Promotional artwork from The Dive, a film by Israeli director Yona Rozenkier. Photo: DIFF
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – The Yilmaz Guney Award is one of the top prizes awarded at the annual Duhok International Film Festival (DIFF). This year, however, the award was withheld.
The reason? Discrepancies in the film selection and the last minute withdrawal of an Israeli-made film – The Dive.
“Due to regional complications and considerations, Duhok IFF unwillingly withdraws the film The Dive by Yona Rozenkier from the world cinema competition although the film was screened in the festival program,” read an announcement on the official DIFF website.
“Duhok International Film Festival deeply apologizes for this incident.”
Rozenkier, who is based in Tel Aviv, said he was notified by DIFF that his film had been removed from the competition.
“It was removed due to political pressure I believe,” Rozenkier told Rudaw by email. “But I would like to thank the festival deeply for screening there.”
He says he appreciates the festival organizers’ courage for screening his film in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – a country which does not officially recognize Israel as a state.
The Dive is Rozenkier’s “tender yet analytical debut examining what it means to be human,” which follows the story of three brothers who must set aside their differences to carry out their father’s last wish.
“I wish times will come when we will see cinema as a way to bridge cultures, especially in our region,” said Rozenkier.
Cash prizes for festival competition winners can range from $1,300 to $10,000 depending on the category.
One of the top prizes is the $10,000 Yilmaz Guney Award given to the Best Feature-Length Film in the international category, which this year included The Dive.
World Cinema Jury President Kristian Feigelson issued a statement criticizing the decision.
“We were invited to Duhok to be an independent jury, making our choices based on the artistic quality of the selected films. During the process, the original selection of films in the competition was changed,” he said.
“It compromised our ability to make a final decision. We are therefore unable to give out the Yilmaz Guney Award this year, especially as he himself was a filmmaker who was a symbol of artistic freedom. We want to support this cinematic freedom,” he added.
Yilmaz Guney was a Turkish born Kurdish director, actor, screenwriter, and author who died in 1984. He had dedicated many of his works to the plight of the Kurds and the working class of Turkey.
Considered the father of Kurdish cinema, Guney revolutionized the Turkish film industry and scooped awards at Cannes.
Guney even wrote and directed the Palme d’Or-winning film ‘Yol’ from prison.