyik (1958)
  • Bu Vatanın Çocukları (1958)
  • Tütün Zamanı (1959)
  • Dolandırıcılar Şahı (1961)
  • Tatlı Bela (1961)
  • İkisi de Cesurdu (1963)
  • Halime'den Mektup Var (1964)
  • Her Gün Ölmektense (1964)
  • Kamalı Zeybek (1964)
  • Kara Şahin (1964)
  • Kocaoğlan (1964)
  • Koçero (1964)
  • Mor Defter (1964)
  • On korkusuz Adam (1964)
  • Prangasız Mahkumlar (1964)
  • Zımba Gibi Delikanlı (1964)
  • Gönül Kuşu (1965)
  • Haracıma Dokunma (1965)
  • Kahreden Kurşun (1965)
  • Kan Gövdeyi Götürdü (1965)
  • Kanlı Buğday (1965)
  • Kasımpaşalı (1965)
  • Kasımpaşalı Recep (1965)
  • Konyakçı (1965)
  • Korkusuzlar (1965)
  • Krallar Kralı (1965)
  • Sayılı Kabadayılar (1965)
  • Silaha Yeminliydim (1965)
  • Sokakta Kan Vardı (1965)
  • Tehlikeli Adam (1965)
  • Torpido Yılmaz (1965)
  • Üçünüzü de Mıhlarım (1965)
  • Yaralı Kartal (1965)
  • Ben Öldükçe Yaşarım (1965)
  • Beyaz Atlı Adam (1965)
  • Dağların Oğlu (1965)
  • Davudo (1965)
  • Anası Yiğit Doğurmuş (1966)
  • Arslanların Dönüşü (1966)
  • At Avrat Silah (1966)
  • Bomba Kemal (1966)
  • Çirkin Kral (1966)
  • Esrefpaşalı (1966)
  • Law of the Border (Hudutların Kanunu; 1966)
  • Kibar Haydut (1966)
  • Kovboy Ali (1966)
  • Silahların Kanunu (1966)
  • Tilki Selim (1966)
  • Ve Silahlara Veda (1966)
  • Yedi Dağın Aslanı (1966)
  • Yiğit Yaralı ÖlÜr (1966)
  • At hırsızı Banus (1967)
  • Balatlı Arif (1967)
  • Bana Kurşun İşlemez (1967)
  • Benim Adım Kerim (1967)
  • Büyük Cellatlar (1967)
  • Çirkin Kral Affetmez (1967)
  • Eşkiya Celladı (1967)
  • İnce Cumali (1967)
  • Kızılırmak-Karakoyun (1967)
  • Kozanoğlu (1967)
  • Kuduz Recep (1967)
  • Kurbanlık Katil (1967)
  • Şeytanın Oğlu (1967)
  • Kardeşim Benim (1968)
  • Kargacı Halil (1968)
  • Marmara Hasan (1968)
  • Öldürmek Hakkımdır (1968)
  • Pire Nuri (1968)
  • Seyyit Han (1968)
  • Aslan Bey (1968)
  • Azrail Benim (1968)
  • Beyoğlu Canavarı (1968)
  • Can Pazarı (1968)
  • Aç Kurtlar (1969)
  • Belanın Yedi Türlüsü (1969)
  • Bin Defa Ölürüm (1969)
  • Bir Çirkin Adam (1969)
  • Çifte Tabancalı Kabadayı (1969)
  • Güney Ölüm Saçıyor (1969)
  • Kan Su Gibi Akacak (1969)
  • Kurşunların Kanunu (1969)
  • Çifte Yürekli (1970)
  • İmzam Kanla Yazılır (1970)
  • Kanımın Son Damlasına Kadar (1970)
  • Onu Allah Affetsin (1970)
  • Piyade Osman (1970)
  • Sevgili Muhafızım (1970)
  • Şeytan Kayaları (1970)
  • Son Kızgın Adam (1970)
  • Umut (1970)
  • Yedi Belalılar (1970)
  • Zeyno (1970)
  • Canlı Hedef (1970)
  • Baba (1971)
  • Çirkin ve Cesur (1971)
  • İbret (1971)
  • Kaçaklar (1971)
  • Namus ve Silah (1971)
  • Umutsuzlar (1971)
  • Vurguncular (1971)
  • Ağıt (1972)
  • Sahtekar (1972)
  • Zavallılar (1975)
  • Arkadaş (1974)
  • Endişe (1974)


  • At Avrat Silah (1966)
  • Bana Kurşun İşlemez (1967)
  • Benim Adım Kerim (1967)
  • Pire Nuri (1968)
  • Seyyit Han (1968)
  • Aç Kurtlar (1969)
  • Bir Çirkin Adam (1969)
  • Umut (1970)
  • Canlı Hedef (1970)
  • Piyade Osman (1970)
  • Baba (1971)
  • İbret (1971)
  • Kaçaklar (1971)
  • Umutsuzlar (1971)
  • Vurguncular (1971)
  • Yarın Son Gündür (1971)
  • Acı (1971)
  • Ağıt (1972)
  • Arkadaş (1974)
  • Endişe (1974)
  • Zavallılar (1975)
  • Surü (1978)
  • Düşman (1979)
  • Yol (1982)
  • Duvar (1983)


