Half Moon takes cynical approach toward Turkey

KurdishCinema.com - February 22, 2008

By Elif Tunca *

The Turkish military and police receive their
fair share of criticism from renowned
Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker Bahman
Ghobadi's latest feature-length movie,
"Niwemang" (Half Moon), which focuses on
the tough journey of a group of musicians
heading to a concert in Kurdistan (Iraq).

The movie was presented to the press as
part of the ongoing Istanbul International
Film Festival this week ahead of its
screening in festival theaters on April 10. "Half Moon," which is among the 15 films running
in the international competition of the festival, tells the story of an old Kurdish musician
named Mamo who sets out on a journey to Iraq with his sons for a concert after the fall of
Saddam Hussein. During the journey, a middle-aged man who is Mamo's follower escorts
them as a driver of a borrowed orange mini bus. Mamo gathers his sons, one by one, from
different areas. When the last son joins the team, he tells Mamo that the village elders
have predicted that Mamo should not take the trip because as the full moon approaches,
something awful will happen to him. However Mamo insists on continuing his journey.
Meanwhile, Mamo also intends to secretly include into his band Hesho, a woman singer
who lives, along with 1,334 other women, in exile. The Iranian police notice her and stop
them, so Mamo and his band decide to reach Iraq through different routes. Their path is
split for some time after they reach the Iranian-Turkish border. When they meet up again,
they find their driver crying in the middle of the street. A dialogue between Kako the driver,
Mamo's son Shaho, and a young girl who joined them on the road, reads as follows:

Shaho: What are you doing here? Why are you crying?

The famous Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi - Half Moon, Winner of the 2006 Inspiration
Award at Mountain film in Telluride, and the Award at the 2004 Maui Film Festival.

Kako: I could not stand it. I, my camera and my rooster were in a coffin. The car moved.
Then I heard some people speaking Turkish. Suddenly the coffin opened and I saw four
policemen coming toward me. I don't know Turkish. The only word I know is "seni
seviyorum" [Turkish for 'I love you'] and I don't even remember what it means. They were
about to kill me. They kicked and beat me. Look what they have done to me! They took my
jacket, my camera. They cut my hair. One of them beheaded my rooster, saying it had bird
flu. They made a kebap out of it and ate it before my eyes. Another one of them took
Mamo's saz, broke and burnt it.

The girl: Where are the others?

Shaho: Turkish soldiers shot my brother after we were sent to the Iraq border with the
cyclists. My other brother took him to Iran.

The role given to Turkish
soldiers and police, who do
not appear in the entire
storyline of the movie, seems
a little bit merciless.

Ghobadi was in Turkey two
years ago to introduce his
movie "Turtles Can Fly,"
which is set in a Kurdish
refugee camp on the Iraqi-
Turkish border. Ghobadi,
upon questions regarding
the criticism to "Turtles Can
Fly," had then told reporters
that he saw a highly
politicized atmosphere in the
region depicted in the movie. He said people of the region were always talking on
"suffering, exile and massacres" and that the two main influences on Kurdish life were
"war and politics."

Azize Tan, the director of the İstanbul Film Festival, believes "Half Moon" is not a criticism of
the Turkish military or the police. "These people are trying to cross into a country illegally.
Moreover, there is a man who says 'I love you' to a policeman he sees. The film rather
depicts the senselessness of these people in a humorous tone," she says. "What we
want is all kinds of ideas to be debated freely in order for people to get to know each other
without prejudices."

Maybe the film's screening on April 12, to be attended by Ghobadi, would serve as good
grounds for mutual understanding.

* source: Turkish Zaman / 05 April 2007