On Design: Room Design

Art and Literature, Culture, Update & News
©KarzanKardozi

Room

“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain”

from Walden (1854) by  Henry David Thoreau.

More than a week ago, I wrote about designing book covers (Read here), and at the end of the article, I refereed to my room and promised to write and suggest some tips about designing your room, I got a few email asking for the article, bust watching Football kept me away, now,  the World Cup is over (I was cheering for Argentina, but it wasn’t to be), I got some hours of spare time, so here is how I planned and designed my room:

In Winter Time

In Winter Time

As I mentioned in the previous article; designing a book cover is not much different from designing your room,  or as a matter of fact; in designing anything that exist in nature, there are a few elements you have to consider; Space, Objects, Layout, Theme, Colors, and Time.

Having a deep passion for cinema, I wanted my room to become like an inside of a theater, the reason for that is because I use the room mostly to watch film and write, and in order for one to feel comfortable in an environment, one must reshape that environment to one’s liking and taste, only then can one become creative and feel comfortable.

One of the question that I’m always asked as to why I choose the color Red as the primarily color for the room? I chose is for the simple reason that it is my favorite color, and also; by its nature, Red is an active color, it attract the eye, move and animate one, but to balance the Red, the second color that I have used it Black, almost every object that I choose to decorate the room has a tone of black to it; from the DVD/Book Shelves, to the wood on the door, tables, furniture and even the frame of the posters on the wall, Black is the secondary color.

I like to think that I have divided the room into Seven different parts, each function independently from other in term of its suggestive layout, rather an abstract notion to explain, but I will try my best to point out the reason I divided the room into Seven parts:

Posters

Posters

1. Passion for Cinema: When you walk into the room, the first think you encounter is a collection of Film Posters on the wall (Read about my selection of Posters here), there are a total of 38 Film Posters, they are my favorite films from my favorite directors, I have designed some of the posters myself, others I have collected, some were given as a gift by friends (thanks Ruben), and I have printed most of them. The frame are made of wood, all in the same style; black. In a way, one side of the room is almost like a small wall on a museum to be looked at.

Shelves

Shelves

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
― from Walden (1854) by  Henry David Thoreau.

Tolstoy standout about the rest

Tolstoy standout about the rest

2. DVD and Book Collection: On the other side of the wall, hang floating shelves, therefore taking very little space, for now; space are filling up, which mean in the future, I might have to add more shelves at the bottom of it. So far; it hold more than 720 DVD cases (total of 3330 DVDs in them), and more than 200 book. Although I primarily collect DVDs from Criterion, Master of Cinema, and other known publishing label, I also have large quantity of Film that I brought back from the States with only the disk and no cases, a reason that I decided to display the DVDs by directors and countries, for example; I have the complete works of Hitchcocks both on DVDs and Blu-rays, for the blu-rays they are in their own cases, but for the DVDs, I have combined many film into one case, therefore saving space, same is true for Soviet cinema; I managed to display one hundreds years of Soviet films into at total of 96 DVDs cases, there are total of 645 DVDs in those 96 cases.

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Yilmaz Guney

Culture, Film Diary, Film Review
Yilmaz Guney : The Ugly King (April 1, 1937 - September 9, 1984)

Yilmaz Guney : The Ugly King (April 1, 1937 – September 9, 1984)

76 years ago, on April 1, 1937, Yilmaz Guney was born: He  was born in the small village of Yenice near Adana in North Kurdistan under occupation of Turkey, to a peasant Kurdish family and went on to become a the most beloved Kurdish/Turkish filmmaker, and if had lived a full life, he could have been 76 years old today, but fate took him away at his peak, he died in 1984, in exile in Paris. He was called “The Ugly King”, labeled as the “People’s Artist”, he was never afraid to stand up to what he considered injustice, and for that, he paid dearly, spent half of his life either in prison or exile, yet, he left us with many cinematic gems. He was and is viewed as a mix of revolutionary of a  pop icon, as someone put it, “Something like Clint Eastwood, James Dean, and Che Guevara combined”.  Looking back at my film diary, here are a few of his film that recently I had a chance to write about:

Seyyit Han (Yilmaz Güney, 1968)

Seyyit Han (Yilmaz Güney, 1968)

Seyyit Han (Yilmaz Güney, 1968) As always, Guney leave you at the end of a film, breathless. Among his early work, Seyit Han is a part folktale, part western and a part revenge/superhero film, full of  lyrical touches. The story of a  tragic love affair between Seyyit Han, whom after seven year hunting down his enemies is back to claim his bride, Keje, but he soon find out that she is getting married to the village Agha, the same day as he get back. Brilliantly scripted, the film soon take a tragic turn as by mistake, the Agha tricks Seyyit Han into shooting Keje, when Han find out, he goes on a revenge spree in a masterful climax, with Guney’s direction, he makes times stop, the last ten minute is a visual tour force that matches any Kurosawa or Leone’s action scenes, one thing is sure, Guney know how to direct actions, the man seems to be a master everything. Beautiful. READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE (IN KURDISH)

Umut (Yilmaz Guney, 1970)

Umut (Yilmaz Guney, 1970)

Umut (Yilmaz Guney, 1970) After watching Guney’s Umut, Elia Kazan was so moved by the film, he wrote an article to the Miliyet newspaper; “Umut is a poetic film, completely native, not an imitation of  Hollywood or any of the European masters, it had risen out of a village environment”, he went on to describe how the characters in the film came across as the most realistic portrayal of the working class; “I had not been able to forget the people in Guney’s story. The notion of hope is seemed to these characters a grotesque notion, something to be ridiculed. After I have seen the film, for the rest of that day, I felt anxious about them, “What is going to happen to those people to those people?”, I asked”. My friend, watch Umut, the one film that revolutionized the Turkish cinema, brought the realism to the screen that few other film could match. READ ELIA KAZAN’S VISIT TO GUNEY IN PRISON HERE (IN KURDISH)

Baba (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Baba (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Baba (Yilmaz Guney, 1971) Baba means Father in Turkish, and the father in the film is Yilmaz Guney himself; the story of a poor country father who end up taking the blame for a murder he has not committed, take the guilt of a rich man upon himself for the sake of his family, as he leave them behind, telling the lie that he travels to Germany to find work, only to come back many a years later from prison, old and grey, he finds he ugly truth; the was betrayed by the rich man, and what has remain of his family is his daughter, force into prostitution to make a living. Heartbreaking tragic story of a common man lead a stray by the greed of a few. The film was an inspiration for Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys (2008)

Umutsuzlar aka The Hopeless One (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Umutsuzlar aka The Hopeless One (Yilmaz Guney, 1971)

Umutsuzlar aka The Hopeless One (Yilmaz Guney, 1971) When one think of Yilmaz Guney, one think of him as a great director, but he is also a great actor, just watch Umutsuzlar and notice how he had created a characters that from the first frame of the film to the last has a continuity to him that few could achieves, a characters full of pain and sorrow expressed through gestures rather than dialogues.  Umutsuzlar  is a visual film, there are few dialogues, instead, the visual and music tell the story, it has a slow pace, rather a beautiful pace to it that one could find in Fassbinder’s films. Few could compare Guney to Hitchcock, but there is a similarity between Umutsuzlar and Vertigo and I could even go so far as to make the statement that it is among the fewest film to captures the spirit of Vertigo; both films are about a man’s desire to create a woman in his own vision, past and the memory of the past dominate the film. There are scenes in Umutsuzlar that are as powerful as Vertigo in expressing the desire and the love between the two characters, compare the wedding scene Vertigo‘s hotel scene, even the camera work is similar, they both move in a circle as the two lover embrace each other. Then there is the music, a theme that is played from the beginning of the film over negative images of the character in red, and keep playing the same theme every time the two lover recall the pain of separating, the theme connect the space between them. The power of cinema is to create a feeling, to create a thought in the viewer indirectly and Guney manages to create that with empathy to the character’s pure emotion that we share. Umutsuzlar is a purist film, a visual tour de force from Guney, a forgotten masterpiece. A tragic film about love, grief, pain, memory and longing.

FC Barcelona in a Game of Chess

Culture, Sport
Pep Guradiola's Barcelona: Lifted 14 trophies from the 19 competitions

Pep Guradiola’s Barcelona: Lifted 14 trophies from the 19 competitions

I have been watching Football since I was a little kid, and in my lifetime, I have never seen such perfection and mastery in playing Football as watching FC Barcelona play for the past four years, they were and are in my opinion and that of many the greatest team ever played the game, especially under Pep Guradiola, the club lifted 14 trophies out of  19 competitions, a record that will never be broken, nor a team like that will ever to be seen again playing the beautiful game, they are one football team that I love and admire most.

