"Switch off CNN and Al-Jazeera…
Bahman Ghobadi's new film Marooned in Iraq takes place amidst the chaos in Kurdish refugee camps at the time of the eight-year long war between Iran and Iraq. The howling of Saddam Hussein's bomber jets serve as constant background music.
Men, fathers, and sons are buried. Women mask their disfigured faces – a result of attacks by chemical weapons. There are camps populated only by children who lost their parents during the war. All of these people curse Saddam.
Ghobadi - voice of the Kurds
Bahman Ghobadi is something of a cinematic mouthpiece for the Kurds. Beginning with his film A Time for Drunken Horses (Cannes Golden Camera award in 2000 and the Iranian Oscar nomination in 2001), Ghobadi has made the fate of Kurdish children one of his dominant themes.
"Switch off CNN and Al-Jazeera! If you really want to know how life is for Kurds in Iraq then go and see my latest film," he said a few days ago in an Iranian newspaper. Bahman Ghobadi is currently a much sought-after man. Journalists stand in line to hear the views of the Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker on Kurdish issues.
Questions concerning the military and strategic role the Kurds play as allies to the current forces in Iraq only arouse Bahman Ghobadi's displeasure. He points out that there are seven to eight million Kurds living in northern Iraq who are suffering due to the war. Ghobadi sees himself as the spokesperson for these families.
A new war every two or three years
The director summed up the situation, "The Kurds are tired, tired from all the wars that have taken place on their land. […] I personally place no trust in either American or European politicians." He clearly feels that no one is concerned about the Kurds or simple, innocent people. "There have been some 183,000 Kurdish casualties during 20 years of war," said Ghobadi.
Ghobadi's latest film Marooned in Iraq will begin showing in Europe and America by the end of May. It deals with the former war between Iraq and Iran and the uprising by the Kurds, which was brutally suppressed by Saddam's troops. The poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages is also one of the film's themes. The 33-year-old Bahman Ghobadi lived through the Iraqi bombardment as a child. Almost his whole family was wiped out during the eight years of annihilating war.
Life is like a computer game
Ghobadi cynically describes everyday Kurdish life, "The children in Kurdistan experience war live. Our children only have to open the door to see what your children can only find in computer games or at the movies." "Perhaps the Kurds really do live in a film," said the director questioningly.
He is convinced that American politicians are just like Hollywood directors. "When they see that a film is selling well, they decide to shoot a sequel. The hero can't be allowed to die. Otherwise, they can't make a profit from him. They have now let Saddam play his role three times."
With his new film Marooned in Iraq, Ghobadi said he wanted to show what this tragedy of eternal war has meant for the Kurds, the largest stateless people on earth. The result is a very buoyant, one could almost say Chaplinesque, film filled with music, jokes, and a host of odd characters.
Music and humor against the daily horrors
Although the drone of bombers can constantly be heard in the background and people are crying and lamenting over dead relatives, he does not show a single corpse.
Ghobadi said he wanted to make a poetic film and explained, "We Kurds have discovered two things that protect us from pain and suffering – music and humor. Don't think that we dance and joke because we have things so good. No, this is because it is our only escape."
© DEUTSCHE WELLE / DW-WORLD.DE 2004
Translated from the German by John Bergeron
Visit Ghobadi's excellent website here.