In Turkey, director Yilmaz Güney began his career as an actor and screenwriter until his political activism landed him in jail. Emerging from prison after eighteen months, he turned to acting full time and rapidly became a popular Bogart-like action hero in low-budget genre films. In 1966, he turned to directing, with his first important films coming in the early 1970s, such as Umut (Hope, 1970) and Baba (The Father, 1971). Made quickly and cheaply, Güney’s films nevertheless had a personal urgency, based on his own poverty-stricken childhood, which resonated with audiences.
But he remained a political lightning rod and was soon involved in a violent scuffle in a restaurant in which a local police official was killed.
Although Güney’s nephew confessed to the crime, Güney was sentenced to nineteen years in prison in 1975, but even this did not stop his career. He wrote the screenplays for his most famous films, Sürü (The Herd, 1978), Düsman (The Enemy, 1979), and Yol (The Way, 1982) while incarcerated, smuggling them out to his associates to shoot from his detailed instructions. Güney finally escaped from prison during the shooting of Yol in 1981, which Serif Gören was directing from his shot-by-shot shooting script. Fleeing to Switzerland, Güney completed the editing of Yol, released in 1982.
As a political exile he was embraced by the French government, who funded his final film before his death, Duvar (The Wall, 1983).