"What has been will not be Again"

“What has been will not be Again”

Pushkin once said, “What has been will not be Again”, it is true for this beautiful team also, despite annihilating all their opponents in La Liga this year, and ahead of their main rival, Real Madrid by 16 point, therefore, already in the driving set for another La Liga title, yet, some questions has been asked as to Barca’s “ending era”, for in the past few weeks, the team lost two match, one very crucial, the away game of the Champion League to AC Milan, losing 2-0, and last night, a less significant match, losing to their arch rival, Madrid in el clasico, 3-1,  for all the talks of Barcelona’s era ending, it is total nonsense, for the same players who won everything under  Guradiola can do the same again under a brilliant tactical coach, and they were doing it under Guradiola’s assistance and Barca’s new coach, Tito Vilanova, but since his temporary departure from the club and treatment for Parotid gland cancer, Barcelona had suffered unlike before, the team is lacking something, they are missing a coach, a tactical one, and that only made their opponent to out maneuver them tactically and therefore defeating them even if Barca were the better of the two team.

Snow in Sulaimani

Culture, Update & News

A few weeks ago it snowed in Suli, I took my camera to the roof,  and took some pictures, snow is perfect for photography, for the texture of the snow itself work as a light reflector, even at night, the landscape is flooded with light,  when shooting indoor, it is a perfect source of soft light. After taking the picture,  added some over the top filters from Photoshop, the result is not bad:

© Karzan Kardozi

© Karzan Kardozi

© Karzan Kardozi

Thalassemia: Shadow of Death

Culture, Update & News

©KarzanKardoziI have seen many houses in my time, traveled many places, many cities, towns and villages since my childhood, and each time revisiting the places, I had noticed many changes in them, from tragic to that of joy, but one of the houses that had always kept a vivid memory in me, the changes in that  house, of the people in the house, has been so tragic, that just thinking of it make my heart heavy.

The house, or rather, the mud house that once were, is located in the upper northern part of the Shadala village, a 45 minute care ride from the city of Suliaimani now, but in the old days, it took half a day to reach it; the house with its mud roof, gray walls and big rooms looks upon the whole village as towering figure. The first time I visited the house was many years ago, I was a little kid of seven, I remember vividly playing Football on the roof of the house with other kids, every few minutes the ball would roll down into the ground, down into the village, across the streets, one of the us had to make the long journey of bringing the ball back.

Every summer, with my father, we would make a journey to Shadala village, for my grandmother was from the village, and most of my Father’s distance relative reside there. The house belonged to kak Ahmed, he was a distance cousin of my father. It was my first visit to the house, and I remembers it very distinctly.

©KarzanKardoziWhen we got to the house, my Father left me alone in a little room, as he went with kak Ahmed to visit the village, I sat in a corner, shy, not knowing what to do, until a little woman of forty, the wife of kaka Ahmed walked into the room, seeing me sitting alone, she shouted to his little son, who was playing outside, “Come and play with Haji Sharif’s son”. Everyone in the village, then, and even know, referred to me as “Haji Sharif’s Son”, for my father is almost like a cult figure among the people of the village.

Her son, Rejan, was of the same age as me, skinny with green eyes, he seemed fragile and pale, we became friend right away. He told me about a beehive they had, and being mischief of a boy, I wanted to see the hive, he took me to it, all the time telling me on the way not to touch it. I picked up a stick, into the hive, suddenly, bees everywhere, attacking, a few bite here and there, I started to cry as loud as possible, all the time, Rejan trying his best to comfort me, “It is nothing, look, I got bitten many times”, he took a handful of mud and put it on the places where I was bitten, comforting me, “It is nothing”

Five minute later I was sitting on a big soft carpet, eating lunch with the family. There were smell of freshly baked bread, goat milk and chess, sweet honey and hot tea. On the mud walls, hang three portraits; two young boys and a little girl, on the corner of the room, the mother was sewing little socks for Rejan, now and them, she would look at us with a smile.

After dinner, I could not help but whisper to my Father; as to whom the people in the pictures were? “They were the children of kaka Ahmed”, but as I looked across the room, there were only Rejan, his older brother, Ibrahim and younger sister, Sazan, and the pictures on the wall were not of them, “Where are they now”?, I whispered again to my father, “They are dead”, he whispered back to me.

On the way back home, my Father explained to me the tragic story of kak Ahmed; As a young man, he had married his cousin, and living in the countryside, the place lacked medical facility, and even in the cities back then, there were no such things as “screening tests” or “blood testing” nor “genetic testing” for newly weeded couple. The tragedy is that their blood did not match, whenever they had children, they’ll have thalassemia, an inherited disease occurring primarily among people of Mediterranean descent, that is caused by defective formation of part of the hemoglobin molecule, it cause in increasing numbers of red blood cells, the only cure is to have blood transfusions every month in order to keep the children alive. They had three children, and each of them died when they reached the age of 18, a painful slow death, for the multiple transfusions needed to sustain life lead to an iron overload throughout the tissues of the body and eventual destruction of the heart and other organs. But, they kept having children, hoping; at least one of them would be born healthy, but none were. Each month they had to have blood transfusion for the children, but even that was helpless, for by the time they reach the age of 18, they would die a slow painful death. “Will Rejan die when he is 18?”, I asked my father, he was silent for a while, then in a whisper, “God only knows”.  I felt desperate and sad, knowing that the young boy whom I had just become friend, so full of life, will die when he is 18, and no one could do anything about it.

Shadala in 2005

Shadala in 2005

I left for America few years later, forgetting all about Rejan. 11 years later after my first visit, I returned to the house again with my father, the same mud house, with the roof looking down on the village, as I entered the house I heard the same “Haji Sharif’s Son” echo through it, they recognized me at once, the mother kept looking at me, “You are grown so tall”, sadness in her voice, her green eyes full of sorrow, her hair was already getting grey. There was the same smell of freshly baked bread, goat milk and chess, sweet honey and hot tea, but yet, there was a change; beside the portrait of three children, hung a portrait of little Rejan, his death had occurred a year before. Reminiscences began, as I looked at the portrait; I recalled Rejan’s smiling face, and his ringing voice, comforting me when I was bitten by the bees, “It is nothing”. I had to walk out of the room, as I knew if I had stayed any longer, I would burst into tears. Maybe I reminded the mother of Rojan, or maybe she knew about my grief, for as I left the room, she began to shed tears, I could hear her crying.

At dinner, I sat beside Ibrahim, despite being older than Rojan, he had outlived him, he was 23, but he already looked like an old man; his face wrinkled, yellowish, with no color in his skin, yet, he was as cheerful as Rojan, laughing all the time in a ringing voice that reminded me of Rejan. His younger sister, Sazan also looked much older than her age; she also had beautiful green eyes, just like Rejan and her mother. Each month, they both needed new blood transfusion.  I looked at the mother on the corner, she was breast feeding a new baby, a new girl, kaka Ahmed kept saying that the Doctor had told them that his new girl needed no blood transfusion, was healthy to live a long life, but the doctor was not sure nor was kak Ahmed. When we drove home this time, I did not ask my father any question, we both kept silent.

Shadala in 2012

Shadala in 2012

A few days ago, once again, I visited the little house, alone this time; it was for the wedding of kaka Ahmed’s nephew, I had promised the groom to take picture at his wedding, and as I was busy taking pictures, a beautiful, green eyed little girl of 7 ran up to me, with her ringing voice, she shouted to me, “Are you Haji Sharif’s son?”, “Yes, I’m, and who you might be?”, “I’m Suzan”, “Well, Suzan khan, who is your father?”, “My Father is Ahmed?”. There it was, little Suzan, she had the same green eyes as that of Rejan, the same cheerful smile. “Can you take some picture of me? Please”. I took more than a dozen pictures of little Suzan, all the time a dreadful though in me kept growing, is she also sick? That evening, I went back to the house, no longer a mud house; a two story modern brick house, with all the modern convenience furniture decorating the place. Walking to the room, I saw the mother, she was sitting on a sofa sewing, the television was on, little Suzan was watching a cartoon of Tom and Jerry, on seeing me, the mother stood, “Haji Sharif’s Son”, her hairs all gray now, she was already an old woman.

©KarzaKardoziI sat beside kaka Ahmed at dinner, the room was crowded, many people from the wedding party coming in and going out of the room, laughter and cheerful smiles. I had the burning desire to ask kak Ahmed about little Suzan, was she was sick or not? but I dared not too. Looking at the portraits on the wall, there were now seven pictures, beside Rejan, there were also Ibrahim and Sazan and another little girl that I did not recognize. Seeing me observing the pictures, kaka Ahmed asked, “You were friend with Rejan and Ibrahim?”, “Yes, I was”

 I felt uncomfortable, and trying to change the subject, I asked him, “I didn’t know Suzan was your daughter, I took some great pictures of her at the weeding, from whom did she get such beautiful eyes?”, “From her Mother’s side of the family”, kaka Ahmed said with a smile, looking at her wife.

