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Seven short films bring the Kurds’ young cinema to America's west coast چاپ ارسال به دوست
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Seven short films bring the Kurds’ young cinema to America's west coast

By Dr. Amir Sharifi

 25 December, 2015



The New York Film Academy in Los Angeles hosted the screening of seven short Kurdish films on December 16. This was the first venue in which seven short films were showcased at this prestigious institution. The event was free and open to public and some one hundred people attended. 

The presence of Mr. David Newman, a distinguished professor of the Academy and Khalid Hamalaw, Kurdish film maker, one of whose documentaries, Mrs. Misfortune was shown, and the presence of a diverse engaged audience enhanced the screening. David Newman officially opened the program and invited Amir Sharifi, the president of the Kurdish American Education Society in Los Angeles to provide some background about the Kurdish cinema and the role of Khalid Hamalaw in organizing the venue. 

The audience was encouraged to take note of the fact that the Kurdish society is one of the oldest in the world yet it has one of the youngest cinemas. The selected films - White Mountain (Faqi Ibrahim), Ants' Apartment, (Tofigh Amani), Mrs. Misfortune, (Khalid Hamalaw), Bad Hunter, (Sahim Omar Khalifa), Abandoned Faces, (Ashkan Ahmedi), Human Beings, (Mashallha Muhammadi). 74-Shangal, (Chamani Gull) albeit not atypical represented a very small subsection within the genre of fiction, documentary, and animation.

The films, made between 2007 and 2014, offered compelling intertwined and interwoven stories about sociopolitical conditions and the cultural tapestry of Kurdish life with an emphasis on Southern and Eastern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq and North Western Iran). The fact that the films had all won prestigious international awards showed the rapid growth of Kurdish cinema and how it was finding its rightful place in the world. 

The event had been organized to promote awareness about Kurdish society through films. The audience generally found the films enlightening. The short films shown were in essence national and transnational and yet international in their universalist messages. The films through their penetrating imagery invoked immediate and enduring responses in the audience as they evoked the struggles of witnesses, victims, and survivors in highly political yet poetic films such as The White Mountain that depicts the tragedy of the civil strife, or in the Ants' Apartment that uncovers the trauma of Anfal genocide. Mrs. Misfortune provides direct glimpses of four outspoken widows who eke out an existence by carrying back and forth heavy loads in the brutal cold across Iran-Iraq borders. Bad Hunter, on the other hand interrogates the culture of honor and shame; the surrealist film Abandoned Faces brought the audience the peculiar story of faceless men in the business of trafficking and transplanting faces for those in search of a new identity. The one-minute documentary Human Beings with its simple and scathing message glorifies acts of kindness and perseverance in the face of adversity. 

After the screening, a Q & A session ensued between David Newman and Khalid Hamalaw, and myself serving as an interpreter. The discussion ranged from Newman's impressions of the movies to his questions about the history of Kurdish cinema and its evolution. Newman mentioned how he had learned a great deal about Kurdish cinema from the short films and that he was impressed with the artistic quality and mastery with which the films had been made despite the meager means and challenges that Kurdish film makers faced.

Hamalaw retraced the history of Kurdish films to 1920's; however, he attributed its contemporary origins to Guney and his pioneering film "Yol" or "Way", a film that was made in and from prison 1981. He said that Guney was the father of the Kurdish cinema. He attributed the evolution of the process to the rise of the Kurdish Regional Government and its major cultural influence. Hamalaw also highlighted the challenges that Kurdish filmmakers and movie making industry confront. 

A member of the audience expressed her admiration for Kurdish filmmakers who in the face of the insurmountable obstacles, passionately continue to make such great films. Hamalaw remarked he would have liked to present "comedies" rather than the types of traumatic stories and themes that profoundly had moved many members of the audience to tears and reflections. He cited the example of Keywan Karimi, a prominent filmmaker who has won international awards for his films, but has been imprisoned and sentenced to more than 200 lashes for making a documentary in Iran. He called on the international human rights organizations to seek his freedom. About his career plans, he said he was working on two scripts. 

The program ended with David Newman reiterating the aesthetic and educational significance of the films and hoping for screening of more Kurdish films in the future.


*Dr. Amir Sharifi, President of the Kurdish American Education Society



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