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Historic film for Armenians, Kurds making Istanbul debut

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 2/17/2011 12:00:00 AM | VERCİHAN ZİFLİOĞLU

Armenian director Hamo Beknazarian’s film ‘Zare’ holds a unique place in history as the first film for both Armenian and Kurdish cinema. The silent film from 1926, which features a tragic love story in a Yezidi village, will be screened as part of the !f Istanbul International Film Festival Saturday and will be accompanied by Kurdish harpist Tara Jaff

The first Armenian and Kurdish film in cinematic history, “Zare,” will play at Turkey’s most prestigious independent film festival this weekend in Istanbul.

Directed by legendary Armenian director Hamo Beknazarian, “Zare” was produce on 35mm black-and-white film in 1926 and is set in an Armenian Yezidi village. Although the director is Armenian and the country is Armenia, the film was financially sponsored by members of the Kurdish community.

“Zare” was the first Kurdish film, according to young Kurdish director Müjde Arslan, who directed “Ölüm Elbisesi: Kumalık” (A Fatal Dress: Polygamy).

“After this film, Kurdish cinema remained silent until 1991. Kurds have become the subject of social films made by realistic Kurdish directors in Turkish cinema but the word ‘Kurd’ has not been highlighted,” Arslan recently told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Festival started with gala

The 10th AFM International Independent Film Festival started with a gala Wednesday night at AFM Fitaş Movie Theater in Beyoğlu. Benedek Fliegauf's "Womb" was the opening film of the festival, which will host a number of directors and actors from many countries.

The festival is also celebrating the fourth year of the !f Inspired International Film Competition, designed to award new directors in cinema. "22nd of May" by Koen Mortier (Belgium), "Merry-go-round" by İlksen Başarır (Turkey), "The Four Times" by Michelangelo Frammartino (Italy), "Our Day Will Come" by Romain Gavras (France), "Nuummioq" by Torben Bech & Otto Rosing (Greenland), "Pál Adrienn" by Ágnes Kocsis (Hungary), "R" by Michael Noer & Tobias Lindholm (Denmark) and "We Are What We Are" by Jorge Michel Grau (Mexico) are competing for this year's best film award.

The festival is featuring 85 independent films in 17 categories this year. The films will also be screened in Ankara from March 2 to 6.
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

“Here, the expression ‘cinema is the mirror of a society’ is corroborated because both Kurdish people and the word ‘Kurd’ were banned in [Turkish] cinema, just like in [Turkish] society,” he said.

The film, a silent love story, will be screened Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at AFM Fitaş Movie Theater in Beyoğlu as part of the !f Istanbul International Film Festival. The film screening will be accompanied by Kurdish harpist Tara Jaff.

Because Beknazarian was an Armenian director, there have been occasional discussions about the cultural ownership of the film, said Arslan.

“This film is the only example. Even though its director is from Armenia, it tells the lifestyle, traditions and customs of Yezidi and Kurdish villages.”

She said that there were parallels between “Zare” and her film, “A Fatal Dress: Polygamy.” “We see woman as a second-class citizen in both films.”

[HH] ‘Zare’ first of its type

Echoing Arslan, international award-winning Kurdish director Kazım Öz also defined “Zare” as the first film in Kurdish cinema history:

“Of course the identity of the director is important. We know that Aram Tigran is Armenian, too, but he is regarded as the best Kurdish musician of all times because he made great contributions to Kurdish art and culture,” Öz told the Daily News.

Öz said it was a tragedy that no Kurdish film was made after Zare until the 1990s. “This shows how Kurdish culture and cinema is under pressure.”

[HH] New generation of Kurdish cinema

He said that against all odds, Kurdish cinema had made its name in recent years thanks to award-winning directors.

“It is possible to talk about a newborn Kurdish cinema. A young generation of Kurdish directors is producing films in various countries. The stories are multi-lingual and colorful. Kurdish cinema will make a leap beyond expectations in the next 20 years,” he said.

“Significant works of art have been created during transition processes or after big social changes,” Arslan said. “This is the same for Kurds. The society had a big trauma and will see a return in cinema.”

Öz expressed his happiness that “Zare” would be screened as part of !f Istanbul as said he had not had a chance to see it before. “This film will be a very special screening for me, like for other audiences.”

[HH] About the film

Hamo Beknazarian was born in Yerevan in 1891 and moved to Georgia right after the 1917 Russian Revolution. He made his first film “Honor” in 1925 before making “Zare.”

The film, a classic silent film and a tragic love story, takes place in a Yezidi village. Its backdrop is the start of the collapse of Russia’s Czarist regime and the approach of the 1917 revolution.

Zare, a Kurdish girl, and Seydo, a young shepherd, live in the same village and love each other, but are faced with problems when village chief Temur wants to take Zare as his second wife.

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