©KarzanKardoziI found him a cheerful man, always smiling, despite the fact that he had to live with  the agony of losing seven children. “You know, my little Rejan had the same eyes as hers, he was beautiful like her, and he was so smart, he had the brain of a grownup man. One time I took him to the city to get a blood transfusion, it was during the time of Iraq-Iran war, we went to all the civilian hospital in the city, none had any blood, and my little Rejan was already weak, he couldn’t walk, I had to carry him on my back, I feared for his life, and I became desperate, searching from one hospital to another, but he kept comforting me, ‘”we will find it daddy”’, he kept saying. I managed to get a piece of paper from a Doctor, allowing me to get blood from the military hospital in the city, back them, the Azadi park was an Iraqi military hospital. We had to walk an hour to get there, all the time carrying Rejan on my back, and he kept kissing me on the neck, ‘”we will find it daddy’”. When we got to the hospital, the place was like hell on earth, Iraqi choppers flying in and out, brining in the wounded and carrying out the dead, the road leading to the hospital was like a bloody river, red from blood of wounded and dead soldiers laying around. When I saw that, my knee gave in, I told Rejan that they will never give us blood with all the  wounded soldiers laying around, but he kept saying with a smile, ‘”we will find it daddy”’. I went to the head doctor in the hospital, at first he refused to give us the blood, but when he saw Rejan, his heart got soften, he took us to a refrigerated room, and gave us two bags of blood. When he gave me the bags, I shed tears of joy, knowing my little Rejan will live another month. He was so full of life, always happy and smiling. He liked chocolate candies, and there was a shop in the village that sold it. One day he told me to buy him some chocolate candies, I took him to the shop, there were a group of Iranian Peshmerga forces stationed around the village back then, one of them was in the shop, when he saw Rejan, he started to hug him and kiss him, “I have a little son just like him in Iran”, Rejan reminded him of his son, he took him to the shop and told him to get anything he wanted, “I will pay for it”, but Rejan would not pick anything, he did not want him to pay, when he left the shop, then he picked the chocolate candies, and I paid for it. That is how he was; he always cared for others more than himself. A week after he died, when the same Peshmerga heard about his death, he came to our house, before he reached the front door, he went down on his knee, in the mud, shouting and crying, hitting his fist to the ground, I had to go and comfort him, “Come on now, you should be comforting me, I’m the one who have lost a son, but instead, I’m comforting you.” He was crying all day, telling me that he had seen many of his friend die in battle, but never cried like he did for Rejan, “Why did God take him away, he was so innocent, so full of life”, but God’s will is God’s will. Every Friday until the day he left back to Iran he visited his grave, I wish to know where he is now, he was a gentleman, Rejan reminded him of his son, that is why he was so taken by his death”

As I looked at Suzan, with her beautiful green eyes watching the television, I could not help but ask kak Ahmed the burning question, “Does Suzan also needs blood transfusion every month?”, “No, thanks God, she is healthy. God gave her to us healthy”. Just then, little Suzan, knowing we were talking about her, ran to his father, gave him a big hug, her little arms around his nick, I could see kak Ahmed’s eyes smiling with joy, “Do you know who this young man is who has come to our house?”, he asked her, pointing to me, “Yes, he is Haji Sharif’s son”, she whispered into his ear, they both laughed.

I could not bear it anymore, at that second, the tragedy and the joy of life combined were too much to bear, I picked up my camera and walked out of the room; into the cold, windy, dark night, and my heart was heavy.

The Most Beautiful: Expression in Time

Art and Literature, Culture, Music

The Most Beautiful: Expression in Time / True Heart Susie (D.W. Griffith, 1919)

Ah, the face, the expression of the face is a beautiful thing, captured in time, it is the most beautiful thing in the universe. You may say, what is expression of the face captured in time? It is those little split of second, when only the visual expression is capable of connecting the emotion that one is hiding, as time slows down into eternity, at that split of a second, language become secondary to the visual in connecting one’s deepest thoughts, almost like a magnate, both side are at the end of the receiving, giving and experiencing the same feeling.

Albert Camus (1947) © Henri Cartier-Bresson

If you ever been love, if you ever been out of love, meet the one you love most again, but unable to talk, you use expression in time in showing your emotion, you maybe be talking in language about Nuclear Physic, but your face express your emotion more than your deceiving language, as time slow down into eternity.  Ever been guilty of something and the person you talk to know your guilt, but both avoid talking about? or ever lied to someone and the one knows you are lying? or ever expressed a moment in which your life in a danger, you think you will die any second? as time stops, everything slow down, and you expression is lost in time, language in unable to express you emotion at those times, your memory became almost like a mirror reflecting the imagery in your expression, that is the most beautiful, because it is the only time in which one can tell that the ultimate truth in communication is reached.

The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (Charles Dawrin, 1872)

Charles Darwin wrote a brilliant small treatment on Expression of Emotion, not just in Human, but all other creatures, it is a recommend reading; The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)

Setsuko Hara in Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu, 1954)
“When the emotion became too much to carry on silently…”

In life, those precious seconds passes in real time for an observer, stored in the subconscious, it is the task of Art to capture it, and above all the arts, it is Cinema that can capture that split second of magic of the human face so brilliantly, and no one, and I say it loudly, no one can capture that magnificent emotion like the great Japanese master, Yasujiro Ozu. The last 10 minute of Tokyo Story (1954) is a text book of capturing Human Expression in Time, such masterly in little calculation of gestures, actions, and movement of the face, just watch the great Setsuko Hara, how she avoid in language showing her true feeling, but the expression on her face communicate her emotion to the audience as if in whispers,  it is such a universal language in communication that you could read all her thoughts, and you can’t help yourself bursting into tears with her in the train, at the end of the film, as finally, the emotion became too much to carry on silently.

Boy carrying a wine bottle (Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954) ©Henri-cartier Bresson

After cinema, it is Photography that manages to freeze those tiny moment in time, to me, Henri-cartier Bresson comes to mind, once in high school I saw his famed photograph,  Boy carrying a wine bottle (Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954) in a textbook, and the happy expression on the  face of that little boy, carrying those wine bottles was stuck in my mind, so stuck, that even now, I could clearly recall his happiness; so pure, innocent and gentle, and that little girl behind him, mouth wide opened, clapping, eyes full of laughter as if saying, “oops, I’m in the picture”, the images spoke the language of emotion.

A Girl at a Window (Rembrandt, 1645)

Portrait of a Boy (Rembrandt, 1665-1660)

There is also Painting, the master of capturing expression in time is no other than the Dutch master, Rembrandt, at times, looking at his painting, one could hear sounds, language spoken in gazes of the eyes alone, or the little twisting the lips, whispers, communicating a world full of secretes.

Audrey Hepburn as Natasha in War and Peace (King Vidor, 1956)

Then comes language, describing that magic moments in literature and poem, for poetry, Poe is the master, for he speak in images. For literature, it is no other than my favorite author, Tolstoy. The moment that always comes to my mind is from War and Peace; when Natasha meet Prince Andrew, after so many years, she meet the wounded and dying Prince Andrew; he got little tome to live, and Natasha, well, Natasha is incapable of expressing in word what her emotion express:

War and Peace (King Vidor, 1956)

From War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, 1869)

“….and she saw Prince Andrew clearly with his arms outside the quilt, and such as she had always seen him.

He was the same as ever, but the feverish color of his face, his glittering eyes rapturously turned toward her, and especially his neck, delicate as a child’s, revealed by the turn-down collar of his shirt, gave him a peculiarly innocent, childlike look, such as she had never seen on him before. She went up to him and with a swift, flexible, youthful movement dropped on her knees.

He smiled and held out his hand to her.

Prince Andrew collected all his strength in an effort to recover his senses, he moved a little, and suddenly there was a ringing in his ears, a dimness in his eyes, and like a man plunged into water he lost consciousness. When he came to himself, Natasha, that same living Natasha whom of all people he most longed to love with this new pure divine love that had been revealed to him, was kneeling before him. He realized that it was the real living Natasha, and he was not surprised but quietly happy.

Natasha, motionless on her knees (she was unable to stir), with frightened eyes riveted on him, was restraining her sobs. Her face was pale and rigid. Only in the lower part of it something quivered.

Prince Andrew sighed with relief, smiled, and held out his hand.

‘You?’ he said. ‘How fortunate!’

With a rapid but careful movement Natasha drew nearer to him on her knees and, taking his hand carefully, bent her face over it and began kissing it, just touching it lightly with her lips.

‘Forgive me!’ she whispered, raising her head and glancing at him. ‘Forgive me!’
‘I love you,’ said Prince Andrew.
‘Forgive…!’
‘Forgive what?’ he asked.
‘Forgive me for what I ha-ve do-ne!’ faltered Natasha in a scarcely audible, broken whisper, and began kissing his hand more rapidly, just touching it with her lips.
‘I love you more, better than before,’ said Prince Andrew, lifting her face with his hand so as to look into her eyes.

Those eyes, filled with happy tears, gazed at him timidly, compassionately, and with joyous love. Natasha’s thin pale face, with its swollen lips, was more than plain, it was dreadful. But Prince Andrew did not see that, he saw her shining eyes which were beautiful.”

Sebastopol Sketches (Leo Tolstoy, 1855)

A year ago, I experienced  a near death incident, and for a split second in time, everything stopped, it is hard for word to describe that feeling when one’s life is in danger to someone who had not experienced it, for it is beyond the law of Science and Logic, time seems to stop; as I was running, in the span of a short time, covering no more than 8 feet, so many different images and emotion flashed one after the others in my mind. Let Tolstoy describe best that split seconds of expression in emotion as time stops, how masterful the following description is of the last 5 second in the life of Praskukhin, only 5 second in time, but eternity in emotion:

Siege of Sevastopol (Franz Roubaud, 1854–1855)

From Sebastopol Sketches (Leo Tolstoy, 1855)

Praskukhin, who was walking abreast with Mikhaylov, had just left Kaliigin, and was beginning to revive a little, as he approached a less dangerous spot, when he saw a flash gleaming brightly behind him, and heard the shout of the sentry,” Mortar!” and the words of one of the soldiers walking behind, ” It will fly straight to the bastion!”

