Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Universalizing Kurdish Pain

'A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution'
“There are in life, such hard blows…they are few, but are opening dark furrows in the fiercest of faces and the strongest of lions.”

One of the documentaries at 2014 HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival was directed by a Kurd from Kermanshah, Iran. HotDocs is an annual festival of outspoken documentaries that is held in Spring in Toronto. “A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution” by Bahman Tavoosi has received positive reviews in the Canadian media and was one of the top 20 audience picks during the festival.

Inspired by an anonymous Pulitzer-winning photo and the iconic role it has played in the collective psyche of a nation, Bahman Tavoosi directs a movie that aims at not only re-making the photo but also re-interpreting it and offering it a universal dimension.

The original photo portrays the execution of the Kurds shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution. The murder takes place in a desert-like place near Sanandaj airport. Jahangir Razmi, the photographer, refused to take credit for his internationally recognized work in order to protect his life! The Pulitzer winner remained anonymous for 26 years until he finally travel to the United States to receive his award.

“A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution,” is a captivating movie. The very title is an oxymoron, “dress rehearsal” signals upcoming entertainment and pleasure, while the unsettling neighbouring word “execution” chills the audience to the core.

The most prominent feature of the movie is the universality of the subject. Tavoosi explores the potentials of what Razmi captured in the photo. Execution at Sanandaj is no longer only a small part of history—murdering a minority in Iran— it becomes history of mankind, history of oppression and the fight for freedom, a heartbreaking story that turns out to be more repeated in the world than it seemed at first.

While selecting actors for his movie, Tavoosi opts for an unconventional standard. Candidates are selected for their stories and not merely based on talents. Unlike the homogenous original photo, what Tavoosi recreates is a mix-gendered image, humans with different shades of skin color and in various age groups play the roles of victims and victimizers.    

Tavoosi brings to light the interconnections among apparently far-apart societies: It explores how much a Kurd can have in common with a man from Zimbabwe, a woman from Poland, a refugee from South-Africa and a Montreal artist whose path has crossed with exiled talents.

The photo of the execution is no longer only a Kurdish pain, it is human’s pain. Our struggle is universalized. The story and image of the execution now belongs to the world, “like the music of Back and Chopin.”

The image of a group of flying birds in a line reoccurs in the movie, signalling a freedom that comes only in harmony. The variety of languages used in the movie also reinforces the central theme. Going beyond solidarity among members of a race, the documentary exemplifies a unification of humanity as one race.

Yet, the reproduction of the scene proves to be much more demanding than first imagined. Victims “must be positioned in a way as if they are held in the air by invisible strings, or by a divine force.” Nothing can accurately remake what the director had in mind, a director who has lost family members to an 8-year war between Iran and Iraq.

Overall, by focusing on oppression as a universal phenomenon, Tavoosi gains sympathy for the Kurdish cause from across the world, even from those who have never heard about Kurds.

To find out more, watch the movie. It’s strongly recommended. In June 2014 “A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution” will be staged in Oakville Festival of Film and Arts (OFFA).


Anonymous said...

Thank you Ava,
No wonder Iranian and diaspora community of great persian culture are silent and ignorant,
Their silence let Iranian State to continue atrocities which been inflicted on Kurds,

memo said...

If Iranian people had greatPersian culture, they would not have succumbed to muslim ( one who surrenders) invaders. Everybody knows your people are waiting for a miracle to happen either by the creator or by America.The creator is too busy to save your souls and Americans will not take such a great risk unless their national interests are at risk. He who regards himself as an Iranian is not a Kurd.

Ava Homa said...

For as long as the sides throw hatred at each other, rather than sympathy and justice, we only get further damaged as the human race.