Heads and Tails

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Heads and Tails (Baştan Başa)

Directed by Aylin Kuryel, Fırat Yücel

  • Turkey 2019; 58 min
  • Original version: Turkish
  • Genre: Documentary

Synopsis

HEADS AND TAILS tells an unusual story which has been taking place in Aylin’s, one of the director’s, surrounding for over a decade. Aylin is Jewish-Turkish, who has one half of her family living in Izmir, Turkey and the other half in Tel Aviv, Israel. Some years ago, two of Aylin’s aunts from Tel Aviv began to buy hair that was brought from Mid-Anatolia to Izmir for trading. These aunts then return to Israel and sell the hair to Orthodox Jewish wig makers. Throughout the journey we figure out that many of the women sell their hair for only some kitchen needs, with no knowledge that in the form of a wig, their hair costs thousands of dollars in Tel Aviv.
Coya and Sima, two strong and outspoken women, speak in Turkish, Hebrew, and Ladino (Jewish Spanish). They reflect the specific cultural, linguistic and behavioral codes of the small Jewish community in Turkey and the ways in which they combine Turkish and Israeli cultures and languages. In the meantime, the hair becomes a valuable commodity during the bargaining between hair buyers and hair suppliers in the house in Izmir. Different political conversations and remarks are spoken about in various languages. Coya and Sima carry the hair to Israel and sell the hair to wig makers in Tel Aviv. While Coya and Sima encounter several obstacles, such as the obligation of getting a kosher certificate from rabbis, the hair traders from Anatolia start to complain about not being able to find long hair and about doing a business conflicting with their own religious views. The documentary follows this not very well known, half-legal business of hair trade navigating between suppliers, buyers, wig makers and women who wear wigs.

Director's Statement

We are intrigued by this story’s capability to reflect one simple fact, which has become invisible to human eye in late capitalism: Although private property is perceived as the source of security and profit, when it comes to hair trade, the most private part of a human, the hair, doesn’t pay much to the one who owns it and carefully grows it. With an approach that will value and dignify human stories behind such business, we believe that this story reflects the multiple meanings of hair (as the source of life or marker of beauty in many cultures, for instance) and the various human emotions related to it, as well as the ironies and absurdities behind the business. Discovering the human stories during the process that turns an organic entity into a commodity, a personal belonging into a religious item and witnessing such a journey make hair lose and then regain its aura in the eyes of the audience. We also believe that the story’s political and religious dimension, touching on Turkey and Israel relationships, Islam and Judaism, as well as women from different cultures, classes and religions, has the potential to make the audience contemplate on the issue from various perspectives.

Production

  • UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM

    Aylin Kuryel