Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review of White Mountain, directed by Taha Karimi

Where People Listen to Each Other

Where People Listen to Each Other:
 Review of White Mountain by Taha Karimi
Ava Homa
“I say
Put your wreath under any tree,
Near any stone,
Beside any collapsed wall,
By any river bank,
In front of any door
Bow your head and put down your wreath.
They are all my unknown soldiers' graves.”
The sharp contrast between the setting and the subject makes White Mountain an influential movie. Picture is one of the most powerful elements of White Mountain that in spite of the bitter subject makes the movie distinct and penetrating. The setting is the breathtakingly beautiful Qandil Mountain which could have been a lucrative tourist attraction to enrich Kurds and instead has turned into a war-torn area that squeezes many dead Kurds.  
A white haired, white bearded man and his tired mule’s job is to carry corpses from a part of the mountain to another. These dead bodies are called “filthy” on one side and “martyr and hero” on the other side_ depending on which political party they used to fight for. The old man has every step by heart, so does his friend and vehicle, the mule. He is the narrator, the story teller who gathers white stones from the bottom of the river while washing himself and his mule gently and meticulously. He is full of tales, tale of the bodies he transported and buried. He breaks the tree branches to make a blanket for the dead and ties a scarf to the branch to try and catch up with the numerous victims of human’s inability to live in peace.
The dialogues ironically characterize lack of communication. The way characters converse speaks of a land where people offer no patience or understanding to one another. Suspicion and anger dominates their attitudes and frustrates the members of the community. Women of the valley either hopefully cling to supernatural forces to protect their loved ones or hopelessly weep on a piece of stone that may or may not be embracing their loved one. Despite their common pain, these grieving women cannot comfort or even tolerate each other; thinking they are the only one whose loved one is lost. The old man shows a grave to five women and tells them it is where he buried their family member. The truth is he does not have the chance to bury all the corpses.
The enemy here is not the governments of Turkey, Iran or Iraq. A self-reflective, self-critical movie, White Mountain zooms on a bitter part of history that Kurds shy away from: Kurds killing Kurds. The hints are veiled and the director avoids pointing finger at any specific person or party. He puts a small mirror before all of them to get them ponder and hopefully change their approaches.
The writer and director, Taha Karimi paints a powerful situation subtly and smartly. He avoids melo-dramatizing the situation or making it too disturbing. These traps, for which some writers/directors fall, would only take away from the movie and leave the audience with nothing but shallow and transient emotions and no productive reflection.    
   A maybe-not-so-mysterious “Kak Doctor” promised the old man one day the Kurds will be prosperous, one day no kid will be hungry and no woman’s eyes would be sore. Both of what the doctor and the main character hope for are very metaphorical. Eyes become sore of either crying or ailment. Kids will not be hungry for food as well as peace and comfort. However, the most symbolic part of the garden “Kak Doctor” originally hoped for and the old man has been looking for is a place “where people listen to each other.” Communication, the ability to listen to and understand each other is a critical point of empowerment for Kurds.
The unsettling opposition between the subject of the movie and where it happens creates a sharp effect. Despite human misery and ignorance, violence and regret, Qandil Mountain is stable, prevailing and gorgeous. The stunning mountain with its trees and spring that continue to flourish regardless, mocks human’s short sightedness and inability to communicate. The contrast between Qandil and people adds layers and depth to the movie.


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