A Kurdish film wins the honour of being voted public’s favourite;  

Friday, February 16, 2007

KurdishMedia.com - By
Kameel Ahmady

A Kurdish film wins the honour of being voted public’s favourite; at the 23rd annual Mons
Festival International du Film d’Amour.

    We cannot, in this day and age, be accused of being a
    romantic world. So caught up are we in the trappings of
    modern life, that love and desire are things of which
    many of us forget the existence, or at least perpetually
    postpone. That is why it is refreshing to see such a
    venture as the Mons Festival International du Film d’
    Amour, a little gem of a festival in its 23rd year in this
    Belgian city (9th-16th), and unabashedly devoted to love
    on the screen, in all its forms.
The moving image here becomes a very strong and successful medium to speak the
language of love, lust and all its variance. And the winner of this year’s Grand Jury Prize at the
Mons festival, the German entry Emmas Glueck, sends a powerfully poetic message about
the inability of the human heart to postpone love and desire, indeed the very human need for

But throughout the festival and in all its films, we are shown the theme of love in its broadest
and most human sense. The festival’s implicit aim is to prove that love and a human,
heartfelt touch speaks in every language. Thus, from different cultures across the world, from
the war-torn and forgotten corners of the globe, where love may seem lost, to the most
peaceful and hackneyed territories of the romantic genre, we were offered a range of visions.
Each had one thing in common - the beauty that lurks in small or epic expressions of love,
from that for a small abandoned boy, to conventional erotic passions. Within this broad
spectrum also lurked a deeper message about peace and conflict and ways towards

Film can obviously be a medium for communication on a fundamental level between
cultures, and the impact of this has been sadly underestimated so far; while politics speaks
the language of power, films provide a space to think freely and see cultural and political
barriers with open minds, a more human touch.

The festival of love films in Mons is significant not only because it screens some of the best
loved films made in recent years, but because of its welcoming approach as a vehicle for
primarily independent and low budget films rather than formulaic Hollywood romcoms with
which viewers are more familiar this is to the credit of the festival organisers, who seem to
specialise in slightly quirky or offbeat renditions of romantic cinema, and feature many films
based on true human stories, as well as a number of documentaries. Another highlight of
this unique vision was the lifetime achievement recognition for Italian legend of erotic
filmmaking, Tinto Brass, whose most recent work MonAmour was screened.

The importance of this support for independent and low budget films is vital for them to
flourish, and we as viewers can take joy in the attempts to highlight the sweet and
unforgettable moments which do not always appear on Hollywood screens. What is more,
the truly international flavour of the event was highlighted by the selection of the thirteen films
for competition in the jury prize. These included some lesser known gems from places like
Egypt (Cut and Paste), Australia (2H37), Chile (En La Cama), Quebec (Delivrez-Moi) and
Kurdistan (David and Layla), highlighting the particular and the universal aspects of love and
relationships across cultures. Many of the films used love and romance as a vehicle for
raising deeper social or political issues. The Mons festival organisers expressed their
commitment to bringing this truly international flavour to the proceedings, for not only were
the films chosen from across the globe, but also its eleven jury members, coming from
diverse backgrounds, culturally and professionally. Each comes with a significant amount of
expertise of their own in cinema and the arts, and each had particular foci and interests in
world cinema – the chosen film will surely benefit from the truly global scope of these praises.

The global festival atmosphere was enhanced by the activities off screen as well, with each
night designated to the celebration of a specific cultural celebration from Italian, Brazilian and
Turkish. Festival goers enjoyed beautiful traditional music and food from each culture. This
spirit of creativity and cross-cultural sharing was in evidence throughout the festival in Mons.
Leaving aside the politics of festivals for directors, distributors, and the media, which use
such spaces to conduct business transactions and work busily to establish their careers,
most directors, film crews and guests took advantage of living together almost like a family -
discussing all sorts of issues between lunches and dinners, and engaging in casual chats.
In the following days, crossing through the venues, people would nod their head to one or
another – in the often cynical world of ‘show business’, this was a heartening reminder of a
more human contact brought about by cultural and artistic interaction. This is, after all,
fundamentally what art is about.

The Mons festival organisers also seemed to show this awareness by involving many young
volunteers wishing to gain experience in the field. They were given the responsibility of
escorting and transporting festival guests, giving them also the opportunity to interact with a
diverse group of people and learn not only about cinema, but about life. Although this
community minded approach made for some glitches in practical organisation, it was
heartening to see such opportunities given to enthusiastic young people, and it is to the
credit of these young volunteers and festival organisers that they committed to long hours
with endless light-heartedness and warm welcome.

Love is a not language that can be censored, it travels freely across cultures, and regardless
of where we belong its effect is sometimes so strong that it can transform our lives, beliefs
and ways of life. Some of us, more fortunate than the others to live in multi-cultural societies
can understand that a medium like the Mons Festival International du Film d’Amour, can be a
vital tool in bringing this about. As for the films themselves, they gave us a glimpse into
expressions of love in all its forms, across cultures and in very different conditions.
Congratulations to the organisers of the 23rd
Festival International du Film d’Amour in Mons,
Belgium for helping to bring this about and
contributing to cultural as well as technical,
cinematic understanding. Emmas Glueck, from
young director Sven Taddicken, deservedly takes
the grand prize for a haunting and at times absurd
– but always deeply genuine – depiction of the
touching co-existance of love and death; while
Kurdish-American director Jay Jonroy’s heart-warming crowd pleaser David and Layla, with
its story of star-crossed and politically riddled love played for laughs, unsurprisingly wins the
honour of being voted public’s favourite at the 23rd annual Mons Festival International du
Film d’Amour.

Kameel Ahmady was the sole English speaking UK representative invited by the festival
organisers to write a comprehensive cultural report on the events. He is visual anthropologist
who has written number of film reviews and research dealing with themes of gender,
diaspora, multiculturalism and modernity.

He maintains a website at: www.kameelahmady.com