Criticism of cultural biases and celebration of love!

Devrim Kilic / Boston / 29/07/2006

    I have been trying to see the film of New York based Kurdish
    director, Jalal Jonroy, and recently I have been lucky enough to see
    it on a small TV screen in New York, at the apartment of the
    directors. During the kind of private screening of David and Layla
    for my sister and me I was already exhausted by the heat and
    humidity of New York’s weather and for been walking in the streets
    of New York for
more than 5 hours. Fortunately, seeing David and Layla and its well-written and performed jokes
cooled me. I say it straight away that I like Jonroy’s first feature very much, it is a great film.
Though, I am sure it would be a better experience watching the film on a big cinema screen so
that the sound and sight would be more amazing.

Although it is the first feature of director and made out of small budget and lack of well-
established production team, it is as professional as any big budget Hollywood film. Yet, the
performances of the actors/actress are wonderful. The well structured script and professionally
directed film is the proof of Jonroy’s creativeness. Throughout the film, the jokes are woven in a
way that they do not prevent the film as being informative about Kurd’s plight.

Jonroy's political-comedy is a kind of criticism of bias between cultures and religions. Film
criticizes the way the western world deals with Kurds and the way Israel handles Palestinian
people. And yet vice-verse, the way Muslims thinks of Jews people. However, most importantly,
the film does take a side on the issue of cultural differences and political issues by celebrating
the power of love and the need of accepting others as "other". David is a young Jew TV producer
who happens to fall in love with a Muslim Kurdish girl, Layla, who does not have a green card to
stay in America. Based in New York the film tells the story of David and Layla’s love and their
families’ reaction to that. Layla, a nice looking and attractive girl, wanders in New York’s busy
streets and wherever she looks at, she sees Kurdistan; she looks at the Manhathan's skylines
or at famous Time square's shiny lights and sees almighty Kurdistan Mountains…

All big loves starts with coincidences and some kind of hatred. David, a microphone in his hand
and a cameraman with him, asks Layla about her sex life and naturally gets a slap on his face
as an answer. At the end, Layla falls for David too but there are so many obstacles and
problems that they have to deal with; namely cultural differences and religious biases.
Furthermore Layla’s love of Kurdistan. She is not a political woman but a woman who is in love
wit her country.

Neither of the family approves the relationship of David and
Layla but their love transcends the cultural and religious
biases of themselves and their families. As their relationship
improve they change too. In a way, David becomes a Muslim
and Layla becomes a Jewish. Finally, the prejudices are
broken under the power of love and the couple gets married.
At the end of the film, Layla is seen as still being in love with her country, Kurdistan, and praying
for the good of Kurdish people with her Jewish in-laws, saying "Next Year in Kurdistan, Inshallah
!” Furthermore, Layla makes her rather fundamental Jewish in-laws pray for “at least some
Palestinians”.

As being informative about Kurds and their plight, the film does make the job quite effectively;
David and Layla is an excellent political-comedy film in terms of entertaining people, criticizing
people's bias for each other from different cultures and religion.

It reminded me the American film "My big fat Greek Wedding" and "Mansoon Wedding" to some
extent, but David and Layla's handling of the cultural and religious bias and misunderstanding is
deeper and more realist and revolutionary.

David and Layla is not just a Kurdish film but a humanist film made by a Kurdish director who
has been living outside of Kurdistan for many years. Thanks dear Jonroy for creating David and
Layla. I think every Kurd and moviegoer should see this film and I look forward to see your next
film on Gilgamesh!

kurdishcinema@hotmail.com  -  29/07/2006

Devrim Kilic's other articles:

1- Representation of Kurdish Identity and Culture in the Films of Bahman Ghobadi

2- Narcissus should Blossom

3- Criticism of cultural biases and celebration of love!

4- Kiarostami’s portrayal of Kurds in ‘A taste of cherry’ and ‘The wind will carry us’

5-An exiled director's portrayal of his own people