Mikhaylov looked back. The bright point of the bomb had just stopped in his zenith, when by its position it was impossible to determine its direction. But this lasted only a moment: faster and faster, nearer and nearer, so that the sparks of the fuse could be seen and the fatal whistling could be heard, the bomb was settling down straight over the battalion.

” Lie down,” cried somebody’s voice.

Mikhaylov and Praskukhin lay down on the ground. Praskukhin closed his eyes and only heard the bomb’s thud against the hard earth near by. A second passed, — it seemed an hour, — and the bomb did not explode. Praskukhin was frightened: had he been cowardly for nothing? Maybe the bomb had fallen some distance off, and he only imagined that the fuse was hissing near him. He opened his eyes, and it gave him pleasure to see Mikhaylov lying near his very feet, motionless on the ground. Just then his eyes for a moment met the burning fuse of the bomb spinning around within three feet from him.

Cold terror, which excluded all other thoughts and feelings, — terror seized his whole being. He covered his face with his hands.

Another second passed, — a second during which the whole world of feeling, thoughts, hopes, and recollections flashed through his imagination.

” Whom will it kill, — me or Mikhaylov ? or both of us ? And if me, where will it be ? In the head, — then all is ended ; but if in the leg, they will amputate it, and I will insist on their giving me chloroform, and I may still live. And, maybe, it will kill only Mikhaylov: then I will tell how we walked abreast, and how I was bespattered by blood, when he was killed. No, it is nearer to me — I will be the man!”

Here he thought of the twelve roubles which he was owing Mikhaylov, and of another debt in St. Petersburg, which he ought to have paid long ago; the gipsy melody which he had sung the night before passed through his mind. The woman whom he had loved appeared before his imagination in a cap with lilac ribbons; he recalled a man who had insulted him five years before, and whose insult he had not yet avenged, — though inseparably from these and from a thousand other recollections, the feeling of the present, the expectation of death, did not leave him for an instant.

” Still it may not burst,” he thought, and, with desperate determination, wished to open his eyes. But at this moment, even while his hands were closed, his eyes were startled by a red fire; with a terrible crash something struck his chest; he ran, tripped over his sabre, which was dangling between his legs, and fell on his side.

“Thank God! I am only contused,” was his first thought, and he wanted to touch his breast with his hands; but his arms felt as though fettered, and his head was as if in a vise. In his eyes flashed the soldiers, and unconsciously he counted them: ” One, two, three, soldiers ; and the one with his overcoat rolled under him is an officer,” he thought. Then a lightning flashed in his eyes, and he was wondering what it was they were firing, — a mortar or a cannon. Then they fired again; and there were more soldiers: five, six, seven soldiers passed by. He was suddenly horrified at the thought that they might crush him. He wanted to cry out that he was bruised; but his mouth was so parched that his tongue cleaved to the palate, and terrible thirst tormented him.

He felt that it was wet near his breast; this sensation of wetness reminded him of water, and he wanted to drink even that which caused that moisture.

” I must have braised the flesh as I fell,” he thought, and, beginning more and more to succumb to the fear that the soldiers, who continued flashing past him, would crush him, he collected all his strength, and wanted to shout, ” Take me !” But instead of this he groaned so terribly that he was horrified at the sound he himself made. Then some red fires leaped in his eyes, — and he thought that the soldiers were putting rocks on him; the fires leaped about ever less frequently, and the rocks pressed him more and more. He made an effort to push aside the rocks, and he no longer saw, nor heard, nor thought, nor felt. He had been instantly killed by a splinter that had struck his chest.

Tristan and Isolde (Jean Delville, 1887)

How about Music, the most abstract of all the art, can it capture human expression in time? Yes it can, when music speak in images, Richard Wagner does it best, he uses silence in order to stretch the time, painting pictures in Music, those magnificent long chords in Tristan und Isolde, stretched into eternity.

Halabja Documentary: Nasrin’s Story

Culture, Politic, Recommended Reading

Nasrin and John Simpson

I’m currently working on a documentary with John Simpson for the BBC on the 25th anniversary of the chemical attack of Halabja in 1988. John was the first Western journalist to report on the attack, ignored by many in other Western media outlet, he flew on his own in an Iranian chopper from Tehran to Halabja.

Listen to BBC Radio 4 program below

Yesterday, we met Nasrin, one of the survivors the attack. She was 16 years old when it happened, she lost 17 relatives, including her  Mother, Father, two Brothers and two Sisters. She told us a tragic story of how she managed to escape the city, carrying with her three little children, two of them on her back, carrying the third one on her arms, by the time she managed to get to safety outside the town, the children and herself went blind from the effect of the mustard gas that was used.

She told us that she did not know that Sarin gas was also used, which made many of the victim lose their mind and consciousness, becoming delirious before they died, “I thought the children were sleeping on my shoulder and dreaming,  for the kept calling their mothers, one of them was repeating, ‘I haven’t done my homework, I have to finish my homework’, before they died, they keep saying that they can’t see anything, that everything was dark, and I thought they were talking in their sleep, I keep telling them to go back to sleep, “You will see when you wake up from the sleep, it won’t be dark anymore”

We interviewed her by the same cellar that many of the victims had died. She told us that the effect of the gas could still be felt, John and the cameraman, Duncan, went into the cellar, they stayed for a few minute, when they came out, with eyes red, running nose, they told us that there was a cat hanging on the wall, seem to have died recently from the effect of the gas. I myself felt the effect later, as I was standing by the entrance to the cellar, doing the interview. After 25 years of the attack, you could still feel it. Nasrin told us that once they put chickens into the cellar, in less than a week, all of them were dead. They no longer used the cellar,  for it was too dangerous. Later, when we asked an export about our running nose, red eyes and that tickle in our throat, he told us that were were exposed to a very light dose of mustard gas, and it was of no danger. He examined another cellar at a short distance from Nasrin’s house, and indeed found small dosage of mustard gas, he had a detecting devise with him. The effect lasted for about two hours, we were advised to wash our face, we went into a mosque and washed our faces, still, the headache lasted for another six hours.

Nasrin

This is Nasrin’s story, the way she told us, in her language ….

I was 16 years old when Halabja was attacked. All that day, on March 16, 1988, the town was under heavy artillery bombardment from the Iraqi army. Many people had taken shelters in basement and cellars. Like the days before, a war between Iraq and Iran was raging. Daily bombardment was taking place between the two countries. Halabja was a border town, close to the Iranian border. To shelter ourselves from the bombs, daily, we would take refuge in cellars and basements. On that day, we thought it would be a usual day of bombing, we had no knowledge that a catastrophe would take place. We came down to this cellar, which belong to my family. My own house was at a distance from here. I was not the only one to take refuge here, I could say that there were more than 300 people who where gathered in the cellar; relative, neighbors and strangers. We took shelter here waiting to see what would happen. The place was crowded, my mother told us to get some food prepared for those who were staying.

Earlier that day, in the morning, Iraqi choppers were flying over Halabja. I saw the choppers flying overhead. I was here in the garden. One of the chopper was flying very low overhead. I knew it was Iraqi chopper, because one of the door had an Iraqi flag on it. One of the crew by the door was taking pictures of us. This cellar was crowded, and the children didn’t realize the danger, I remember, the children waved at the choppers, waved to the pilot. The chopper kept going around, taking pictures, the flash of the camera was hitting us. Some of the people told us that we should take shelter, it was not normal that something like that was happening, we should be scared. We should all go down to the cellar, but the house was crowded and we could not fit everyone into the cellar.

Some had to stay up here to prepare the food and what was needed. I, myself, with two of my sisters were preparing the food for the people. It was around 11 AM, toward afternoon,we were ready to serve the food, ready to eat.  My uncle’s family came to our house and told us that it was very dangerous, we heard unfamiliar sound of bombs falling.  They told us that in the northern part of the city, around Sarai Halabja, heavy bombs were falling, we could hear the sound, and the grounds was shaking under our feet.


Then, I heard a sound that was unfamiliar to me, I never had heard such a sound before, sound of a bomb falling to the ground near our house. Suddenly, the cellar became dusty,  heavy smoke filled the place.  I ran out of the cellar. Because there was no water and no electricity, we had brought up the water from the well  to use it. When I came up, I saw the water, it was black, what look liked black powder covered the water. The food plates that were prepared for lunch was covered with what looked like black ashes. We had birds, partridges in our  garden, they were jumping up and down. I picked one of them from under the trees. They were dying, trying to take their last flight, taking their last breath. I didn’t know what was happening, I told my brother about it, he told me, “Nasrin, leave them, come down to the cellar”. I went down to the cellar, everyone in the cellar had red eyes, they were vomiting.

