Thursday, August 13, 2009

“The Flowers of Kirkuk” tells about Iraq through romance

European crew interviewed on film project new to Kurdistan Region
The Region lends itself to European filmmakers as the world begins to take notice of its relative safety and astonishing beauty and culture.
Local and international crews gathered in Erbil to shoot “The Flowers of Kirkuk,” a movie conveying historical moments of the late 1980s through romance to a European audience. The project is the first of its kind, bringing foreign investment via a movie completely made in Kurdistan Region, according to the crew.

The story starts with a young woman, originally from a Baghdadi Arab family, who was born, raised, and educated in Rome. She returns to Kirkuk looking for her friend in the late 1980s. She has been away for a long while, and with her arrival she has to learn everything: the culture, historic moments, the political situation, and so on. She finally finds her friend who is a Kurd, a doctor, a poet, and a musician, but he also is helping others from catastrophic villages.
The making of this film in Kurdistan Region is multi-purposed: Italian and Swiss producers seek new movie-making business here, European audiences will learn deeper facts of Iraq, and Kurdish filmmakers eye importing Western talent to shore up the weak Kurdish cinema industry.
“The European audience does not know anything about the last 20 years in Iraq. We have been suddenly overloaded with news since 2003,” said producer Fabrizia Falzetti from Italy’s Far Out Films. “But the news is not real information because it is just news about bombings, about disasters, about killings, while nobody knows exactly what was happening until five years before. The roots are incomprehensive for foreigners.”
Falzetti added: “One line [of this project] is to develop more local movies, and another line is to attract more international film production.”
Shooting the film now may perhaps help launch it in September during the next Cannes Film Festival.
“Whether or not this product succeeds, it will be the turn for future productions. Future foreign film production will come to the region and consider Kurdistan an option,” noted Juses Roldan, from Mexico, who links local and foreign crews. Roldan considers this film one of the most important projects for this region.
“We have the first international production being brought entirely from outside. They are coming to film the entire film in Kurdistan and they are using Kurdish and Arab actors, but mostly Kurdish. They are using Kurdish production companies,” he added.
Falzetti and Zurich-based T. and C. Film are producing the film; Iranian Fariborz Kamkari is directing and Visual K. is contributing with logistics and local talent. A number of Italian and Swiss public, government organizations, and media are contributing funds for the project.
This feature movie, supported by public and private investors, emphasizes the telling of Iraqi events through romance to attract a larger audience, says Falzetti. “If we made it a documentary, the potential audience would be immediately much smaller.”
Producers faced difficulties at first when they called on foreign actors to come to the Region. “A lot of them are afraid to come to Kurdistan; they think it’s like Baghdad, Mosul, or Kirkuk,” said Falzetti, who is more hopeful now. “If this production succeeds, it will be a message that Kurdistan Region is safe and supportive for filmmakers, because we have seen a lot of support. And that is definitely [a reason to] possibly film here rather than going to Morocco or Jordan—and say that it is Iraq.”
The “Globe” learned from the crew that the three protagonists are Europeans with Arab and Kurdish origins. One of them is a famous actress who has made successful films in Europe and in the Middle East, but she preferred to remain unnamed for the time being.
Foreign producers have been hesitant to film in Kurdistan Region as it hasn’t exactly been a market place for cinema.
“The Kurdish cinema industry as far as a market doesn’t yet exist. Part of it is that equipment and bringing up production value of films wasn’t available until recently. Now it is beginning. Previous directors laid the foundation,” says Roldan, who hopes that the local government “continues to support the cinema industry and the companies.”
This crew, as the first foreigner filmmakers in the Region, has faced several difficulties in finding equipment of high quality; it was hard to find insurance and banking connecting them financially to the outside. More importantly, they have seen that anything old in the country no longer exists.
“…Somebody should save and collect the old things like cars. To be connected to the history, to the people. [It] looks like the history is not so important; everything old is more than important,” stated Falzetti.
The crew has two other movies to film in the region, but they will wait to see their first success and to see the difficulties removed before continuing on.

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