New York Kurdish Film Festival returns for its 7th year
By Rojhat Abi
The New York Kurdish Film Festival (NYKFF), one of the most important gatherings of Kurdish cinema worldwide, will be held in New York City, United States of America, from October 20-26 this year. The NKFF, one of the most watched festivals in the world of cinema every year, dedicated its 6th edition last year to Jîna Amînî, who was murdered by the police in Iran. This year's festival is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne.
The festival will present a comprehensive program of short films, documentaries, fiction, and feature-length presentations worldwide. Xeyal Qertel, founder and director of the New York Kurdish Film and Culture Festival, answered Arti Gercek's questions about the content of the festival and the state of Kurdish cinema.
How did the film festival process start, and how is it going now?
I started the New York Kurdish Film Festival in 2017. My vision and determination to create a cultural platform that celebrates the Kurdish people's vibrant heritage and storytelling abilities led to the creation of this year's event. The festival promotes unity and dialogue within the Kurdish community and increases cross-cultural understanding with the broader American audience. It was driven by a belief in the power of cinema as a medium of cultural expression and the ability of the Kurdish diaspora to connect with their roots and share their stories with the world.
Aside from the film screenings, what can audiences expect to see in this year's festival program?
This year, besides our impressive lineup of films, we offer various events. Attendees can look forward to engaging Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, workshops on various aspects of Kurdish culture, book signings by authors exploring Kurdish heritage, live performances by a Kurdish dance troupe, the musical magic of a singer from Başûr (Southern, Iraqi Kurdistan), exciting Kurdish and American tunes performed by a Kurdish-American DJ, and a special guest appearance by a famous Kurdish pop star.
What is the theme of this year's festival?
The theme of this year's festival is the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne.
Why was this chosen?
This theme was chosen not only to commemorate a significant historical event but also to highlight the Kurdish people's incredible resilience and determined spirit in the face of adversity. The Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 brought significant changes to the region, altered geographical boundaries, and brought great hardship to the Kurdish people. It sharply divided their lands and communities. But despite the obstacles created by the treaty and its aftermath, Kurds have always shown their determination to preserve their culture and heritage through various forms of artistic expression. Kurdish society has resisted and thrived through art, music, dance, and cinema. Kurdish artists have continued to create despite exile, oppression, and the dismemberment of their homeland.
How does this creative process manifest itself in other art forms?
In other fields of art, Kurdish painters, sculptors, and visual artists use their creativity to tell their stories, depict their history, and communicate the struggle of a people that interventionist forces have not silenced. In the world of music, Kurdish musicians have composed songs that reflect their people's pain, resistance, and hope. Their melodies have transcended the boundaries of Kurdish history, bringing the power of music as a means of cultural expression to the people's hearts. Kurdish dance groups have brought traditional and contemporary Kurdish dances to life on stages worldwide, demonstrating the cultural vitality that has not faded despite attempts to divide Kurdish communities. The point is the same in all artistic disciplines.
Turning to cinema, how do you assess the current production climate in Kurdish cinema today?
Kurdish cinema is in the process of transformation, and its future is promising. It has come a long way in recent years, gaining international recognition. Directors have explored various themes, from personal stories to social and political issues. Kurdish cinema is a means of artistic expression and a powerful tool for raising awareness about Kurdish history and struggles. Even in cinema, despite difficulties in access to resources and limited opportunities, Kurdish filmmakers continue to use their art to illuminate the Kurdish experience. Their films tell stories that appeal to a global audience, exploring themes of identity, exile, and the quest for cultural preservation.