For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.
How can the collective memory of a language be preserved, when its use is repressed by the state? 'Translating Ulysses' (2023) follows Kurdish refugee Kawa Nemir in his political experiment of translating James Joyce’s famous novel into Kurdish. With its vast, infinite range of words, symbols and anti-colonial resonance, Ulysses becomes an obsession for him with which he hopes to encapsulate all the Kurdish words and idioms he collected throughout the years. The screening will be followed by an open discussion with the directors, Aylin Kuryel and Fırat Yücel.
Event details of Documentary screening: 'Translating Ulysses' (2023)
5 June 2024
17:00 -19:00
BG 3

Translating Ulysses (2023)

Kawa Nemir is like a walking dictionary of Kurdish language. Whenever he hears a new word or an idiom, he records it and he never forgets. Considering the Kurdish language his home, he wanders from one exile to another. But how to transfer this collective memory into paper? With its vast, infinite range of words, symbols and anti-colonial resonance, James Joyce’s Ulysses becomes an obsession for him. He want to create a translation that encapsulates all the Kurdish words and idioms he collected throughout the years. Exhausted from political prosecutions and language ban, he flees Turkey and takes refuge at Anne Frank’s former house in Amsterdam, now serving as residence for exiled writers. Will he be able to finish the translation of Ulysses and publish it?

Directors’ Statement

Following Kawa’s process of translating Joyce’s Ulysses into Kurdish, the documentary attempts to capture how history becomes a nightmare (as Joyce himself would say). It is an experiment on thinking about language and politics through the translation of Joyce's novel into a language that is repressed. Kurdish is a language that has a long history, yet so many words and idioms only exist in the minds of Kurdish people. Kawa attempts to redeem the collective memory of the Kurdish language, as Kurdish is still a censored and persecuted language in Turkey, despite its long history there. The translation of Ulysses, one of the hallmarks of modernist literature, serves as a dictionary of the everyday life of Kurdish people. The documentary, Translating Ulysses, also takes the shape of a dictionary through an episodic/multi-lingual/intertextual narration. It uses different forms and materials: found footage, archival footage, Youtube clips, Newspaper clips, documentary quotations and the footage we collected from Kurdish grassroots resistance, blending together in a collage-like documentary about “the thing that goes through everything”: language.

Trailer 'Translating Ulysses' (2023)
Trailer 'Translating Ulysses' (2023)


Fırat Yücel is a filmmaker and film editor, who regularly curates video series for Altyazı Fasikül: Free Cinema, a sub branch of Altyazi Cinema Association, based in Istanbul, devoted to support political film/video makers at risk in Turkey and elsewhere. He's the co-editor of Welcome Lenin (2016) and Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater(2016) and the co-director of Heads and Tails (2019). Together with Aylin Kuryel, he formed the artistic duo collective called Image Acts and directed the short desktop documentary called March 8, 2020: A Memoir (2023). Yücel lives and works in Amsterdam and Istanbul, and is part of the BAK (Basis voor Actuele Kunst) Fellowship for Situated Practice 2023/2024 programme in Utrecht.

Aylin Kuryel is an Assistant Professor at the Literary and Cultural Analysis department at the University of Amsterdam. Her research areas are nationalism, image politics, aesthetics/resistance, and politics of emotions.  She has been involved in projects as an artist and works as a documentary filmmaker. Among her documentaries are Translating Ulysses (2023), A Defense (2021), CemileSezgin (2020), The Balcony and Our Dreams (2020), Heads and Tails (2018), and Welcome Lenin (2016).

BG 3

Binnengasthuisstraat 9
1012 ZA Amsterdam