Kurdish tragic love story moves film festival

A tragic love story set amid the massacre of Kurds in Iraq in the 1980s aims to highlight the importance of courageous women in Muslim societies, the film’s director said at the Rome Film Festival.

Fariborz Kamkari’s “The Flowers of Kirkuk” tells the tale of Najla (Morjana Alaoui), an upper class Iraqi forced to choose between love for a persecuted Kurdish doctor and the traditions of her family.

The film – said to be the first international production in Iraq since the Gulf War – explores the theme of individual responsibility in front of crimes against humanity, and also the rebellion of a woman in a Muslim society.

Iranian-born Kurdish director and screenplay writer Kamkari said that by writing a tale that explored the rights of women in the Middle East, his film told a universal story about Muslim societies.

“I have known lots of women in the Muslim world who have the strength to change and who fight daily against the rigid social laws that constrain them,” he said at a press conference at Rome’s 2010 film festival.

Moroccan actress Morjana Aaloui said she believed “The Flowers” could play an important role in promoting an image of a strong, combative Muslim woman.

“The film shows a different image of women, a more modern Muslim woman. Usually we see women portrayed as downtrodden, but for us it was important to show that some fight to change things,” she said.

Kamkari said there were parallels between Najla and real-life cases of women who fall foul of Islamic law, particularly Sakineh, an Iranian mother who has been sentenced to death for an “illicit relationship.”

“I see some similarities between the film’s protagonist and Sakineh: the film is about a woman who doesn’t follow the law set out for Muslim women but tries to change it, eventually sacrificing herself for love,” he said.

“The Flowers,” produced by Italian, Swiss and Iraqi film companies, was the first international production to be shot in Iraq since the Gulf War, the film festival said.

The film’s story was inspired by the experiences of the Kurdish director, who was born in Iran as part of a Kurdish minority and now resides and works in Italy.

“I felt I had to tell the story of what I lived through, transforming it from personal to collective memory in the hope that the things I lived through would never happen again,” Kamkari said.

Although the film’s international production and multi-ethnic cast has led cinophiles to label it a “stateless” film, Kamkari said he had looked to Italian cinema for inspiration in portraying brutal details from Iraqi history.

“(Roberto) Rossellini taught me how to tell the story of a war, how to narrate a huge event through the personal stories of protagonists,” he said.

“The film tries to tell the roots of what happened in Iraq, the dark years that we have lived through belong to a period of the country’s history that has been ignored by the media and cinema,” he added.

The population of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of Iraq, was devastated during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and massacres by the Iraqi army.

“For more than 80 years Iraqi people have been victims of a dictator. The country has been built through bloodbaths,” Kamkari said.

“We cannot continue to turn our backs on the country’s history. ‘The Flowers’ is rooted in that dark time and I hope others will begin to have the courage to tell stories about this and other crimes against humanity,” he said.

November 3, 2010



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