Before the bombs had fallen, some of the people from the cellar went outside to a field across from the house. When they had seen the smoke and the bomb falling, some of them came back to help us, one of them was my husband. When he came to the cellar, he shouted , “For God sake, come outside, we have been attacked by chemical weapons”. At that time, he was a doctor at the military hospital. He was trained on chemical warfare and the use of gas masks. He was aware of what precaution to take.  He told us that Halabja is under Chemical attack, that the smoke was that of a chemical weapon. When we came up from the cellar, we notice that our place had a different smell from the one across the street. The wind was coming upward, bringing the smell here, you could notice by the smell that the air was poisonous.

As I mentioned, because of the daily artillery attacks, we never predicted a chemical attack. When we came out, we tried to escape, to get way from Halabja. The gas smelled like that of a rotten eggs, apples, from times to times, the smell would change. Apple, other time a rotten smell. We looked for a car, we didn’t have one ourselves, we tried to find one and take the people away. We couldn’t find any car. One of the man who was in the cellar had a tractor. He told us that he would bring his tractor and take away the children, old people and those who were severely wounded.

We put the old people and the children into the tractor. Some of us went with them to help, myself, my brother, Luqman, the wife of the driver of the tractor and a few others, we went along, the tractor was crowded. It was getting late, toward evening when we started to leave. We had plan to go outside Halabja, to Sarkani Tawera, to stay there and see what would happen to Halabja. We never expected to leave Halabja, we had plan  to go to the edge of the town, hoping to return once the attack was over. When we went up toward the northern part of the town, a bomb hit the road, the driver had to make a turn. I saw that many people were laying on the roads, I couldn’t believe that they were all dead. I thought they were asleep, or had walked in their sleep to that place. It was not just one or two person, there were so many, they all looked asleep, no wounds or blood on them. At first when we saw few of the bodies, you could imagine they were dead, but when you saw so many of them, on the road, laying down there, you couldn’t believe they were all dead, it was hard to believe.


When we escaped, just outside of the town, the driver of the tractor, because of the effect of the gas could not drive anymore, he could not concentrate, as if losing his mind, he told us that he could not drive anymore, the engine of the tractor turned off, he tried hard to start it again, but he could not. We had no choice but to get off. By now it was dark, it was nighttime. At that place where the tractor broke down, we had an Old Man with us by the name of Hama Khan, to this day, we don’t know what happened to him, he was lost. We had a plan to meet my Mom, my Dad, my brothers, sisters and my cousins in Sarkani Tawera, because of that, everyone in the tractor wanted to go to that place to meet our relative again.  We were not familiar as to where we were at, because it was dark and we were in a desperate situation. We had planned to save the children in the tractor, each person would carry two children, one on the back, and holding the other in our arms. Then, we took on the road, to escape, but we we could not find the place, we couldn’t. Someone came and asked us as to where we were heading? We told him that we were heading to Sarakani Tawera. He told us that we would not make it to Sarkani Tawera. He told us to go toward the lights that we could see in the dark, a place called Ababaili.


We took the road toward the light, a village called Ababaili. Once we got there, we saw that the place was deserted, it was also attacked. Because we were in a desperate situation, and on the road the children kept vomiting, and they were walking in their sleeps. I didn’t know what was happening, on the road, some of them kept saying, “Sister, I have to do my homework”. I didn’t know that the nerve gas had made the children lose their mind. I thought that they were asleep and were dreaming, talking in their sleep. No matter what, we had to carry them with us. We arrived in Ababaili, there was a house, half destroyed. We tried to get inside, on the other side, a door was open. We called out to the owner to come out, we didn’t know it was empty. There was nobody in the house, I told the other that we have no choice but to go inside and take refuge until next day.

When went inside the house, you could tell the place was crowded before, there were signs of life. We went into a room, all tired, wounded and in pain. We had come by the road, with the children, as if walking in a sleep, vomiting all the way, tired and confused. We put down the children in a room, they crawled to a corner. I went searching to get the children something to eat. I looked around, I could not find any food ready to eat. I opened a top of a container, it had milk in it. I tried to get the milk ready for the children. I could hear one of them shouting, “My eyes, I can’t  see, I’m blind”, I thought that she was exhausted and wanted to sleep, that is why she was saying, “I’m blind”. Another one shouted that he was also blind, then, everyone kept shouting that they were blind. They kept asking me how I could see? I told them, trying to comfort them; “No, you all are tired and sleepy, you are not blind”, I didn’t know what was happening. When I was about to warm up the milk, it didn’t take long, I went blind also. I sat down on, crawled into the room, joined the others, and from that moment on, I lost consciences.

Hawraman, Ashna and Awesar

There were nobody around to help us. Next morning, when my family had arrived at the place that we were supposed to meet, they could not find us. My husband started to search for us, he had looked everywhere, asked around. He had visited the Mosque in the town, and they had told him that there were some people in that house. When he found us, he thought that we were all dead, he came into the room crying. My brother, Luqman shouted to him that we were not dead, that we were alive, but all blind, we could not see anything. He took our hand, took each of us to the Mosque. He washed our eyes and face. Told us that this had happened to all the people in Halabja, we were not the only ones, that we had no choice but to escape to Iran.

After all the suffering in the hospital, and living in Iranian refugee camps, we always had a dream of coming back to our homeland, to return to our homes. After the death of all our relatives, all the suffering, we had no choice but to return to Iraqi Kurdistan again. We returned, the story of our return is as tragic as the attack on Halabja, it will take along time to tell it.

This is Halabja. This house is not the only example, in many places of Halabja, the same weapon was used. You see  all over Halabja, houses like this. We lived here for many years, now it is empty, it is empty because nobody want to come and live here. If you look closely into my eyes, you could see that I’m still wounded in the eyes. The wound that I have in my eyes is under constant doctor’s watch. I have lost my lungs, they no longer function. I have to get a surgery for my eyes in the future or I will go blind, there are many victims who had to get eye transplant because they were going blind.

Hawraman, Ashna and Awesar

Among the many who died in the cellar, from my family, I lost four of my sibling, two brothers and two sisters. Hawraman who was 8 years old, Ashna who was 10 years old, Wazera, who was 11 years old and Awesar who was 9 years old. I lost my Mom, my dad, and 17 other relatives. The final result that we got from hospitals,  22  victims from the cellar died in Iranian hospitals.

Every one want to live, to continue on living. But, what kind of life? A life without pain. We, in Halabja, after all that had happened to us, 25 years later, our suffering and pain still goes on. Everyday we live the day of the attack, because we are wounded, psychologically and physically, there are scars all over our bodies. The pain is still in our hearts, deep down, I suffer each second, remember that day on March 16, 1988, the day I lost everything that I cherished in life.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Here is also links to a few documentaries that I worked on in the past year:

Survivors of Iraqi Mass Graves aka One Thousand and One Apples (Taha Karimi) POST-PRODUCTION

Dress in Iraqi Kurdistan (Fulvia Alberti)
WATCH HERE

The Dark Side of Democracy in Iraqi Kurdistan (BBC)
WATCH HERE

Sulaimany Protest (Baudouin Koenig)
WATCH HERE

Film Posters: Boris Barnet’s By the Bluest of Seas and more…

Culture, Film Diary, Update & News

I used to have fun making fake covers for the Criterion Collection years ago, looking over hundreds of posters and trying to re-design them, but when it came to choosing 38 posters to decorate my room, it was the hardest task of choosing, how can one chose among hundreds of favorite films, only 38 posters?

By the Bluest of Seas / Self Design

It took me almost two week to decide upon the 38 posters, and among those 38, there was one film that had no poster to be found for, that was Boris Barnet’s By the Bluest of Seas (1936), one of my top ten favorite film. I shouldn’t say that there no poster for the film, there is a terrible design for its Russian dvd release in low quality. The reason that one can hardly find a poster from a Boris Barnet film is because Barnet is among the forgotten masters of the Soviet cinema, only two of his films have been released on DVD, Outskirts and The Girl with the Hatbox, and rarely any of his film were ever released in the theater as of recent . After a long search and no luck at finding a poster, I decided to make my own design,  copying the criterion cover for Ozu’s Late Spring.

Late Spring / Criterion Collection Design

The reason I had to have a poster of By the Bluest of Seas is because it is film that one never get tired of watching it, I’m simply in love with the film, it almost has a magical power over the viewer in recalling its rich images days, weeks, month, even years after the first encounter with it, that power is  best explored in this short essay by Nicole Brenez (short video below).

A film that is rich in imagery, lyricism, poetry, beauty, conflict and lovable characters  in a triangular love affair is best to have a poster that express all that, so it was no surprise to chose a similar design to that of Late Spring.

Lyricism of The Ocean

The lyricism is the ocean, always in the move, once I tried to count the shots of the Sea in the film, from the opening shot onward, I gave up after counting to 52, that is how much the Sea is present in the film, the sea is the face of the film, and the wave cover the upper half of the poster.

Poem of Love

What is poetry? Word in space. What is cinematic poetry? Image in time. The lower half of the poster is image in time as it is captured from the film.

