Doc Talk

There’s friendly competition and there’s fighting back

A scene from “East of Salinas,” directed by Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow, which will screen at the Boston International Kids Film Festival.
Kate Schermerhorn
A scene from “East of Salinas,” directed by Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow, which will screen at the Boston International Kids Film Festival.

The ongoing changes in Turkey and its relationship to the United States make the Boston Turkish Festival’s 12th annual documentary and short film competition (runs Thursday through Nov. 12) even more relevant this year.

The competition starts on an upbeat, celebratory note with Luis Gonzalez’s documentary “The Turkish Way” (screens on Thursday at the Museum of Fine Arts). It’s a gustatory tour of the country’s Anatolia region by the Roca brothers, owners of Catalonia’s Celler de Can Roca (winner of Restaurant Magazine’s best restaurant in the world award), as they search for the secrets of Turkish gastronomy to include in their unique fusion cuisine. Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana and Sarma Restaurants will introduce the film, and the screening will be followed by a live performance by the Antioch Civilizations Choir and a reception.

Other films among the more than 40 shorts and features are less festive. The theme of cultural conflict and community isolation are recurrent subjects. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the competition judges.)


Mehmet Özgür Candan’s short “The Last Prayer for the Tigris: Journey to Lalesh” (screens Nov. 8 at the MFA) focuses on the last outpost of the Yazidi community in Turkey, an ancient religion in the news in 2014 when ISIS forces raped, kidnapped, tortured, and murdered thousands of Yazidis in the Sinjar district in northern Iraq. The film focuses on a young man who wants to journey to Lalesh, a Yazidi pilgrimage site in Iraq, to reconnect with his heritage and find a wife.

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Screening after “The Last Prayer,” Serkan Çiftçi’s feature documentary “Hatewalk” relates the travails of a transgender woman living in the city of Mersin on the southern coast of Turkey. After a being the victim of a mob hate attack that leaves her with a broken leg, she seeks assistance and counsel from the local LGBTI activist group, “7 Colors.”

The subjects of Taylan Mintas’s “Brothers of Silence” (Nov. 9 at Boston University’s GSU Auditorium, in a double bill with Nejla Demirci’s “Confrontation”) are isolated, not just geographically and culturally but physically as well — they are deaf and mute. Their cousin, the filmmaker, left Istanbul for his hometown in the harsh, starkly beautiful province of Kars with the intention of making an avant-garde movie. He ended up staying for four years to record the lives of the brothers, who, despite their disabilities and the poverty of their surroundings, manage to support their families and maintain their livestock amid the stark, natural beauty with (mostly) good humor.

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Kids stuff

In addition to its shorts and family friendly features, the fifth Boston International Kids Film Festival (Thursday through Nov. 5 at the Somerville Theatre) has programmed three distinguished documentaries that examine the challenges and rewards experienced by students, teachers, and administrators at three disparate schools.

Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane’s “School Life” (screens Friday) looks at the Headfort School, the last secular preparatory boarding institution of its kind in Ireland. It is ensconced in an 18th century estate that is more cozy than imposing — kind of like Hogwarts without the magic or the battle between good and evil. Its instructors include the beloved husband and wife team of John and Amanda Leyden, who, after more than four decades of unorthodox teaching, are considering making this year at Headfort their last.


In Jackie Mow and Laura Pacheco’s “East of Salinas” (screens Saturday), José Ansaldo, the son of undocumented Mexican migrant farm workers in the title California valley, is the brightest third-grader in Oscar Ramos’s class. Himself the son of farm workers, Ramos encourages José to persist in his studies and fulfill his dreams, as Ramos did. But times have changed since the teacher was a child, and José’s future in America is in doubt.

Amanda Lipitz’s “Step” (also Saturday) follows the lives of girls who are students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women and participate in its Step team (Step is a traditional African-American performance art combining dance and music). Their preparations for a major competition take place in the midst of personal struggles, community challenges, and the grief and anger following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in custody of Baltimore police.

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Getting back at

As is heartbreakingly shown in Mary Mazzio’s documentary “I Am Jane Doe,” mothers of children victimized by sex-trafficking have for years waged a war against the website they deem responsible,, an adult classifieds service that appeared in the Village Voice, among other publications. While thoroughly examining the protracted legal struggle, Mazzio also focuses on individual mothers and their daughters, including middle school girls from Boston.

“I Am Jane Doe” will screen as part of Babson College’s BabsonARTS series on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Carling-Sorenson Theater at Babson College.

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Peter Keough can be reached at