Duhok Is Building A Future

in 9th Duhok International Film Festival

by Vassilis Kechagias

Despite the fact that a considerable period of time has passed since the 9th Festival of Duhok, held in the capital of autonomous Kurdish Iraq, the very intense memories will not leave us. We were surprised to find ourselves in a city and a festival that want to be at the center of modern developments, far from the war devastation that one encounters sixty kilometers away in neighboring Mosul. To achieve this, to establish peace, everyone in Duhok knows that “one hand washes another and two wash the face.” It is a given that culture is the most effective branch of peace in the whole world, therefore the cinematographic festival so prominent in the region has all the guarantees of promoting peace, with the ambition to spread it to the entire cinematographic planet. And with the possibility to do so, we would add.

The most positive thing that the visitor encounters at the Duhok Festival is this mixture: promoting the local culture, and everything that can be its international version. First of all, the films themselves. It is not only the competition section of Kurdish films (from which the FIPRESCI committee had to choose), but also the rest of the festival program, which consisted mainly of films with some connection to Kurdistan, either because of production partnerships, or because of the subject matter. Domestic productions may not have been at an enviable level, but they had the necessary aesthetic pursuits to pave the way for their achievement.

On the other hand, films such as Black Night (Karanlik Gece) by Özcan Alper, have, in an excellent way, assimilated the style of Turkish directors, with the everyday life of Anatolia taking on the dimensions of a thriller. Other Kurdish-born directors brought to the festival decent co-productions from Sweden or Switzerland, which represent the open and unwritten chapter of Kurdish cinema’s relationship with advanced cinema. Finally, in this boutique festival one finds films from all over the world, consistent with the independent-cinema line, combined with themes and directions that require boldness and an open horizon.

In general, the Duhok Festival is not only in a mood to promote, but also to attract. Kurdistan is a special and sunny landscape for a large part of the year, such that it can meet production needs for films that would like to feature mountainous geography, mixed with open, dry landscapes. Open, of course, to scenographic interventions. A region that found itself hunted by the Saddam dictatorship, that experienced in its neighborhood the brutalities of ISIS, now has an open mind, next to the familiar militancy of its inhabitants. These two features are the best recommendation letter for anyone who wants to see or do cinema!

Vassilis Kechagias
Edited by Robert Horton