Category Archives: Kurdish

Marooned in Iraq (2002)

“We can always say we’re on tour.”

The film Marooned in Iraq from director Bahman Ghobadi is set shortly after the first Gulf War. An elderly Kurdish musician named Mizra (Shahab Ebrahimi) lives in a remote village in Iran. Mizra receives a vague message for help from his ex-wife Hanareh–a woman with a beautiful voice who left Iran where “singing is forbidden for women” to take her chances in Iraq. After receiving the message, Mizra gathers up his two middle-aged sons Barat (Faegh Mohamadi) and Audeh (Allah-Morad Rashtain) and they head into Iraq. It’s an arduous, dangerous journey. They pile into Barat’s old motorbike and sidecar, and leave the relative safety of their primitive village–equipped with little more than their musical instruments. Audeh complains loudly that he doesn’t want to leave his 7 wives and 11 daughters. Barat, on the other hand, is happy to accompany his father–although he doesn’t understand why Mizra making a near-impossible journey to help a woman who ran off with his father’s best friend 23 years earlier.

On the way to Iraq, Mizra and his sons encounter hardship and adventure–including an aggressive bridegroom, camps of orphans, and marauding bandits. Mizra is famous among the Kurdish population for two things–his music and his cuckoldom. And these two things go hand in hand–the acclaim of the former soon brings on the memory of the latter. Whenever the three men stop and take out their musical instruments, crowds instantly gather. Misery and suffering take a back seat–at least temporarily–to the rare opportunity to experience the joy of music. The film does not contain a great deal of dialogue (Persian and Kurdish with English subtitles). The plot is sparse, and intense–yet the infusion of humour and hope combine to make Marooned in Iraq a superb film.
Marooned in Iraq stands as a testament to the crimes against the Kurds conducted by Saddam Hussein, and for anyone interested in how Saddam was given chemical weapons in the first place, I recommend “Spider’s Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq” by Alan Friedman.

The director is Iranian, but I’m categorizing this film under Iran, Iraq and Kurdish for obvious reasons.

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Filed under Iran, Iraqi, Kurdish, Political/social films

Turtles Can Fly (2004)

“We will make this country a paradise.”

Children are the most vulnerable victims of war, and the Kurdish film Turtles Can Fly  (Lakposhtha Parvaz Mikonand) illustrates this perfectly. In the film, a remote Kurdish village in Northern Iraq awaits news of the U.S. invasion. Completely cut off from any media source, the village elders arrange for the purchase of a satellite dish so they can watch news of the invasion on a tiny salvaged television.

The story focuses on the village’s raggle-taggle band of orphans who live outside of the village in tents and partially demolished military equipment. The tenacious orphan Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) commands a certain respect from the village elders for his technological skills, and the other orphans accept Satellite as their leader. One day three new children drift into the village–Hengov (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) an armless boy, his sister, Agrin (Avaz Latif) and a small blind toddler. Arvin’s disturbed memories explain her emotional vacuity, and Hengov’s protective instincts and insistence on establishing a family structure are tragic.

Director Bahman Ghobadi clearly loves children, and this is illustrated by showing the optimism and joy that some of the children still manage to possess–in spite of all the terrible things they continue to experience. The orphans in the film have lost everything–their homes, their families, and in some cases–parts of their bodies. In a harsh terrain with no social support, the orphans drift–some may survive to adulthood, and some may not. Even though Iraq isn’t at war when the film begins, all these children know is war, death, and deprivation. Their shelter is a graveyard of military equipment, and even their food is purchased by retrieving and selling mines.

Turtles Can Fly is neither specifically pro or con the Iraq war–the characters, after all, have suffered great hardships under Saddam Hussein’s rule, but somehow one feels that another war–rather than liberate these young victims–will only result in even more deprivations and violence. Clearly Hengov doesn’t discriminate between sides when remembering the destruction planes, soldiers and bombs bring. The result is the same no matter who does the killing. Ultimately, this beautiful, poetic film delivers a strong anti-war message through the daily lives of these children. They ask so for so little–a family, food, shelter, and love–and they are destined to receive none of these things. This is a splendid, unforgettable film–in Kurdish with English subtitles.

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