Melbourne Kurdish Film Festival finalized

    Yılmaz Güney’s documentary drew attentions

    Devrim / Melbourne / 23 March, 2007

    The first Melbourne Kurdish Film Festival which took place
    between 21 and 23 of March in 2007 has been finalized.
    Australian director Jane Mills’ documentary on Yilmaz Guney
    that shot 23 years ago while Guney was alive drew attentions.
    The short film “Black water” received the best film award
    along with the short documentary “I’m angry with God”
    receiving the second prize and “Bicycle” receiving the third
    prize at the festival. Jury also gave complimentary awards
    to Jiyar Gol’s “The Emblem of Turkey; Kurdish question”
    and Taha Karimi’s “White Mountains”. Melbourne Kurdish                              Black Water
    Film Festival is organized by a group of Kurdish film lovers and sponsored by Institute for Kurdish
    Studies in Australia, Asia Link at University of Melbourne and Victorian Multicultural Commission.

    “How Kurds would create a cinema?”

    Dr. Muhammad Kamal who is a senior lecturer at Melbourne University
    made the opening speech. Dr. Kamal said the Kurds could not create an
    independent state in 20th century and suffered massacres at the hand of
    the four states that control Kurdistan. Dr. Kamal explained that although the
    first film shown in Kurdistan was in mid 1920s in Sulaymaniyah the Kurdish
    Cinema did not come out until early 1990s. Dr. Kamal said “How a nation
    like Kurds who experienced massacres and genocides would create a
    cinema” and expressed that claimed that the idea of Kurdish Cinema has
    started by the films of Yilmaz Guney. Also Dr. Kamal said “Though his films
    are not in Kurdish as a result of oppressions in Turkey, the topics and
    characters of his films are Kurdish.” Dr. Kamal said the aim of Melbourne
Kurdish Film Festival is to promote the Kurdish cinema to Australian society and to support the
new and young Kurdish directors in their artistic work and it is planned to organize the festival
continuously in following years

    Before the screenings of films Kurdish Fashion Show and Kurdish Folk Dance took place. After
    that famous Kurdish musician Tufan Toghyani performed a Daf show which was absolutely
    amazing to listen to.

    The films, mostly from South and East Kurdistan, shown at the festival consisted of short films
    and documentaries. At the first day of the festival two documentaries “Muhajir” (Kurdish for
    migrant) directed by Vaheed Vaheed and “Yilmaz Guney: His life and his films” directed by Jane
    Mills were screened.  

    “Guney’s films are about oppressed people and Kurds”

    “Migrant”, directed by Vaheed Vaheed from Iran, is a 24 minutes long documentary telling the
    story of a Kurdish man, Hassan, deserted Iraqi Army in 1975. Since then Hassan has been living
    in Iran. Hassan is a professional sportsman but cannot complete internationally for Iran as he is
    not granted a refugee status for more than 30 years.

    Jane Mills documentary “Yilmaz Guney: His films and His life” was
    extraordinary in terms of revealing the interesting life of a political
    filmmaker living in Turkey. Shot in 1984 just before Guney passed
    away in Paris, the documentary is mainly built around an interview
    with the director and it is said that the interview is the last filmed
    interview with him. The documentary reflects the story of Guney’s
    films such as Yol (The Way), Suru (The Herd) and The Wall, and
    Anxiety, by going through hardships Guney endured during his life
    in Turkey. Also the documentary investigates the political aspects
    of Guney films along with the interconnection between his life and
    his films. For example Guney tells during the interview that he is
    originally Kurdish and in The Herd (1982) he portrays the life of                          Jane Mills
    his family.

    The documentary reveals very successfully that because of undemocratic nature of Turkish state
    Yilmaz Guney had experienced prosecutions and imprisonments on the basis that he was a
    “communist”. In 1961, Guney is put in jail for writing a short story which deemed as ‘communist
    propaganda’. Guney explains that when the prosecutor told him that he was a communist and
    knew everything; at that point he decided to know everything in political sense and started to
    educate himself politically.  

    After screening, Mills told the audience that she
    cannot forgot the moment of meeting Guney in Paris.
    Mills said that “I was waiting at a very expensive
    restaurant. Suddenly a car stopped outside and four
    men rushed out. They were Guney’s guards. He was
    guarded al the time because Guney was receiving
    threats from Turkish state and Turkish nationalists.
    Then Yilmaz Guney got out of the car wearing a white
    suits and he had, as always, a very charismatic
    appearance. During the interview he was seriously
    sick; I can remember we had to stop the interview
    several times because he was very weak.” Mills
    stated that Yilmaz Guney made political films and
    especially in his earlier films he took the working
    class as his subject matter, but later Guney portrayed
    the life of Kurds in his films, such as in The Herd and
    The Way (1982).

