Zenne Dancer

A Bodrum Belle of our acquaintance recently saw Zenne Dancer, a ground breaking indie movie about a male belly dancer. The film, which has won major awards in Turkey, was inspired by the true story of a Kurdish student who was gunned down by his own father for being openly and unrepentantly gay. As our Turkish remains lamentably poor, we’ll have to wait for the subtitled version before we get to see it.

The film caused quite a stir in the Turkish press and among the chattering classes (us included) – not all of which has been negative. Some of the debate was reported in the Guardian  in an article called From Homophobia to a Moving Apology in Turkey*. This demonstrates that Turkey is indeed a complex web of paradoxes and contradictions. This conflict is also illustrated in From Diyarbakir with love: Kurdish, gay and proud, a Pink News article that talks of the double struggle for ethnic and sexual identity among the Kurdish LGBT community in South-east Turkey. Two steps forward, one step back.

*Thank you to Johnny Hogue for sending me this article.

11 thoughts on “Zenne Dancer

  1. Impressive that Turkey is open to debate on the issue and capable of scooping awards too – how much of a religious struggle can that be?
    And so good to read this at a time when we in Spain are hearing that the new ruling party here are moving to ban both gay marriages and abortions once again (while reintroducing bull-fighting to daytime TV and smoking in bars…) Two steps forward, one (or more) back, indeed!


  2. Dang, just missed a male belly-dancer on Romanian TV last night (don´t ask), the equivalent of Britain´s Got Talent, and they were raving about how good he was – I didn´t need to know any of the language to understand that. I´d like to see this film too, having also seen a documentary on the practice of Afghan warlords having young male dancers dressed as women. This I think is a complex and difficult and perhaps not a gay issue at all as the boys are underage and more or less enslaved. One thing´s for sure – repression of gay men is thoroughly unhealthy whatever the circumstances.


    1. Oddly, it’s the appalling repression of women in places like Afghanistan that create the demand for boys dressed as girls. It’s part of the ‘rainbow’ of issues for those of us who can’t conform to the the ‘wife and 2.2 kids’ (or the equivalent in other cultures) expected of us.


  3. You should have come to Istanbul for the Independent Film Festival – there is a whole rainbow section as well as all sorts of other categories and this film was in it. I find it quite amazing. And all the films have subtitles in English and sometimes in Turkish too if the film is in another language. Tonight is the Closing party at 360 with Rupert Everett no less!!


  4. While homosexuality is quite prevalent in Turkish society, the gay lifestyle is less so and then only in the major urban areas, like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Having said that, the Turkish music industry can point to Zeki Muren who -while he never admitted to being openly gay- was about as flamboyant as Liberace. But it was his talent that people remembered above all else. There’s even an over-the-topic trans-gender performer who had been formally banned from performing in the 1980s, returned and became something of a phenomena (and not just as a curiosity) The fact that she sang the classic Turkish music style won over her audience and forced them to look beyond their initial shock.
    Kurdish culture is not as open as Turkish culture, in many ways and so it might be a bit misleading to generalize about Turkey if you base your opinions on this story.
    As far as the belly dancer, I believe I might have seen him perform once in Kusadasi, a tourist town along the Turkish coast. He was a novelty since most belly dancers are, of course, women- but in this culture, talent is, (or used to be) more important than the details of the artist’s life. At first, there was the usual snickering but the crowd soon settled down, marveling at the hypnotizing movements that the dancer was capable of. It was interesting to watch the audience turn from being somewhat uncomfortable to enthusiastically supportive.

    One last point, It may sound strange but the sexual element plays a far less important element in belly dancing than you’d expect. There is that, naturally,- dance is always a kind of seduction- but it is considered an art form above anything else. .


  5. I’ve always found the Turkish attitude towards homosexuality both fascinating and tragic. During my four years living in Turkey, I was contacted by a number of gay men who lived closeted and often miserable lives, confined by tradition and duty. I could offer no words of support other than to leave, I’m afraid.


Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.