Poem in Conflict

Between the love of Mariya and Alyosha is not only Yussuf, but also her fiance solider, whom we hear about but never see, she reject both Alyosha and Yussuf for a solider far away on a mission.

Poem of the Sea

Lyricism in everyday life

 The conflict in the film, unattainable love with barriers between the lovers. What is best to describe that, than split the image of Mariya and Alyosha, and in between, the conflicting imagery.

The choices were by directors, rather than choosing their best film, I choice my favorite film, take Francois Truffaut, his best work is no doubt, The 400 Blows, but my favorite film from Truffaut is La chambre verte. Some directors got more than one film, Godard and Ozu each got two. Some didn’t make the list due mostly for not being able to find a higher resolution images of the films that I wanted to print, not to mention that I only had 38 poster to chose from. Almost every single one of them is being fixed some way or another in  Photoshop, some text have been added to few of the posters.

On the Wall. Size of each is 70 cm by 45 cm:

True Heart Susie (D.W. Griffith, 1919)
Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1921
The General (Buster Keaton), 1927)
Sunrise (F.W. Murnau, 1927)
The Crowd (King Vidor, 1928)
City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)

The Man I Killed (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
The Only Son (Yasujiro Ozu, 1936)
There Was A Father (Yasujiro Ozu, 1942)
By the Bluest of Seas (Boris Barnet, 1936)
Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1947)
The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

Good Sam (Leo McCarey, 1948)
The River (Jean Renoir, 1951)
The Big Sky (Howard Hawks, 1952)
The Big Heat (Fritz Lang, 1953)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
Ordet (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1955)

A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956)
Seven Men from Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956)
Night Of The Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
L’avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1959)

Nazarin (Luis Bunuel, 1959)
Accatone (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1961)
8 1/2 (Fedrico Fellini, 1963)
Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)
Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 1970)

Fat City (John Huston, 1972)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974)
Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa, 1974)
La chambre verte (Francois Truffaut, 1978)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
Close-up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)

The following two: 100 cm by 70 cm:

Pierrot Le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
Yol (Yilmaz Guney, 1981)



Many lyrical images from from By the Bluest of the Seas couldn’t make the final poster, nor did many of my favorite posters made it to my wall. Below are the images and the poster that were left out:


The Poor State of Kurdish Cinema

Culture, Film Review, Kurdish - نووسینی کوردی

In today’s ever addictive technological world in which the visual media play a major role shaping daily events, cinema has become a weapon used by artists from various cultural backgrounds to not only communicate their inner most personal thoughts on life, but also introduce their own unique culture into a wider audience, cinema is used as a tool no just to communicate but also to inform. If we look at American’s cultural domination of the world (putting aside the politic), one of the reason behind such domination is the widespread of its visual media, especially flooding of Hollywood films into the world market. More than any other form of art, cinema has the power to unite, share, inform and shape people’s opinion of one’s own culture, be it positively or negatively. Unfortunately, this form of art, the art of Cinema, has no root in Kurdish society as of yet, there are many reasons, we can name the geopolitical situations of the Kurdish nation, its break up into four region, the long historical oppression of its culture and language, wars, economic reasons, the various dialectic of the Kurdish language as an obstacles to having a united cinematic language, many historical and present causes that the reader might be familiar with which will take not only two articles, but a whole book to cover all of it. But let us name a few reason behind the poor state in which the Kurdish cinema is in, especially the state of filmmaking in the Iraqi Kurdistan, reasons that is more of an inner creation as much as it is of an outside influence.

Systems of Production: One of the biggest different between the art of filmmaking and various other art forms is this: In producing a film, one need money, equipment, and a cast of many specialist in their own fields. Generally speaking, to write a novel, a poem, to draw, or to compose a piece of music, the production of such an art is between the artist and its personal creation, but to make a film, one need more than a personal creation, one need many tools of productions beyond one’s power. In Kurdistan, there is no Production Studio to produce film nor a market to sell the product. If we look at the commercial aspect of filmmaking (putting aside the Art Films), looking at the Hollywood Studio System, Bollywood System of India, or even if we look closely at our neighbor’s commercial production system, the likes of Turkey and Iran, in which their Films and TV Dramas are now flooding the Middle Eastern countries in a clear battle with Hollywood  and Bollywood to the domination of the region’ s market.  We notices that in all four system of filmmaking, a person with a right film script or an idea for a film that has the potential for a commercial success can find a producer or a production studio to take the responsibility of producing such film. Producing of the film, financial budget, tools of productions, professional staffing for the film, dealing with various Governmental and private agencies in term of permit and locations, many other financial and production aspect of filmmaking is taking care off by the producer or the studio. In the stage of the post-production, distribution and marking of the film is also the task of the studio or the producer.  In Kurdistan, there is no such system of producing, there are no producers taking responsibility for producing a film nor a Studio System with professional staff aiding a producer, if there ever was one. If a filmmaker were to make a film, not only he/she has to be the mind behind the film, but also has to put all efforts in finding a budget for the film, professional staff , tools of production, and in many cases location and actors, many of the task of the pre-production stage that is of the Studio in a professional system of filmmaking has to be taken care of by the director, leaving him exhausted by the time of the film’s production, all the creative energy dried out of him (as it happened to a friend recently). These are severe problems for any artist, not having a proper atmosphere to produce a film lead to nihilism and pessimism, leading them to stay away from making films. In the technological term, up to now, in Kurdistan there is no professional staffing nor professional tools for educating and producing new generation of filmmakers, unfortunately, the few TVs and Media outlets in which from time to time help filmmakers to produce Films or Drama series would not allow the filmmaker to have full independent.

Distribution Market: Let us say that after an endless struggle, a filmmaker manages to make a film, now comes the dilemma of distributing it. Compare the Hollywood System of distribution and that of Kurdistan, maybe such comparison is far stretched and the reader might complain “Hollywood where and Kurdistan is where?”, but such a comparison is necessary in order to understand the Hollywood’s domination of world’s market. After the production of the film, a huge sum is put aside for advertising and marketing of the film in order to inform the viewer, the daily TV commercials, radio, newspapers and internet advertising inform the viewers about the film’s story and the date of its release. Within a same time period, the film is released within many cities across US and Worldwide. If a film to play only one week in the multiple theatrical houses, there is a guarantee that the film would get back not only its production cost, bus also Millions of dollars gained. In the US alone, Millions of people attend film screening daily, seeing a film on its first day of release is a cultural phenomenon in the States, it is psychologically deeply rooted. The cheapest ticket to watch a film might get as low as $6 , after the film’s theatrical release for many weeks, or month, the film is then released on DVD into the market. Thousands if not Millions of copies flood the market, pricing between $10 to $30. After the distribution of the DVD or at the same time, the right to broadcast the film is sold to one or multiple TV stations both inside and outside US. Let the viewer then calculate the film’s financial gain to its producer or the Studio that produced the film. As we see, the Producer or the Studio System that produce and market the film would get back their money with gains, they are ready to produce not just one, but multiple other films. Do we have such a System in Kurdistan? The answer, No. In Kurdistan, we don’t have a decent chains of theater houses to let the viewer watch a film in a rightful atmosphere nor there is such a market to distribute film into the theaters. Even if we have have multiple chain of theater in each villages, towns and cities across Kurdistan, a normal Kurdish viewer does not have the desire to watch a film in theater weekly, unfortunately, such desire has not taken root in our viewers yet. With no place to show your film, nor a viewer to watch it, there is no need to advertise your film, and without advertisement for the film, the viewer won’t be informed about such film. The ironic situation is also true for distributing the film into the market, on TV screens or DVD. So far, in Kurdistan there is no law to protect the copy right of one’s work from illegal distribution in the market in forms of DVD. These and many other reasons create an atmosphere making it impossible to have a Production System creating and distributing films, even if there is such a Production System or a Producer in practice producing films, such an atmosphere would only make the system or the Producer bankrupt after making a single film, for it is impossible to return the cost of producing a film, leading them abandon such task. The only hope for Kurdish filmmaker now making independent films is the hope of sending one’s film into various International Film Festival, hoping to win an award, or gain a distributor taking the task of distributing the film into a foreign market.

