Turkey, Romania


Yusuf and his best friend Memo are Kurdish pupils at a boarding school secluded in the Anatolian mountains. When Memo falls mysteriously ill, Yusuf is forced to struggle through the bureaucratic obstacles put up by the school’s repressive authorities to try to help him. When the adults finally understand the seriousness of Memo’s condition and try to get him to the hospital, the school is cut off from the world by a heavy snowfall. With no way out and now desperate to find help, teachers and pupils engage in a blame game where grudges, feelings of guilt and hidden secrets emerge, as time ticks mercilessly on.

Director's Statement

Set in an all-boys boarding school characterised by rigorous discipline and repression, BROTHER’S KEEPER tells the story of 12-year-old Yusuf trying to get his sick friend to the doctor. In this ostensibly straightforward task, Yusuf finds himself having to contend with the school’s bureaucracy, the administration’s insensitivity, and the rugged geography of the area.

I spent six years of my childhood at a boarding primary school. And the reason I wanted to make this film has a lot to do with the fears that remain with me from those boarding school days. Fear is as old as humanity itself; and schools are one of the places that most effectively perpetuate the tradition of spreading fear and using it as a disciplinary tool. At boarding schools in particular, these fears tend to be many layered.

Of course, not all the teachers I encountered were bad; they, too, were continuing a tradition learned earlier in life: inspiring fear! Strike fear into the hearts of children to make them grow up. Don’t let them object to anything... The control exercised over our young bodies was later applied to our minds. Today I realise that to control children is essentially to control the future.

Like students, our teachers were also scared and looking for ways to fight off their fears. I will never forget: a female teacher new to our class attempted to disguise her weak and vulnerable personality by picking out and beating the most innocent boy among us. She then announced, “Don’t be fooled by my fragile appearance. I can be as tough as nails when called for.” I now see that she didn’t do it out of pure malice. Her fear came both from being female and from being alone somewhere unfamiliar. Children who are beaten grow up and beat other children. They, too, get a kick out of it. Just like us... And there you have the ancient tradition!

Of course, we weren’t exactly saints ourselves. “You’re worse than the teachers” was a regular refrain for most students. We were infused with cruelty before even having the chance to learn what compassion was. It is hard to describe the violence we perpetrated against one another. The only thing we knew was that if you wanted to count for something, you needed to bully people as much as you could.

According to Jacques Lacan, the family plays a pivotal role in the transmission of culture and in its formation at an individual level. It is the family that creates what we know as ‘humanity’ and brings the social and cultural order into being. Children become part of this order through the family. But taking away a child’s family ties and attempting to substitute them with other artificial bonds will damage the social order first and foremost.

Through Yusuf’s story, the film sets out to examine the prevalence of lies in oppressed societies and the ramifications of even a single trivial lie. It also seeks to question the innocence of an entire society.

In other words, BROTHER’S KEEPER is the film of a long tradition; it is a film of fear.

Director's Biography

Ferit Karahan was born in Muş, Turkey, on 4 April 1983 and lives in Istanbul. He started working as first assistant director on feature films. His short films BEFORE THE FLOOD and YUSIV’S DREAM have been screened at numerous festivals and have won awards and honorable mentions. His feature debut THE FALL FROM HEAVEN premiered at the Antalya Film Festival and won Best Film.
He made ESKI KÖYE YENI ADET for FOX TV as a tv movie but FOX decided to release the film in the cinemas where it played for more than a month in 340 cinema around Turkey.

2011 - YUSIV’S DREAM, short
2010 - BEFORE THE FLOOD, short

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Ferit Karahan

Written by: Ferit Karahan, Gulistan Acet

Produced by: Kanat Dogramaci, Alexander Craciun

Cinematography: Türksoy Gölebeyi

Editing: Sercan Sezgin, Hayedeh Safiyari, Ferit Karahan

Production Design: Tolunay Türköz

Costume Design: Fevziye Asli Kömür

Sound: Srdjan Kurpjel

Main Cast: Samet Yildiz (Yusuf), Ekin Koç (Teacher Selim), Mahir Ipek (Headmaster Müdür), Nurullah Alaca (Memo)

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2021