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Review: Overcoming


- Besire Paralik’s documentary talks about physical and mental barriers, how they are constructed and the existential struggle to overcome them

Review: Overcoming

Since the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus began in 1974, Cyprus has been a divided country. When it joined the EU in 2003, the entire island became EU territory, but to this day, one still needs a passport to cross the border between the Greek-speaking South and the Turkish-speaking North. Besire Paralik’s one-hour documentary Overcoming, which screened at the fourth edition of the Queer Wave Film Festival (Nicosia), addresses this divide: the actual border and the barrier in people’s minds. Through various interviews, we are introduced to Cypriots who have – each in their own way – broken through the border.

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We meet campaigners like LGBTQIA+ activist Hüseyin Çavuşoğlu; the founder of the bi-communal Rooftop Theatre in Nicosia, Ellada Evangelou; filmmaker Tony Angastiniotis (Voice of Blood, 2005); a bi-communal LGBTQAI+ couple; and poet Neşe Yaşın, to name a few. They tell us about their experiences in the Ledra Palace buffer zone, during the time before 2003, when all communication channels between the South and the North had been entirely cut off, after 2023 and during the pandemic.

Especially touching is the friendship between Özge Tahiroğlu and Nicole Stylianidou, who met while taking a German exam at the Goethe-Insitut in the buffer zone in 1994 and who went to great lengths to exchange letters and parcels via other European countries. While the interviews conducted are all interesting and moving, they make the documentary feel a lot like a more factual, journalistic kind of reportage. Some archival footage is shown, too, but to emphasise the film’s message even more, it would have been beneficial to see more of this – especially for viewers less familiar with the history of Cyprus.

Because the documentary mainly centres on interviews, much of the footage seems simple and handheld – however, this also increases the feeling of intimacy with the people being interviewed. And this works in the film’s favour.

The doc also highlights the importance of the feminist and LGBTQIA+ movements in overcoming borders – not as part of a political agenda, but rather as an existential struggle. The women portrayed in the film are often the initiators of bi-communal cultural activities, and the members of the LGBTQIA+ community were among the first ones to tear down the mental confines rooted in people’s heads. Their fight transcends borders, and this became evident when the first bi-communal LGBTQIA+ festival was held in 2019. And given the divides we are faced with across the globe today, this makes Overcoming a topical documentary.

Overcoming was produced by Cyprus’s Firuzan Nalbantoğlu, who also carried out the interviews.

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