Thursday, May 01, 2008

Beer with Bahman Gohbadi

Photo by Corinne

On Wednesday last week, Bahman Ghobadi appeared in the auditorium of our university to show both a clip showing the making of his film Half Moon and the film itself. In between the two he talked about the film. The portion of the program preceding the film, which is not available yet in Kurdistan (only a lousy pirated copy of Turtles Can Fly can be purchased in the bazaar), took about one and a half hours during which hardly a word of English was spoken. Holding this event in Kurdistan in Kurdish, where the speaking of Kurdish is NOT forbidden, is clearly an event to be celebrated! However, there were Assyrians, Chaldeans, Arabs (and Kurds returning for Arabic-speaking regions) and a whole host of foreigners, almost none of whom speak Kurdish fluently.... and barely a word of English was spoken. Again, you may wonder why this is upsetting? The university where the event was held is an ENGLISH-medium university... and hence all those non-Kurdish-speaking people in the audience (and dare I say, those most familiar with Bahman Ghobadi's work?) were denied from hearing his message.

I asked one of the students sitting near me, a lovely girl (but one whose whisper is louder than the microphone-amplified voices of those speaking on the stage), to translate the first of the audience questions. The question was, "Why are all your films shot in Iran and not Dohuk or Sulemania?" I wanted to die. What a waste of time. The one film which is available here, Turtles Can Fly, is entirely filmed in and near Hawler - which (as we know) is NOT in Iran. During all of this, a member of the student council, and one with excellent English, sat smugly on stage... doing nothing but arrange his Kurdish clothes and smile at the TV cameras. I questioned him afterwards as to why he made no real effort to translate, but he merely said, "What? Did you expect me to translate into 4 languages? Everyone here speaks Kurdish." Although the languages of the students at the university indeed do total 4 or more languages, the unifying one is English. If not, why would they elect to come to an English-medium university? Our nationalistic friend who likely should be studying at a Kurdish-medium university (what does one so total inward-looking a person need with a degree accredited from the outside anyway?) further added, "Anyway, Bahman Ghobadi doesn't speak English and there was no time for translation."

Well, my anger at this has now dissipated as I received my chance to hear Bahman Ghobadi speak after all. I ran into him at the Deutscher Hof in Ainkawa this past Wednesday night (after a full week of ranting). He was accompanied by a female Kurdish singer from Turkey, a Kurdish director from Kurdistan (Iraqi) and a man who produced and distributes some of Hiner Saleem's movies- movies which he will try to bring me this June when he returns to Kurdistan. Bahman Ghobadi was surprisingly friendly and down-to-earth and best of all, we were able to chat without the aid of a translator since he spoke marvelous English!

Please watch for follow-ups to this story as we exchanged email addresses and I am hoping for answers to some of the questions I wish were asked at the filming at the University.

3 comments:

Harman said...

First of all, nice picture....

Then...

There is a very nice and great DVD copy of his well-known film "Turtles Can Fly", here in Hawler (with many subtitles, including English)...

Whenever you would like to ask someone about something, you should be familiar with the subject that you are going to ask about..... and the one that asked the fist question, clearly, does not know anything about Mr. Bahman and his works....

Then, I don't see any problem if someone produced some films or works of any kind about Kurdish people, regardless of it's language or location of his/her works, is there any one denying the importance of Yılmaz Güney's work??!! Yet it was "almost all his works" inside Turkey and in Turkish language...

Speaking one and half hours in non-English in UKH is very unusual and, actually, unexpected!! I do agree with you when you said "Our nationalistic friend who likely should be studying at a Kurdish-medium university"...

Thanks for this nice post, well done...

Regards
Harman

Saffron said...

I don't know very much about Mr Ghobadi or his films, but this lovely interview (http://dailyhawler.blogspot.com/2008/05/beer-with-bahman-gohbadi.htm) was posted on iranian.com today so I thought I would share it with you.

I might have a look-see if I can't get "Turtles Can Fly" here in Japan and further my education on Kurdish matters...

Saffron said...

Ooops. Wrong link! Here's the one to the interview:
http://www.iranian.com/main/singlepage/2008/bahman-ghobadi-1