Karzan Kader • Director
"As a child, I dreamt that Rambo would help us fight Saddam"
- In his film Bekas, Kurdish-Swedish filmmaker Karzan Kader evokes his family's flight from Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, during the offensive by Saddam Hussein's troops
One of the little gems in this edition of the Stockholm Film Festival is the world premiere of Karzan Kader's Bekas [+see also:
interview: Karzan Kader
film profile]. In this moving film, the very young Swedish filmmaker of Kurdish origin recalls his family's flight from Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, in the midst of war against Saddam Hussein's troops. The feature (read the review) is an extension of the short film of the same name that won Kader the Silver Medal at the 38th Student Academy Awards.
Cineuropa: I can imagine how dramatic it must have been to abandon Kurdistan in the middle of the war. Yet you decided to tell your story through comedy. It's a brave, and also quite daring, decision.
Karzan Kader: I think that I have always had two voices. One is strong, dramatic, and profound, but the other tries to superimpose itself with humour in adversity. I always try to find the point of balance between both. When I was a child, even the way from home to school could be dangerous. We were terrified by the soldiers. But I love the sensation produced at the exact moment when danger and fear disappear. It's an instant of freedom. Loving these moments of freedom, and believing in them, is what has made me the person that I am today.
When your family and you left Iraqi Kurdistan, you were the younger brother. Do you also identify with the younger brother in your film, with Zana?
The truth is yes. I was just as naive (laughs). In the film, Zana sees Superman and thinks that he's a real person. Back then, I saw Rambo and I also thought that he was real. It happened during the war, and the first thing I thought was: "This guy fights a whole army by himself. We need him here, we need him to help us. Why doesn't Rambo come and overthrow Saddam?" I wanted to show him my people's suffering so that he helped us.
Now that you have returned to your home town to shoot the film, how does the situation that you witnessed compare to what you experienced during your childhood?
The situation is much, much better today. Today you can breathe freedom. The Kurdish people practically have their own government, and the most astonishing thing of all is that the actual Iraqi president is a Kurd. This was inconceivable when I was a child! The Kurdish population had always been denigrated, and then suddenly one of ours is president of the country. It's crazy, you know? It's incredible to see how things can change with time. I was very surprised to see great improvement in aspects like drinking water or electricity... Things are going in the right direction.
I think that there is no precise translation of the word "Bekas". Can you explain exactly what it means?
"Bekas" is a word that is extremely respected in Kurdish. At one time, to be a "bekas" meant to have lost all the members of your family in the war, to be completely alone in the world, with no blood ties. It's terrifying and the war produced many bekas.
The Swedish critics are comparing your film to Slumdog Millionaire. What do you think of this comparison?
Comparisons are unavoidable and for me it's ok. In the case of Slumdog Millionaire, it's an honour for me, as it's one of my favourite films. Danny Boyle touched many hearts with his story, and I hope to do the same with mine.
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