Private Project

The Seven Doors

Against the backdrop of urban warfare between the Turkish state and Kurdish insurgents in 2016 and a deteriorating educational system that morphed into the vain experiments of an Islamist government, seven university students, alongside their teacher, set off on a journey to develop an alternative educational model. In their search, students meet a storyteller, who tells them the story of birds who must cross seven arduous valleys to find a saviour, legendary bird-king living behind an imaginary mountain. The journey of the birds and the students intertwine and create a poetic visual tale, in which the students experience liberatory moments in the face of structural difficulties and violence to soar. Towards the end, the teacher disappears and the students are left without a guide. Will they find what they are searching for? The Seven Doors is a metaphor for free thinking and an attempt for a constructive deconstruction of the higher education system during times of conflict and war.

  • Mehmet Mim Kurt
  • Mehmet Mim Kurt
  • Yusuf Kurt
  • Dilan Turkut
    Key Cast
  • Elif Karakaya
    Key Cast
  • Esra Bozdemir
    Key Cast
  • Hakan Ayhan
    Key Cast
  • Halim Toga
    Key Cast
  • Merve Çitil
    Key Cast
    "La Loba"
  • Ender Ekmez
    Key Cast
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Yedi Kapı Belgeseli
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    50 minutes 14 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival
    St Louis
    United States
    November 15, 2020
    Jean Rouch Award
  • Berlin Kurdish Film Festival
    October 13, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Seattle True Independent Film Festival
    United States
    August 27, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Helsinki Education Film Festival International
    September 25, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Docs Without Borders
    United States
    March 8, 2020
    Merit Award in Youth Issues
Director Biography - Mehmet Mim Kurt

Mehmet Mim Kurt is an anthropologist of Islam, an ethnographic documentary filmmaker and a human rights activist from Northern Kurdistan (southeast Turkey). He is currently a lecturer at Yale University and a Marie Curie Global Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He is the author of Kurdish Hizbullah in Turkey (Pluto, 2017) and numerous articles, book chapters and op-eds published in English, Turkish and Kurdish. Mehmet assisted and co-directed a few ethnographic documentary films focusing on effects of war and political conflict in the daily lives of Kurdish and Yazidi people living across the Turkish-Syrian border and in Southern Kurdistan (Northern-Iraq). He developed and implemented critical and radical pedagogies during his teaching at Bingöl University/Turkey and shot his first feature documentary film, The Seven Doors, as a response to the impacts of the deteriorating political conflict on higher education and the disillusioned youth.

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Director Statement

The Seven Doors

A Documentary Film
by Mehmet Mim Kurt

Against the backdrop of the Turkish education system, deteriorated by the urban war and morphed into the object of vain experiments, curious youth are left disillusioned. The Seven Doors is an ethnographic film about seven students, who alongside their teacher, attempt to develop an alternative educational model that encouraged reading, critical thinking, open discussion in a setting where conflicting ideologies are thought of as generative rather than dangerous. The Seven Doors is principally a story about the love of learning and human encounters during times of conflict and war.

The Seven Doors is a local story told from a universal perspective. Instead of foregrounding “our values”, it questions the status quo, and also makes inroads for imagining less cynical alternatives—to prioritize inclusion rather than exclusion, to find desirable paths rather than pointing out wrong paths. The Seven Doors is a metaphor for free thinking.

The main characters are students from Bingöl University in Eastern Turkey, all from distinctly different backgrounds. Their identities are emblematic of Turkey’s diversity. In this space, students who inhabit identities that are conventionally thought of as enemies—including Kurdish, Turkish, Islamists, nationalists, feminists and secularist—made a commitment to engage one another discussing seminal philosophical texts and describing current event from each of their perspectives. No effort is made to hide the differences that divide these characters on ethnical and political grounds, but the film also tells the collective story students yearning to be challenged.

The collective would gather twice a week, readings occurred outside, in nature; they then were followed by discussions on Thursday nights in the living-room of the teacher’s house. Other students and academics sometimes joined the discussion. For students trained to solve multiple-choice questions, it was a feat to read and work through the oftentimes dense theoretical material. Students were frequently not on the same wavelength, triggering comical situations reflected in the film.

The film orbits around two main settings: outside in nature and inside the teacher’s living room. The house starkly contrasts the hierarchy and formality of the university, while students gathering to read outside proves to be a visual and psychological reprieve from the dark, underwhelming yet overbearing settings of the university classrooms. Strolls through the Bingöl countryside are punctuated by readings and deep conversations, where students move, think and discuss freely. The ways in which each of these students experience of liberation forms the crux of the narrative; a poetic visual tale riddled with symbols, metaphors, and rituals such as the legend of the Seven Sleepers, the silence fast or the conference of the birds.

This documentary was made possible by my academic position at Bingöl University. In this respect, as much as an artistic work, The Seven Doors is an attempt to implement critical pedagogy and inspire prudent optimism. The encounters and connections made possible by this alternative educational model, reflect the structural obstacles faced by a generation of disillusioned youth hungry for optimism.