Director Melis Birder, Co-Producers Nesra Gürbüz and Lisa Sardinas


When a Turkish filmmaker discovers her family’s ties to a 350-year-old underground sect who believe in a “Jewish Muslim Messiah,” she embarks on a dizzying odyssey to unearth truth from a blurry maze of history and memory.

Phase of Support: Post-Production

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Melis Birder

Melis Birder - Director

Melis Birder graduated from St. Michel French High School and from Istanbul University with a BA degree. She graduated from the New School for Social Research with MA degree in Media Studies. She shot her first independent documentary Tenth Planet: A Single Life in Baghdad in 2004 in Iraq. Among other festivals, the film was screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and received the Jury Special Award at Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in 2005. Her Sundance Documentary Film Program Fund supported and award winning film The Visitors was screened in many festivals but most importantly in various prisons in NY. She co-directed Bağlar (again funded by Sundance Documentary Film Program) with her partner Berke Bas and received the Jury Special Awards at !F Istanbul Independent and Sarajevo Film Festivals. The film received the best documentary of the year award in 2016 by the Association of Turkish Film Critics.

Nesra Gürbüz

Nesra Gürbüz - Co-Producer

Nesra Gürbüz studied International Relations and did her MA in Cultural Studies. In 2012, she started to work as a full time producer and attended Sarajevo Talent Campus and IDFAcademy. She has attended several co-production markets and pitched her projects, including Cinelink (which she has been awarded with EAVE scholarship), Holland Film Meeting, Meetings on the Bridge (several awards, including CNC Award) and Antalya Film Forum. She is the co-producer of Turkish-German co-production, Kaan Müjdeci’s debut feature Sivas, which has been selected Venice Film Festival’s official selection and won the Special Jury Prize. The first feature she produced, Ahu Öztürk’s Dust Cloth was supported by Hamburg Film Fund, made its international premiere at Berlinale Forum Section and won the Best Film, Best Script and Best Actress awards in Istanbul Film Festival. She established her company Monomit Film in 2019 and is currently engaged in various projects. She is a 2013 EAVE graduate.

Lisa Sardinas

Lisa Sardinas - Co-Producer

Lisa, who was born and raised in Turkey, received her BA in Communications from Boston University and her MA in Media Studies from the New School for Social, where she met Melis Birder. While always pursuing her passion of writing fiction, Lisa began working in the film world, starting with the independent feature, Love, with a budget so small that Lisa had to secure all the locations, then act as the Script Girl, and received Line Producer credit in the end. That film was screened at both the Venice and Tribeca Film Festivals. In 2007, the drama Padre Nuestro, on which she worked as a Location Manager, won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Lisa, who took a hiatus from filmmaking to focus on her writing and raising her son, returned to the industry to co-produce Melis’s documentary as well as Aslihan Unaldi’s debut drama Afloat.

Project logline and bios courtesy of the grantees.