Duhok Film Festival has increasingly grown to become an international event since it first began in 2012. Photo by author.
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – The 5th Duhok International Film Festival (IFF) kicked off to a successful start Saturday evening with the opening Turkish-German film “Zer” by director Kazim Oz with a sold out show following a red carpet ceremony with VIP guests and crew members.
The Convention Hall at the University of Duhok campus where the films will be showing allows seating for 800 people and Salih Arif, Vice Festival President for the 3rd year in a row, expected a sold out show.
“In our experience from the last 3 years, we have been receiving a huge audience,” Arif had told Rudaw English in an interview prior to the screening of Zer. “Sometimes all tickets finish and the all the guests are not able to enter. Today, I also think the hall will be full.”
Arif was correct. All seats were taken and many more film attendees watched while standing or sitting in the aisles between rows of seats while many more had to be turned away due to lack of space.
When Program Manager of the Duhok IFF, Bina Qeredaxi was asked why Zer was chosen as the opening film, she said that she believed that Zer and the Duhok IFF had the same mission.
“It’s a really important film for us because it’s sharing the same mission of the festival. The film is telling about how a person can return his cultural identity through a song and this is what we are doing through the festival,” she explained. “We are trying to return the cultural identity to the region through films. So we found this mutual thing between the region and the film really interesting.”
Zer follows a young man raised in New York as he traces his roots to find the song his grandmother sang to him on her deathbed. His grandmother was a survivor of the Dersim massacre, where thousands were killed in a Turkish military campaign to suppress a rebellion in 1937 and 1938.
Director Oz told Rudaw English the idea for the film Zer began in 2015 when he was working on another project related to the traditions of Derzim [Tunceli] in Turkey.
“I found the story there [at the village]. Zer was a long song and very common with many different versions,” he said and then began researching it.
“After searching for the story of the song for a while, it became a full story and then I turned it into a film.”
Zer has already participated in many international film festivals and has also been awarded.
One festival attendee, Valerie, a teacher in Duhok from Germany said she enjoyed the film because it showed the troubled history of a Kurdish family across three generations.
“A grandmother who carries the burden of expulsion, a father who denies the roots of his family and a grandchild who unburdened by his cluelessness traces the fate of his family following a melody of the past,” is how she described the film.
Another attendee, Stevin, a student from Duhok stated he really loved the idea of the film and believed it was the best film to open the Duhok IFF.
“We must have more movies like this, Kurdish movies,” he said. “The idea of the film and the guy Jan [main character], who left his life in the USA and traveled all the way to Turkey only for a song.”
Director Kazim Oz was born in 1973 in Turkish Kurdistan. Oz earned an MA and PhD in Fine Arts and has a wide range of experience in acting and directing. His works have received various awards and he has also participated in other well-known film festivals as a jury member.