Kurdish Travels With the Tramp *

‘Chaplin of the Mountains’ Follows Iraqi Roads Less Taken

KurdishCinema - March 14, 2014

By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS

A charmingly shaggy
road trip with clear
political undertones,
“Chaplin of the
Mountains” winds its
way across the Iraqi
Kurdistan region,
using silent movies to
give voice to the
troubles of a
war-battered people.

Our guides are two
American film school
graduates (Zack Gold
and Bennet Viso) on
a whimsical mission
to introduce Charlie
Chaplin to the residents of remote mountain villages. Along the way, they pick up Nazé (Estelle
Bajou), a Kurdish-French tourist who’s cagey about the reason for her visit, and Shireen (Taies
Farzan), a confident Kurdish journalist. Over time, as Nazé’s real purpose and Shireen’s intimate
knowledge of their location are revealed, the Chaplin screenings become merely the frame for a
narrative more immersed in generational pain than in cinematic comedy.

Filming in 2009 while the area was under attack by Turkey and Iran, the writer and director, Jano
Rosebiani, brings a surprising lightness to his material, which is further buoyed by a melodic
soundtrack and Jonas Sacks’s lovely landscape photography. As movie nights in the villages are
interrupted by bleating goats and dancing wedding guests, the film embraces humor — would
you want a one-legged man guiding you through a minefield? — without surrendering sensitivity.
The screenplay may echo with atrocities, but it’s not consumed by them.

Traveling from the city of Erbil to the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian borders (a territory known locally as the
Kurdish Bermuda Triangle), Mr. Rosebiani pauses frequently to celebrate the sights, sounds and
tastes of the journey. Among people plagued by impermanence, a necklace of fresh figs and a
plaintive love song are, he suggests, luxuries that should never be taken for granted.

* New York Times Feb 20 2014
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