Cultural Awareness toward Cinema: The proper introduction of any art form and the process of creating artist need a cultural awareness, a system of educating through cultural institutions and various teaching methods. Not having a system of eduction teaching cinema, lack of newspapers and books on such subjects in Kurdish language, nor having a School or an educational institution teaching and educating future generation of filmmakers are some other reasons behind the poor state of Kurdish cinema. It is true that many of the great auteurs of cinema has never been to a Film School or attended an educational institutions dealing with cinema, but many of them got exposed both technically and culturally to a system in which they learned the trick of their games. If we look at the great directors of the Hollywood; the Hollywood Studio System has produced almost all of them, learning their craft and becoming filmmaker as they went along with the system. The directors behind The French New Wave of the 1960s, the likes of Jean-Luc Godard.، Francois Truffaute، Jacques Rivette, created a new wave and style of filmmaking after they were exposed to the Cinematheque Francaise under Henri Langlois, by watching cinema’s great treasures of the past, and writing about it in Cashiers du Cinema magazine. A group of friends, by getting together, watching and criticizing films for many years, writing about it, created one of cinema’s greatest school, The French New Wave. In Kurdistan, there is no professional system of to education in the filed of filmmaking, not having a proper Film School to educate (In a city like Sulaimani, not a single course on Cinema in all its university, colleges and schools could be found), nor is there a place to a show film, a cultural place like that of Cinematheque, neither is there a publication to inform it reader about cinema, taking into account the hundreds daily publications that is flooding the market, and the countless cultural institutions both Governmental and privately funded. The only cinematic awareness that exist as of today, is unfortunately, a wrong one, created by individuals each on their separate own ways, most of it is influenced by Hollywood’s Blockbuster films and dubbed foreign TV Dramas (mostly Turkish and Iranian), an influence of style and theme that one get exposed too daily on the local TV and satellite channels, to create by copying theme and styles of others blindly is not cinematic creation, it is a counterfeit copy of an original work, lacking any creativity. It is no wonder that today’s Kurdish viewer is exposed more to foreign films rather than a Kurdish films or Drama series. We hear times after times the criticism of the local TV and Satellite channels for broadcasting dubbed Drama series or foreign Films, but criticizing alone is not the answer, for let us not forget that a Kurdish viewer is like any other viewer worldwide, by watching a Film, a viewer want to be entertained, by not having high quality Kurdish film and Drama series, a Kurdish viewer to fulfill such desire of watching entertainment, has no choice but to look upon a foreign market. As we see, like a circle, the reasons are intertwined.

Yilmaz Guney

Where to? A reader, after reading this article might get very pessimist about the future of Kurdish cinema and the present poor state it is in. But, I have a feeling that the future, even if it is a distance future, is bright. If a nation could produce a filmmaker like Yilmaz Guney, who manages to create multiple cinematic masterpieces one after another under very hard conditions in a well established but oppressive system, then the same nation can build a cinematic school of its own, through it, to share its unique culture, its history, its tragic stories with the world. But, to have such a dream come true, there must be a new beginning with new ideas, new plans and new way of educating the future generation about the true nature of cinema, Kurdish cinema must blossom upward from its roots in order to compete with the rest of the world by creating a new generation aware of the power cinema, and a new way of thinking.

Making of 1001 Apples (Taha Karimi, 2013)

Culture, Politic, Recommended Reading, Update & News

One Thousand and One Apples. Hashem: second from left.. ©Avin Sharifi

For the past few weeks, I had a chance to work as an AD on a docu-fiction film, One Thousand and One Apples by Taha Karimi. The story of the film is about ten men, the only survivors alive today escaping from the mass executions during the Anfal Campaign of 1988. Out of estimated 182.000 civilian mass murdered, some buried alive under the sands of Southern Iraq, only these 10 men are alive today to tell their stories as a witness to such a crime. The film is a love poem in tolerance, hope and reconciliation.

I had the honor to meet them, talk to them. In the next few posts, I will try to post each person’s unique story with documents and photos that are all part of the archives of kak Omer Muhamad and his one man effort to gather data Anfal many published in his magazine, Anfalistan.

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                                           The Kurimi Massacre: 28/8/1988

The Kurimi Massacre took place during the 8th stage of the Anfal Campaign, on 28/8/1988.

On August 8, 1988, a truce was announced between Iraq and Iran to end the long eight year bloody war between the two country. Ali Hasan Majid (Chemical Ali) took a chance to once and for all clear the border areas between Turkey and Iraq from the KDP’s militias, in a military campaign which is now known as the 8th stage of the Anfal Campaign.

The first stage of this campaign took place on 25/8/1988, attacking the villages in Badinan region and the border area with Turkey with Chemical weapons. The aim was to scare the population into submission, leaving their villages and livelihood into the various camps that were setup as a part of removing and re-populating the area.

After the Chemical attacks on 25th, on 28/8/1988, the ground forces moved into the area. Many of the villagers tired from moving and living in caves and hideout waved the white flag, surrendering to the Iraqi forces. The women and children were separated from the men, they were taking to the notorious Nzarki Qala (a concentration camp) and Mangesh Camp (re-populating camp). The men, 33 of them were told to take a walk outside the village, about 200 meter away from the village, within an hour, the massacre took place. Miraculously, out of the 33 men, 6 of them survived, one of them is Hashem Muhamad Rashed, and this is his story:

Survivers from Kurimi: Karim Naif. AbaBaker. Abduqahar. Hashem. ©Anfalistan/Omer Muhamad

My name is Hashem Muhamad Rashed, I was born in 1963 in Sulaimani, dropped out of high school during the 9th grade. I was recruited into the Iraqi army, and not wanting to serve in an army fighting a useless war, I deserted the army and went to stay at my relative in Kurimi Village near Duhok.

In 1988, Kurimi village had 150 families living in it, located in Duhok province, it is only two miles from Mangesh Camp. After the chemical attacks on 25/8/1988, the villagers decided to leave the area for safety, into Turkey. Unfortunately it was too late, the road leading to the borders were closed by Iraqi soldiers. With the inhabitants of another village, that of Chalke, now numbering around 200 people, confused and tired, we decided to head back home into Kurimi and surrender to the Iraqi army and the Kurdish collaborators with them (Jash), that was the day of 28/8/1988.

It was around 7:30 am when we decided to surrender. At first, we all stayed together, Women, Children and Men. After searching us for weapons, they separated us into two groups, Women and Children on one side and the Men on the other. They separated us three times, creating various groups. Khala, who is my uncle but much younger than me ended up with the Children and Women, he was a young boy, two time he ended up with the Men, on the third time, we forced him to stay with the Women and Children, that is how he survived and is still alive today. They took the Women and the Children away, there were 33 of us left in the village, only the men. They told us to walk, taking us to the south of the village, in one line we walked one after another for about 200 meters. Looking into the line from right to left, I was the second one from the right, but coming from left to right, I was the last two on the line. We walked by a vineyard, while walking and seeing the grapes, I thought to myself “This is the end of us, we are going to be killed”. My cousin, Abduqahar, he was beside me, I told him that we were gonna be killed any minuets. The treatment we got from the officer and by the look in their eyes suggested they were gonna shoot us. Lots of movement, they keep coming and going, talking on their radios all the times, with a large army of Soldiers and Collaborators surrounding us on all side. We stayed by the vineyard for a while, they brought us water to drink, we were sitting on the ground all the time, waiting. After drinking the water, they told us to move downward the hill, this time I was the first in line, with my cousin Abduqahar second behind me. We walked downhill for a short time, then they told us to sit down again. During that time while sitting back at the vineyard, sound of heavy distance gun shots could be heard all around us, we only heard the sound, didn’t know what it was for. Above us, on top of the hill stood the soldiers, just as they told us to sit, in the process of sitting down, I looked up toward the top of the hill, I could see a group of soldiers standing above me but I couldn’t see the rest behind or beside them, they were about two of three meter above us, maybe more. Just as we were about to sit down, I heard a voice shout “Fire” in Arabic, that is when they started shooting into us.

They shot at us wildly, lots of bullets were fired. They changed the first magazine, shooting with the second magazine, the sound of the bullets seemed to be hitting bodies, making a horrifying sound. Sound of shouting and crying could be heard, my cousin Abuqahar shouted as a bullet hit him on the ribs, as we laid down facing the ground, he looked at me and said “I’m wounded!”, I told him that I was not hit. I could feel the bullets hitting the ground beside my head, dust and small rocks taking of from the impact of the bullets and landing on my head. Whispering, I told that nothing has happened to me and if I survived I will help him. A young man beside Abduqahar on the other side had many bullets in him, blood dripping from his body, he was already dead. They changed the magazines on the Kalashnikov for the third time, shooting more wildly into us, I was not hit yet. Then a brief silence as I heard the commander shouting “Enough, shoot them one by one, the mercy shot”. A Soldier walked down toward us, coming down the hill, I could hear his footsteps, he stood right above me, my head between his boots. They say that a soul is not easily taken away, but I felt at that second, that my soul was leaving my body, felt as if I was breathing my last breath. I heard a shot and felt as if I was electrocuted in my legs, felt as if my legs were falling a part from each other, then a sharp pain in heart. He moved away from me, toward Abduqahar, but he didn’t shoot him, maybe because he was all red with blood coming from the young man beside him. By the time he walked down the line, he had finished a whole magazine on the bodies, then he walked up the hill and way from us.

For a while I stayed in my position as the Soldiers retreated back to Kurimi, away from us as far as 500 to 600 meters, being down a hill, they could not see us nor can we see them. Then suddenly, they started shooting bombs and shells into the hill, maybe it was their tactic to bombard us, and then claim that we were killed during a battle, sound of heavy shelling and bombs. By now, with  the summer grass being dry, the place caught fire. If I had stayed in my place, I would have burned alive and would not be here to tell you this story. As I tried to stand up, I saw Abduqahar, he was wounded on the chest, he could walk, I couldn’t. As he tried to help me stand up, Karim Naif stood up on the far side, he was alive, he had one bullet wound on his shoulder, as he had landed under a person beside him during the shooting. Abduqahar told Karim to try and stop the fire for it was indecent for a dead body to be burned. Karim did his best to stop the fire, using his bare hand, being a young man with no experience, he couldn’t stop the fire, his hands catching fires at times. He returned to help Abduqahar in carrying me away from the fire to safety. At that time, I thought that only the three of us had survived. I told them to go and leave me in my place, to return soon to rescue me. Abduqahar told me “If I make it to safety I will return and rescue you, if not, that mean I’m dead”.

