Continuing the journey of peace bride Pippa Bacca

Documentary filmmaker Bingöl Elmas decides to shine light on the story of Pippa Bacca, who was raped and murdered by a truck driver in Turkey during a journey to spread a message of peace, by continuing the artist's trip and filming it to raise awareness about society's attitudes toward women. The film has its second screening at the !f International Independent Film Festival in Istanbul
Documentary filmmaker Bingöl Elmas shines light on Pippa Bacca’s story.

Documentary filmmaker Bingöl Elmas shines light on Pippa Bacca’s story.

It has been nearly two years since Pippa Bacca embarked on her hitchhiking journey from Milan to Jerusalem, wearing a white wedding dress to spread a message of peace and marriage between different peoples and nations.

The reality of the message turned sour after Bacca, 33, was killed 40 miles east of Istanbul by a driver who had offered her a ride. The court sentenced the murderer to life in prison within a month of the terrible crime. After a few protests, the sad event sunk into oblivion.

Documentary filmmaker Bingöl Elmas decided to shine light on Bacca’s story by continuing the Italian artist’s journey and filming it to raise awareness about society’s attitudes toward women. The brave director started her journey near the place where Bacca’s body was found naked and strangled, near Tavşanlı village in the Gebze region. She continued all the way to the Syrian border as she shot her movie, “My Letter to Pippa.”

The film, which questions what happened to Bacca and discusses the state of masculinity, was supported by the French producer Patrice Barrat and the European cultural channel ARTE. It had its debut screening on the French channel; its second took place recently at the !f International Independent Film Festival in Istanbul.

Aiming to draw attention to the difficulties of being a woman in Turkey, and around the world, Elmas wore a black dress and hitchhiked with a camera in hand. Of course, she was not alone during the trip, because she needed assistance while shooting the documentary. Yet she hopped into trailer trucks by herself and never used a hidden camera.

“Each driver knew I was making a documentary and that I was filming them,” Elmas said. “Some did not want to answer my questions and some did not want to talk when the camera was on, but most did not mind the fact that whatever they said was recorded.”

The documentary’s main theme is about being a woman in a truck or on a highway without being harassed or raped. “After I found support to shoot the documentary, we planned the journey but did not include too many details,” the director said. “We continued our journey until the conversation ended with the truck drivers.”

In the film, Elmas wears a black dress designed by a woman whose daughter was murdered. White pieces of cloth with notes on them were attached to the skirt of the dress. “Most of the notes were about women’s rights and [had the] names of those who were raped in a violent way,” Elmas said.

During her journey, the director said, she realized that prostitution is seen as a normal thing on the highways between cities. “Even though we know that things like this happen, it was interesting for me to experience and see it with my own eyes,” she said.

She met lots of people in various districts of Anatolia during what she says was a tiring trip. While talking to truck drivers or village locals, Elmas had to acknowledge what they said, think about the ethics and shoot the scenes, all at the same time. “My mind was full of thoughts during the journey,” she said. “Although I was expecting what I was going to experience, it felt different to face the truth directly.”

While making her film, Elmas met young children who were taught that women are just objects in men’s lives, an old lady who was not even allowed to pass in front of a male child, a 95-year-old man who questioned what she was doing in the street with a camera and that dress. “Of course, I also faced truck drivers treating me like I was a sex worker. I sometimes had to play that role to continue the conversation,” she said.

All through the journey, Elmas’ crew followed behind in a car. Most of the people who had heard about her project were scared for her and told her to be careful. Yet she says she tried to ignore the fear factor. “I did not listen to what people said because if I did, I wouldn’t be able to start this journey. Fear gets into your veins and you don’t realize it. I always held back my fear,” Elmas said, adding that disbelief and fear are the factors that cause war and conflict.

“My Letter to Pippa” is a loud question, a thought-provoking piece by a female documentary filmmaker about trust, peace, fear and evil. It makes us think about the situation for women in Turkey, and around the world, where women are still treated as sex objects, experience violence and become victims of honor killings.

The documentary will be screened in Istanbul on Women’s Day, March 8. Screening times are listed at

Elmas is now working on her fourth documentary, this one about children brides, who are often sold to elderly men.