Xalko is a Kurdish village in Turkey, a small, isolated collection of modest houses, ramshackle livestock pens, and scrubby landscape. It is the birthplace of filmmaker Sami Mermer, and the home of his female relatives. “In our family there isn’t a man left,” says one woman. “All those men, all those handsome men! There’s no one left. I haven’t seen one man from our family in two years.” Though men return home to father children, there are virtually none to be seen in Xalko, as every last one has either legally or illegally relocated to Europe in pursuit of a new life. Mermer is one of the departed, albeit to Canada as a child, and he returns now to document the daily routines of his female relatives in the city of his birth. The women make bread together, milk the sheep, knead cheese, and commiserate about their absent husbands and the lack of support they receive — all while sharing a sense of humour.
The film does not glamourize or beautify its setting. Though the women’s lives are emotionally challenging and physically demanding—with some living near poverty — it is the women themselves that give the film its unique beauty. Xalko is also remarkable for the intense intimacy offered by Mermer’s access to his subjects — members of his own family who trust him and feel at ease discussing even their most private moments. - KR