A biography of Güney, Halkın Sanatçısı, Halkın Savaşçısı: Yılmaz Güney (The People's Artist, The People's Warrior: Yılmaz Güney), was published by Dönüşüm Publishing in 1992 and reprinted in 2000. In 2001 its publisher was fined for some of its content, although this was overturned in 2003 when the relevant law was repealed.[33]

Films about GuneyEdit

Yilmaz Guney: His Life, His Films (Jane Cousins-Mills, 1987) [34]

The Legend of the Ugly King (Hüseyin Tabak, 2017) [35]

Yilmaz Guney: Rebel with a Cause (Karzan Kardozi, 2013)[36]

The Ballad of Exiles Yilmaz Guney (Ilker Savaskurt, 2016)[37]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "'Yol' director stripped of citizenship".
  2. ^ Suad Joseph, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, law, and politics, Brill, 2005, ISBN 978-90-04-12818-7
  3. ^ Joost Jongerden, The settlement issue in Turkey : an analysis of spatial policies, modernity and war, Brill, 2007, ISBN 978-90-04-15557-2, p. 31.
  4. ^ Pope, Hugh and Nicole Pope, Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey, (Overlook TP, 2000), 254.
  5. ^ "Lumpen değil centilmendi". Hürriyet. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Ben Fransız vatandaşı oldum o olmadı" (interview with Güney's widow). Hürriyet / 5 March 2000
  7. ^ a b c d Pendleton, David. "Yilmaz Güney: From "Ugly King" to Poet of Despair". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved 12 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Who is the Kurdish Institute ?". Institutkurde.org (in French). Retrieved 26 July 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012). "Wer war Yilmaz Güney? Schlaglichter auf eine linke Macho-Ikone". Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes. 102: 55. ISSN 0084-0076. JSTOR 23862104 – via JSTOR.
  10. ^ Silverman, Reuben (2015). Turkey's ever present past: Stories from Turkish Republican History. Libra. p. 106. ISBN 978-6059022477.
  11. ^ Silverman, Reuben (2015), p.107
  12. ^ Silverman, Reuben (2015). pp.107–108
  13. ^ Reuben Silverman (2015), p.108
  14. ^ a b Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), pp.56–57
  15. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), pp.61–62
  16. ^ a b Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), p.62
  17. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012),p.57
  18. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), p.62
  19. ^ a b c d New York Times, 10 September 1984, Yilmaz Guney Is Dead;Turkish Film Director
  20. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), p.56
  21. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), pp.62–63
  22. ^ a b Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), p.76
  23. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), p.64
  24. ^ "Yilmaz Guney". 30 March 2013.
  25. ^ Turkish Daily Hürriyet Account of the eye witness Mehmet Uyulhas
  26. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), pp.70–72
  27. ^ "Berlinale 1980: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 17 August 2010.
  28. ^ Heß, Michael Reinhard (2012), p.74
  29. ^ "Nebahat Çehre'nin Sesi Nasıl Keşfedildi?". Nebahat Çehre'nin Sesi Nasıl Keşfedildi? - YouTube. www.youtube.com. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Kurdish Cinema: Yol (Yilmaz Guney, 1982)". 15 December 2010.
  31. ^ "'Çirkin Kral' Türkiye'den nasıl kaçtı? - GAZETE VATAN".
  32. ^ "Great Kurdish director Yılmaz Güney remembered in Paris". ANF News. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  33. ^ ECHR, 10 May 2007, Üstün v. Turkey, Application no. 37685/02
  34. ^ "Yilmaz Guney: His Life, His Films". IMDb.
  35. ^ "The Legend of the Ugly King". IMDb.
  36. ^ "Vimeo".
  37. ^ "The Ballad of Exiles Yilmaz Guney". IMDb.

External linksEdit

Preceded by Golden Orange Award
for Best Actor

for Hudutların Kanunu
Succeeded by
Preceded by
newly established
Golden Boll Award
for Best Actor

for Seyyit Han

for Umut
for Ağıt

Succeeded by
Preceded by Golden Boll Award
for Best Screenplay

for Umut

for Ağıt

Succeeded by
not awarded
Preceded by Golden Orange Award
for Best Actor

for Bir Çirkin Adam
Succeeded by
Preceded by Golden Boll Award
for Best Director

for Ağıt
Succeeded by
Preceded by Golden Orange Award
for Best Screenplay

for Endişe
Succeeded by
Preceded by [[Palme d`Or
for Best Film]]

for Yol
Succeeded by