First New York Kurdish Film Festival

 The First New York Kurdish Film Festival: A Cinema Across Borders, held from Oct 21–Oct 25, 2009, is the first-ever film festival of Kurdish cinema in the United States. Bringing together an exciting range of films and documentaries from across the Kurdish region and the Kurdish diaspora, the festival will feature ten short films, a documentary and eight feature films, including the US premiere of The Storm by Kazım Öz (Ax, Fotograf).

Situated in the heart of the Middle East, Kurdish cinema intersects with many of the great political conflicts of our age. These diverse films provide powerful and unexpected insights into our common world through stunning cinematography, rich narratives, and deeply humane storytelling.

All screenings will take place at the NYU Cantor Film Center (36 East 8th Street, NY, NY) and the NYU Hagop Kevorkian Center (50 Washington Square South at 255 Sullivan Street, NY, NY).

In addition, the festival will include a Filmmakers’ Panel with six prominent Kurdish filmmakers from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and the diaspora to connect directly with New York audiences, and post-film Q&As with the filmmakers, providing potential new routes for understanding and dialogue.

Included in the festival are:

The Storm, directed by Kazim Öz

Set amidst the political upheaval on Turkish college campuses in the early 1990s, The Storm follows Cemal, a bright young Economics major from a village in southern Turkey, on a journey to political commitment. After befriending a group of revolutionary Kurdish students, Cemal’s eyes are gradually opened to Turkish state repression as he witnesses police violence, arrest and torture firsthand.

Half Moon, directed by Bahman Ghobadi

A haunting film about the clash between human resolve and political reality, Half Moon, directed by internationally renowned Kurdish auteur Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses, Turtles Can Fly), provides a sophisticated vision of the new realities of the Kurdistan region after the US invasion of Iraq. Mamo, an iconic Kurdish musician in the twilight of his life and in failing health, must lead a dozen of his sons to Iraq for a concert to celebrate the fall of Saddam Hussein and the end of his repression of Kurdish music. Their increasingly tortuous journey across a maze of borders proves by turn dangerous and surreal, paralleling the predicament of Kurdish identity in a hostile political world. This outstanding new film from Bahman Ghobadi won the top prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival together with awards for writing and photography.

Dengbej Women
by Women’s Collective of Atölyemor/ Filmmor Women's cooperative

In 2004, Atölyemor started with a cinema workshop that meets women’s opportunities, experience and information and shares all of them. It includes film reading, preparation, script- oral history, shotting and editing, film critique with consultancy of instructors and women and every year approximately 15 women have the opportunityto learn and experience cinema firsthand.

Every year, women produce films and experience cinema from film critiques to filmmaking in our workshop. Workshops were held in Istanbul in 2004, 2005 and 2007 and in Diyarbakir in 2007. In all these workshops, 9 films were shot and one critique was written.

Cinema Shorts: Women in Kurdish Cinema

This program includes short films made by and about woman, created by Kurdish filmmakers from the diaspora:

Totico by Khadija C. Baker (Syria/Canada, 2007, 2 mins); The Seed by Müjde Arslan (Turkey, 2009,13 mins); Oven by Ashkan Ahmadi (Iran,14 mins) and Border by Sattar Chamani Gol (Iran,2008,10 mins). Müjde Arslan, director of The Seed, will lead a post-film discussion.

Crossing the Dust, irected by Shawkat Amin Korki

In this striking post-9/11 road movie set in Iraq during the 2003 American invasion, two Kurdish peshmerga (resistance fighters) find a lost five-year-old Arab boy, named Saddam. Amidst the chaos of the war raging around them, they attempt to find a safe haven for the boy with villagers, mullahs and Americans. Simultaneously, the boy's parents search frantically, anxious because the boy’s name is now taboo.

My Marlon and Brando, directed by Huseyin Karabey

Based on the true story of the post-invasion cross-border romance between renowned Iraqi Kurdish actor Hama Ali and his Turkish actress girlfriend Ayca Damgaci, My Marlon and Brando stars the two real-life lovers in documentarian Hüseyin Karabey's fiction-feature debut. A moving statement on war and the confining artificiality of borders, My Marlon and Brando also reveals the eye-opening journey Damgaci takes as a Turk attempting to be with her Kurdish lover, learning firsthand the grim racism and repression faced by Kurds in her own country and across the borders of Iraq and Iran.

Close up Kurdistan, directed by Yuksel Yavuz

In this personal story of immigration, Yavuz documents his journey from Hamburg to Stockholm to Turkey, and finally to the refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Here, he meets old friends, some of whom have become guerrilla fighters, gone into exile, or chosen to stay in their villages and face persecution because of their fight for Kurdish rights. Featuring 1987 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ismail Besikci, who spent 17 years in prison for his courageous academic work on Kurdish culture.

Jiyan, directed by Jano Rosebiani

Five years after the 1988 gas attack on the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja, which killed 5,000 Kurds and maimed thousands more, Diyari – an Iraqi Kurd who now lives in America – returns to his homeland to build an orphanage. He befriends Jiyan, a shy ten-year old orphan and a survivor of the chemical attack. Loosely based on testimonial accounts, Jiyan includes a number of survivors as cast members in the film.

Vodka Lemon,  directed by Hiner Saleem

Set in a remote Kurdish village in Armenia, Vodka Lemon tells the gentle love story of an ex-army officer, and a vodka-lemon stand barmaid, who meet during their daily trips to visit their spouse’s graves. Director Hiner Saleem intercuts the love story with surrealistic vignettes and dark humor to reveal a bittersweet portrait of people in precarious times.

For more information about the program, please visit