A Story of a Hopeful Journey: “Birds of Exile” (1964)

Murat Can Reis
4 minutes

The strange story of those who said “WE WILL BE SHAH TO ISTANBUL, SHAH!” in expatriation.

The movie was written by Orhan Kemal in 1962 and shot by Halit Refiğ in 1964. It is the movie of a journey from Kahramanmaraş with great hope and the pain of arriving in Istanbul. It was the first movie to deal with the problem of migration from the village to the city, and it also helped many new actors to shine.

The Bakırcıoğlu family took the train from their hometown and headed to Istanbul, not unlike many other families. As we remember from all those movies, they took a breath at Haydarpaşa Station and inhaled the air of Istanbul deeply, then each of them was immersed in a dream until the ferry whistles were heard. They got on the ferry and went to someone in the country. The Bakırcıoğlu family was a crowded family, and not only most but even all of the migrants were crowded, which is why housing problems arose in the cities, slumization increased, and major problems arose in infrastructure and education.

IMG 1957

The Bakırcıoğlu family set out on this journey with great hopes, but at the end of the day they were going to be miserable because they did not make any effort to prevent this from happening, they were attracted by the temptation of making money and getting rich the easy way in this city that they thought was ‘golden in stone’, and they considered it their job to look down on those who said “I will do anything, I will make my living from stone”. They could not say no to the tricks of Istanbul. They wanted to move up in class as soon as possible and pursue the life they dreamed of, and did whatever it took to get it. Some members of the family saw Istanbul as a gateway to study, some to work, and some to relax and get away from the pressures. The children of a devout and prayerful father had broken away from all that they had been taught to believe as true, even to the point of looking at the wife of the neighboring shopkeeper in the wrong way. Where the knots were untied, where their hearts were corrupted, nothing could stop them, they were so caught up and what they were doing was so real and true that for them there was no turning back.


Ever since the family arrived in Istanbul, they did not adapt to the culture, history, texture of the city, or anything that it could offer them, and constantly pursued “simplicity”. The man’s expectation of her was the same on that day as it was the day they arrived: to be an obedient wife and not to cause any disturbances. An unfortunate incident happened to the Bakırcıoğlu family during their stay in Istanbul. Fatma, the daughter of the house, was deceived by the promise of marriage and then abandoned. Fatma did not know what to do in this situation and was subjected to the pressure of her brothers instead of the support of her family. At the end of the day, Fatma, who had great hopes and dreams, took her own life and paid for the crime of the entire Bakırcıoğlu family.


  1. The film was the first production in the history of Turkish cinema to examine the village-urban problem.
  2. It is the project that made Cüneyt Arkın a star.
  3. It was selected as the best film at the Golden Orange.
  4. Director Halit Refiğ won the best director award at the Golden Orange.

HALİT REFİĞ (1934-2009)

He is one of the most important directors of Turkish cinema during its heyday between 1960 and 1975. He made his first movie “Forbidden Love” in 1961. After his early social realist films such as Şehirdeki Yabancı (The Stranger in the City) (1962) and Gurbet Kuşları (1964), he tried to develop the concept of “national cinema”. Under the influence of Kemal Tahir; Metin Erksan, Ertem Göreç and Atıf Yılmaz became the defenders of this movement in our national cinema with some of their films. Refiğ, who wrote many books and articles, passed away in 2009.

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