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Fariborz Kamkari • Director of Kurdbûn - Essere curdo

“How each of us reacts to the existence of a dictatorial system makes all the difference”

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- Cineuropa spent some time with the Kurdish director who chatted with us about his documentary exploring the siege of Cizre in 2016

Fariborz Kamkari • Director of Kurdbûn - Essere curdo

We interviewed Fariborz Kamkari, the director of Kurdbûn - Essere curdo [+see also:
interview: Fariborz Kamkari
film profile
]
, an invaluable documentary laying bare the atrocities of the siege of Cizre, which was born out of archive material shot by plucky journalist Berfin Kar and is distributed by Officine Ubu.

Cineuropa: When did you start working on the film and how did you come into contact with Berfin?
Fariborz Kamkari: I was contacted at the beginning of 2019. Someone called me from Malta, introducing themselves as a Kurdish journalist. She told me she’d been present during the siege of Cizre and had made a visual diary of it. She asked me if I was interested in looking at her footage with a view to making a potential documentary. Obviously, I knew about it from the news, but I was curious, and I asked her to send something over. In fact, this journalist had called me from a psychiatric hospital and had been in treatment there for a while. She sent me a half-hour file. I watched around ten minutes of it and contacted her right away to tell her that her footage was really interesting and asking her to send me the rest. I received somewhere in the region of 50 hours of footage, shot with her cameraman. Theirs was quite an instinctive approach. It reminded me of the same situation which had unfolded so many years earlier in Iran, when I was a child. I was also a resident in a besieged city for over 40 days with my family, under the bombs. I come from the western region of Kurdistan. I was stunned by the similarity between the two experiences. Straight away, I knew how I’d set the documentary out: it would bear witness to what had happened in Cizre whilst also offering a wider perspective and exploring the Kurdish resistance. [..] The editing process was fairly quick. I had the journalist come to Italy. We worked together for a little while. At a certain point, when the Turkish state denounced her for her journalistic activities, she decided to go back, in spite of the risks. She said: “If they convict me, I won’t be able to go back. I’m going back in order to defend myself.” It’s highly likely she’ll be convicted. She’s decided to stay there. So it was just me editing the film and I finished it about six months ago.

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So now Berfin is facing trial...
Yes, we gave her a stage name for protection. All she did was carry out her work as a journalist. The government considered this a hostile act. But the footage says it all.

Why is it important to talk to viewers using the theme of identity as a starting point?
It’s a crucial subject. The film speaks about a people who were divided into four groups 99 years ago exactly, following the Treaty of Lausanne. We’ve got a long, bloody and very painful history, and an identity which has been negated for almost 100 years. The first time the Kurdish people fought back, it was seen as an attempt to protect their identity, their language. In fact, it’s always been one of the Kurdish movement’s main principles to persevere with this armed resistance. This [idea] is developed within the film.

Towards the end, there’s a quote from Antonio Gramsci’s text on indifference, taken from La città futura. It’s more relevant now than ever, especially in the light of what’s happened between Sweden, Finland and Turkey… Why do you think all this is still going on, amidst the general indifference of the international community?
Individual responsibility is an area I’ve always tried to explore in my films and my books, as a person who spent almost all of his childhood in a warzone. The way in which each of us reacts to the existence of a dictatorial system makes all the difference. [..] Gramsci’s text fully reflects my views, and it made perfect sense to use it, because we see people who are sacrificing their lives and others who remain indifferent to the tragedy unfolding. What’s happened between Sweden, Finland and Turkey is appalling. We’re used to Turkey interfering aggressively in Kurdish matters. This time round it’s shocking because they’re interfering in the internal politics of a democratic country. Turkey is asking them to extradite these people who are now European citizens. It’s incredibly disconcerting. They’re forcing a democratic country to cancel the rights of its own citizens. [..] Moreover, some of these people are ministers, elected by the people. Unfortunately, the global system is based on capitalism and self-interest, which not only makes the West feel indifferent, it often makes it complicit too. This region of the world was designed by colonialists at the end of the first world war. It’s a set-up which was created and sustained by the West. They’re complicit, despite their fine words on respecting human rights and democracy... [..] Selling arms to the Turkish state knowing that they will be used in villages and refugee camps is a complicit act. This has to change. A time will come when western hypocrisy comes to an end.

How have you positioned yourselves in terms of distribution?
We’ve distributed the film in Italy, France and Switzerland. We’re trying to get it released in other countries too. We didn’t opt for the usual approach in Italy. We didn’t release it in 20, 30 or 50 copies over the course of one weekend, only for it to disappear afterwards. We organised event screenings from one city to the next, creating noise by way of associations, organisations and local groups. And I have to say that it worked. We’ve been moving along these lines for over two months now. When I can, I travel with the film and we create debate among the audience. From September, we’ll be presenting it in other Italian cities, big and small.

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(Translated from Italian)

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