    Second day

    “I’ll be a lawyer”

    The second day attendance was lesser than the first
    day. 5 short films, ‘Human Chess Machine’, ‘The
    Mirror of the Last Day’, ‘White Mountains’, ‘Scale’ and
    ‘Oh Hell!’, and a documentary ‘The Emblem of Turkey’
    were screened. Kurdish-Canadian director Jiyar Gol’s
    documentary “The Emblem of Turkey: Kurdish
    Question” is a very striking documentary and
    applauded by the audience. The 57 minutes
    documentary, set in Turkey in 2004, investigates the
    possibility of peace between Turkish state and Kurds.
    Reflecting the suffering of Kurds under the Turkish regime and the forceful migration of Kurdish
    villagers to big cities, the documentary provides a significant insight about the Kurdish problem of
    Turkey. Jiyar Gol spends a month in Turkey and visits some Kurdish and Turkish cities
    interviewing both sides to question if a peace can be achieved between conflicting parties. What
    linger in my mind after watching the film are the lines of the young Kurdish people. Jiyar Gol asks
    a young Kurdish girl whose father killed by Turkish soldiers and whose brother joined PKK later,
    what she would like to be in future. The answer is quite heartbreaking: “I want to be a lawyer
    because our many people jailed and I want to defend them at courts.” This line is repeated by
    some other Kurdish children when the director poses the same question to them. One can easily
    see the sufferings of Kurds in those children’s eyes and in their aim to be a lawyer to defend their
    people. On the other hand Jiyar interview a Turkish young man whose soldier brother got killed in
    a clash between PKK and Turkish Army. He says “If I have Ocalan here right now I would slice and
    kill him with a knife.” Hearing these lines makes one seriously think if a peace can be achieved in
    Turkey between Turkish state and Kurds…

    Questioning the “Brakuji”

    The 30 minutes short film “White Mountains” directed by Taha Karimi
    of Eastern Kurdistan was another attention grabbing documentary
    screened in the second day of the festival. White Mountains is a
    criticism of “brakuji” (Kurdish term to describe the fight between
    siblings). This film reflects the internal conflict among Kurdish
    political parties through the life of Mullah Ibrahim who collects the
    dead bodies regardless of which parties they are belong to and
    bury them. Mullah Ibrahim places some small white stones at the
    places where any Pashmarga killed and he thinks the meaningless
    fight will stop when the all mountains covered with white stones.                    White Mountains

    Third day

    At the third day of the festival 10 short films and documentaries were shown, those are ‘Life’,
    ‘Black Water’, ‘Bicycle’, ‘The Lost Dream’, ‘I am angry with God’, ‘Terracotta’, ‘The Opposite World’,
    ‘Breathing’ and ‘Mud Roof’.

    The short film, “Black Water”, directed by Sahim Ömer Halife from Belgium, -won the best film
    award, criticizes honor killing. Armanc a Kurd from Turkey living in Belgium kills his wife, thanks to
    his father’s manipulation, on the basis that she had affair with another man while they were in the
    village. Armanc is told that his son is from someone else. At the end of the day Armanc finds out
    that the boy is his own son and he made a mistake in killing his wife. However it is too late for him
    to be sorry as he has to serve 30 years prison sentence for this vital mistake.

    “I’m angry with God” which won the second prize at the festival is an excellent 10 minutes short
    film. Directed by İbrahim Rahmani of Eastern Kurdistan this film reflects the miserable life of
    several old and sick people. The film opens with the image of an old blue door of a village house.
    The director tries to interview an old man who is inside the house and but he does not open the
    door because he is angry with everything including the God. In spite of the insisting questions and
    demand of the director the old man never opens the door so we cannot see the old man
    throughout the whole film. Then film turns at the other old people living in the same village and
    reveal their sufferings. However I think it would be more striking if the film finished at the blue door.

What was lacking

    Owing to being the first Kurdish Film Festival of Melbourne there was some problems with the
    organization of course. Namely, no films of Kurdish directors from Northern Kurdistan screened in
    the festival. And the venue was not very good for the screenings. But overall the festival was
    excellent and I praise the work of the organizing committee, especially Tuana, for their great work
    and hope to see a better and comprehensive 2. Melbourne Kurdish Film Festival next year!


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