By Mustafa Gundogdu

I am very pleased be given an opportunity by Leitrim County Council to curate the programme for the first ever Kurdish Film festival in the Republic of Ireland. Apart from my love for the cinema and my  desire to promote and show Kurdish films wherever possible,  this three day festival carries a greater significance – to honour the Kurds living in Carrick on Shannon. I hope non-Kurds will enjoy these fantastic films which will warm their hearts, and will let them know more about their neighbours, colleagues and school mates of Kurdish origin

The Kurds are the biggest nation in the world without a nation state, we live under occupation by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria and vast majority of the Kurdish people are deprived of their basic rights. Considering that 20 million Kurds in Turkey have not got a Kurdish film festival of their own, and that Kurdish filmmakers face bans on their films by the authorities even in the 21st century and considering that, speaking Kurdish, let alone filmmaking, is a major crime in Syria for the Kurdish population or that Kurdish filmmakers in Iran need to develop extra talents to deal with official censorship or they might end up facing a life in exile, then this festival in a small town like Carrick on Shannon has a lot of significance for the Kurds and Kurdish filmmakers..

Before programming this festival I had a chance to visit Carrick on Shannon to meet some members of the Kurdish community to hear their opinions and their expectations of the festival which helped me to formulate the programme. The Kurds resident in Carrick on Shannon are all refugees and brought here under Irish Government Refugee Resettlement Scheme. It came as no surprise that the biggest request from the members of the community was to tell their stories to the wider public and to help promote tolerance, mutual respect and cultural understanding amongst Irish people towards the Kurds. I can not think of any better way than cinema to achieve this expectation. I cannot say that this festival will change many things about the conditions for the Kurds or the perception of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, but I hope the festival will help to create better understanding among the communities in Carrick on Shannon.

The programme includes films by Kurdish directors from all around Kurdistan. Miraz Bezar, young Kurdish director based in Berlin is originally from North Kurdistan and we will be opening our programme with his multi-award winning film Min Dit – The Children of Diyarbakir. The film is based on a story set in the dark days of the 90s in Turkey, during the height of the war between the Turkish army and Kurdish resistance. This war is continuing today, costing lives and forcing thousands to become refugees all around the world.

Anfal is the name of genocide campaign against the Kurds in South Kurdistan led by the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein between 1986 and 89. Anfal destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kurds and forced them to flee from their homeland and it is the context for feature film Whisper with the Wind which was produced by the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Culture and directed by Kurdish director Sharram Alidi.

Renowned French director Philippe Lioret’s wonderfully made film Welcome is an escape story of a Kurdish refugee and criticises France’s immigration policy,  and, by extension, Europe’s immigration policy in general.

The programme includes three documentaries that will help audiences to picture the realities faced by the Kurds and what they have been going through over the decades. Kurdi by Doug Aubrey and Peri Ibrahim is based on personal story and will take you on a short historical journey around the political developments in Kurdistan since the 1980s. Meanwhile Yuksel Yavuz’s Close Up Kurdistan uses a personal journey to update viewers on the political situation in Kurdistan through the eyes of a Kurdish director based in Europe. Kurdish director Mano Khalil, originally from Syria and now living in Switzerland, offers another personal story with his documentary David the Tolhildan, a true story which raises questions about respect, human dignity, solidarity, freedom and violence.

During the Anfal campaign Kurdish director Hisham Zaman left Kurdish city of Kirkuk as a child with his family to start a new life in Norway. We will be showing his multi award winner films Bawke, Winterland and The Other Ones that deal with the migration in one programme.

The programme includes 2 short film programmes which comprise of 12 Kurdish short films. Short 1 programme was selected by Transition Year students at Carrick Community School from short films recommended by me. The second short programme is my selection and the majority of the films are dealing with the issues faced by women in Kurdish society and immigration.

Because of the limitations in terms of dates and funding it is never possible to programme as many as films you would like but I hope you will find current programme as a good start as any for this first ever Kurdish film festival in Ireland. Irish and Kurdish people have gone through similar historical and political experiences and the achievements of the Irish people have always been hugely admired by the Kurds. Once again I would like to thank for this opportunity given by the Leitrim County Council. Like one of the greatest African director Ousmane Sembene said “We tell stories not for Revenge, but to find our place in the World”. I hope that this festival will contribute to this aim.

 Mustafa Gundogdu


1st Sept 2010