I stayed behind, alone, I looked back into the bodies, I could see only black smokes, with a greenish fire setting alight the dead bodies. I stayed in my place for 20 minutes, then I tried to walk, I grabbed the ground with my fist, stood up, I was about to fall down again to the ground for I was very weak, but I hold my ground. I was wearing Adidas shoe, the cheap ones that were made in Iran, just as I put down my foot to the ground, blood poured out the of shoe into the dry yellowish grass. I walked painfully for 20 meters, away from the village, that is when I saw AbaBaker. He was also wounded,  he had managed to escape by crawling on his hands away from the fire,  he couldn’t walk. I asked him “What we should do?”. He told me to walk away and rescue myself, that Abduqahar and Karim will come back to rescue him. I walked away. I didn’t dare take the road for I was bleeding, to hide all traces of blood and footsteps, anywhere there were grass I would walk that way, for I knew the soldiers would soon count the bodies and know some are missing, then they would come searching for us.

With a blood dripping down to the ground, leaving traces, behind me an army of Soldiers and Collaborators, ahead of me Abduqahar and Karim, maybe even safety ahead, I stood in my place for a second, thinking of what to do next as I looked over the yellowish grass covering the mountains.

Hashem standing in the middle…..©Avin Sharifi

I decided to walk, no matter how painful it was walking on a half broken leg. After a while I arrived at a small creek, it is called Bosai Sheri Cham, as I was about to get to the creek, I saw Abduqahar and Karim, I called them twice, they got scared at first from hearing my voice trying to hide, on the second calling they realized who I was. I arrived to join them, just as I sat down to relax, we could hear a distance sound of a chopper. We went into the trees to hide until the chopper despaired. Abduqahar and Karim went away for a short time to search, they brought back a horse, they put me on the horse as as we went looking for what we could find from the hideout places that the villagers had all over the mountains in case of emergency. We found a first aid kit, gathered some cloth to wrap up our wounds with. Abduqahar knew the area well, he told us about a good hideout place, the place was down the creek. As fast as we could, we cleaned the wound and wrapped it in clean cloth, cleaned ourselves by the creek. We heard a voices getting near, it was the sound of Sadiq, he had also survived but wounded like all of us. Sadiq was from the village of Chalke, a bullet had ripped apart half of his hand, Abduqahar had to use a knife to cut off one of his finger to pull out the bullet.

We dug a hole, hiding the bloody clothes in it.We stayed by the creek that night. Silence, moody and scary night it was, I could never forget that night. Death were everywhere, smell of blood. In the dark, the rocks and the trees seems to me like dead bodies surrounding us from all side. A terrible night it was. In the morning, Abduqahar went to the top of a hill looking down on Kurimi, to check the surrounding area, especially the troop movement. He was wounded like all of us, but he could walk better than any of us, he had a bullet in his chest, breathing hard at times. He came back and told us “The troops are still in their places, many tanks occupying the area”. We couldn’t show ourselves, we each had a tree branch with out, every time we would move, we would hide the traces of our footsteps. The area we stayed had a pond of water gathered in it, about two feet deep, trees and grass hiding us from the view with a big tree casting its shadow on us. I slept down by the pond, Abduqahar, Karim and Sadiq slept on both side of it. We were hungry, very hungry. Abduqahar went and brought back a few tomatoes and a sack of nuts. We divided the sack of nuts equally, each time a person would get 27 nuts to eat, no more than 27 so it would last us for a while, we didn’t know how long we were gonna stay.During the 8 days of the hideout, we also had two cantaloupe, we only ate on of them. One day Karim walked into a deserted village, brought back a few pieces of bread, he told us that a dog was eating the bread and he had to chase the dog away to get it.

From August 28 and on, a day after the crime, we had no more control over our destiny. We had no hope and that made all of us very weak, no more strength to do anything. Everyday until September 5th, Abduqahar would walk up the hill, come down and tell us that “The troops and tanks are still in their places”. I told them many times to leave and they should save themselves, but Abduqahar would not listen, “I would rather kill you here than leave you like this” he would say. We stayed by the creek for 8 days. Then on the 8th, troop movement, we heard a distance sound of soldiers coming toward us, they were talking in Arabic “Come, Come”, the commander shouting at them, at times sound of gun shots could be heard. That night we decided to leave the place, Abduqahar brought the horse. At a distance of 1 kilometer, we found a cave, it is called the Black Cave, we stayed in the cave that night. It was a dark night, rarely you could see anything, we had no more medicine nor food left, we had no choice but to get separated, Abduqahar and Karim decided to walk into a nearby village. I stayed with Sadiq.

After half an hour, I could hear sound of people talking. I told Sadiq that the troop had founded us and at any minutes they would come to get us. Not known to me, that morning, Abduqahar and Karim surrendered themselves up to the collaborators (Jash) in the village. Karim had come with them to show them our place, he shouted at us not to be scared, that the collaborators arresting us were from a known tribe famous for their honesty, they had promised not to harm us. They came into the cave, with them a pot full of meat, we had not eaten a decent meal for 8 days, it made us happy to see a pot full of meat, very happy.

The collaborators put me on a horse, at first they were scared to be found out that they are helping us by the Iraqi army or spies working for the army, so they took us by the creek, told us not to move from our place. They left, later two of them got back with sugar and tea, told us they would not return anytime soon for the troops might suspect them. Now, I was alone with Sadiq. On September 6, toward the afternoon, heavy gun fires could be heard, Sadiq burst into tears fearing that Abduqahar and Karim were executed, they got shot. But the shooting turned out to a good news as Karim ran down the hill toward us shouting “I have good news, I have good news. general amnesty has been declared by Saddam”, the shots were for celebration. Three collaborator later came to carry me to the village, their Mostashar (commander of the collaborators) knew my relative, he treated us with dignity. They cleaned my wound, wrapped new clean cloth around the wound, then took us to Mangish Camp, we were now at the hand of the camp’s manager. Some of the spies in the place recognized us, we told the manager the truth, that we escaped from the Kurimi Massacre, he told us “No one can touch you anymore, for the word and amnesty of our leader, Saddam Hussien is the law of the land”

Later, they took us to a military camp in Batufa, then the same day they took us to Birsipi camp near Zakho. At the camp there was a Doctor from Baghdad, he cleaned my wound again, very respectable man he was. Next day they took us to Nzarki Qala concentration camp, that is where the real tragedy start. Everyday, just to torture us, they would take us up and down the stairs into the yard, back and forth, hundreds of people packed into little rooms like animals, no food to eat. The people told us many horrible tales of the time before the general amnesty, they told us that every day the guards would take the men out into the yard and smash their heads with bricks, like watermelon, just for the fun of it. Few men were left in the camp when we arrived. We stayed in Nzarki Qala for two days, then they took us to Bahraka Camp, with an Eva car full of us, packed to the limit, hungry and dirty, they drove us into Bahraka Camp through Duhok just to humiliate us, passerby standing on the sidewalks looking at us. The driver of the Eva was a Shia from south Iraq, he was a good man, knowing that I was wounded, he put me in front to sit beside him, he told me that we were lucky to be alive, I asked him why he is saying such a thing, “You are lucky, because you guys have been fighting Saddam for 20 years and he pardon you. But we, we are from the South, they don’t trust us, they give us guns with no bullets in it, when we face you in a fight, you shoot at us or we have to shoot at you, one has to kill the other but none of us want to kill the other one”, he showed me his Kalashinkove, it had no bullets in it. We started telling each other about our miseries.

We ended up in Jezhina Camp, we stayed there for a while. Then one day, hundreds of people from Erbil came to rescue us, I would never forget them for treating us in such a decent manner, they brought us food, they brought us everything, from a smallest item like a needle to large stacks of foods, if it not were for them, we would all be dead. At first the guards would not allow them to come to the camp to give us food, they would beat them, humiliate them, but they kept coming. That is how we were saved. The people took me to a hospital in Erbil. I stayed there for a week, most of the Doctor knew who I was, but they kept silent, even if that mean risking their own life. On September 29, I had a surgery on my leg, Doctor Muhamad Bajalani did the surgery, here is the tragedy of us the Kurds, he saved my life, but he was killed himself during the Kurdish civil war of the 90s, he is no longer with us. Later as I would visit Doctor Muhamad Bajalani for treatment, I would pay the fee, but then a little later he would send the money back to me. A decent man he was.

To make a long story short, I stayed with Abduqahar at Jezhina Camp until the uprising of 1991, we could leave the camp at times, I would go and visit my family in Sulaimani or relative in Erbil. We lived in a tent, I tried to work and build a decent house in the camp, left for Sulaimani in 1992. I got married in 1995, now I have a boy and a girl. I survived, I’m alive, but more than half the inhabitant of Kurimi are not, they were all murdered, mass murdered during the Anfal Campaign. That was my story.