British Columbia

Family distraught over unauthorized movie about 'boy on the beach' Alan Kurdi

B.C. woman Tima Kurdi says she and Alan's father are heartbroken a movie is being made about the little boy's death.

WARNING: This story contains an image of Alan Kurdi dead on the beach

Alan Kurdi's aunt would like her nephew remembered as he was in his smiling photograph. (Tima Kurdi/Facebook)

Tima Kurdi breaks into sobs when asked how she feels about the unauthorized movie that's being made about her nephew Alan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy whose lifeless body was photographed on a Turkish beach in 2015.

"I'm really heartbroken right now," said Kurdi from her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C., near Vancouver. "It's unacceptable."

The photo of two-year-old Alan has become a tragic symbol of the European migrant crisis. The little boy, his brother Galib and mother, Rehana, all drowned when the small inflatable boat they were in capsized in the Mediterranean. The family was attempting to reach the island of Kos in Greece.

Kurdi said no one involved in the movie asked her family for permission to tell the story. She first heard about it from Alan's father, Abdullah, who is living in Iraq.

The body of Alan Kurdi, 2, washed up on a Turkish beach Sept. 2, 2015 sparking outrage at the plight of millions of displaced Syrian refugees.

"He called me and he was crying, too. He said I can't believe somebody is already making a movie. He said I cannot even imagine that my dead son — two years old who can't even talk —  I cannot imagine him coming alive."

The movie is entitled Aylan Baby: Sea of Death. It features American actor Steven Seagal and is currently being filmed in Turkey near where Alan's body was found.

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Writer and director Omer Sarikaya has posted photos of the production and of the movie poster on social media.

"It's a lot of hurt," said Tima Kurdi. "Basically they're calling him the wrong name — Aylan instead of Alan. They say he's three years old, not two years old. What do [they] know about my family to make a movie?"

Last year, Kurdi published a memoir of Alan called The Boy on the Beach. She says the family has turned down a number of offers to turn it into a movie. 

Abdullah Kurdi and his sister Tima stand in front of a Sea-Eye rescue ship named after his son and her nephew, Alan Kurdi, at a ceremony in February of this year. (Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

"We can't," she said, "we're not ready."

Kurdi says the family has no power to stop the movie, but hopes to get the attention of Sarikaya by speaking publicly about their despair.

"I'm trying to stop this by using my voice. It hurts me so much," she said. 

"Famous people should not put themselves in that situation. Respect the family and know the truth of the story."

In response to the Kurdi family's criticism of the movie, Sarikaya says the film is only loosely based on them, despite the resemblance to the Kurdi family, while focusing on the broader issue of the refugee crisis.

"This will be Aylan baby, it will be not Aylan Kurdi," said Sarikaya. "Anyone can make new story, new write, they can make Aylan Kurdi, and I will support this one. Now I cannot change any more because it's this title now."

Sarikaya says filming began two weeks ago in Turkey, and is expected to wrap up by the end of July.

He says the goal is to feature the movie at several international film festivals, and make a deal with Netflix.

While Sarikaya acknowledges the Kurdis are not happy about the movie, he expressed a desire to speak with Abdullah and Tima Kurdi and invite them to the movie's premiere. 

He said the net profit from his movie would go to help refugees, saying "all my actors and crews are here for a goodwill."


With files from Deborah Goble and Dan Burritt