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Filmmaker takes camera behind scenes with Whirling Dervishes
Sunday, November 05, 2006


Scene from "I Named Her Angel"


To the advantage of her audiences, filmmaker Nefin Dinc’s eyes become theirs.

Her exclusive access to a group of Mevlevis in Turkey allowed her to focus her camera on a 12-year old girl who was undergoing the spiritual and physical training to perform the ancient devotional dance of a whirling dervish. Finished last year as her M.F.A. thesis project at the University of North Texas, that film, “I Named Her Angel,” reveals a world to Westerners that most have never seen and know next to nothing about.

“I wanted to show a glimpse of Islamic life in Turkey,” the SUNY Fredonia communication professor said. “So when the little girl learns how to do whirling, we also learn about the basics of Mevlevism, the sect that has practiced whirling since the 13th century.” Like meditation and other mystical practices, the purpose of the ritual whirling is for the dervish to empty herself of all distracting thoughts. Dervishes conquer dizziness when they reach a trance-like state that enables them to mentally detach from their bodies. Going behind the scenes with her camera, Professor Dinc shows the thoughts and feelings of the performers. Knowing that many westerners are familiar with the mystic poet, Rumi, she points out that he was the founder of the dervishes.

“I Named Her Angel” will be screened on campus during International Education Week, which starts Nov. 13. It has also being shown in juried film festivals throughout the country, and aired on public television in Texas.

Professor Dinc is energetic to say the least. Fredonia has already given her three awards to support the creativity she churns out, and this week she’s attending a seminar in Los Angeles fully paid for by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Picked as one of 20 faculty the academy invited, Professor Dinc will use the seminar to better groom Fredonia film graduates for careers in American television.


Nefin Dinc


She is relatively new to Fredonia, hired last year to teach digital film. Her credentials are rich: she holds degrees from universities in the U.S., U.K., and Turkey, and she worked professionally in the Turkish television and film industry.

This semester, students in her documentary film production class are following her newest project first-hand as she collaborates with a Turkish/Greek writer for a new documentary on the turbulent relationship between the two countries. “Turkey and Greece have a long history of schisms,” Professor Dinc said. “I want this film to show how the prejudices and misunderstandings were produced, and how they persist today through the media and the school systems. The film will look at all the things that produce these misunderstandings and sometimes even hatred.”

Turkey is the subject of a spring semester course at Fredonia that will climax with an optional trip there this summer. Professor Dinc (communication) is team teaching the course, "Experiencing Turkey," with Iclal VanWesenbeeck (English).  Now angling for a place in the European Union, Turkey has been bustling with advanced civilizations since the Greek, Roman, and Ottoman empires, stirring its own form of a melting pot. “We in Turkey are not sure if Turkey is part of the Middle East, Europe, or Asia,” Professor Dinc said, laughing. “But that’s the greatest thing about it.”

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