KurdishCinema


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

KurdishMedia.com - By Devrim Kilic

Introduction


    Understanding of Kiarostami’s representation of Kurds and Kurdish landscape is
    important because it can provide a comprehension of how the “others”, in this
    case Kurds, are treated by a non-Kurdish director. Obviously Kiarostami has
    directed more than two films but these two films are the only ones in which Kurds
    have been represented.

It is said that Iran is a “multicultural” country and the existence of Kurds and other minorities is
not denied; nevertheless this is not to say that there are no problems between the different
cultures or between the state and minorities. Kurds constitute approximately 10 % of Iran’s
population and the area that Kurds live in, part of western Iran is known as ‘Kurdistan’ in Iran.

It should be stated at first that A Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us are not films shot
from Kurdish perspectives; they are not Kurdish but Iranian films. And I think just for that reason
it is worth scrutinizing them in order to comprehend the portrayal of Kurdish people and Kurdish
landscape in Kiarostami’s films. Analyzing Kiarostami’s depiction of Kurds and Kurdish
landscape in his films would also provide an understanding of how the Persian majority of Iran
see Kurdish minority, as Kiarostami is of Persian origin.

In Kiarostami’s films, A Taste of Cherry and The Wind Will Carry Us, one can see different
ethnicities and cultures of Iran, such as the Kurds, Afghanis and Azerbaijanis.

Kiarostami’s cinematic style has distinctive features and that is why famous film critics and
academics from all over the world have written a lot on his films and cinema. He is accepted as
a one of the living masters of contemporary cinema. Mostly shot in open spaces, his films do not
give all the information about the characters and story, and there are always some ambiguities.
Describing his cinema as “half-finished film”, Kiarostami leaves much room for the
interpretation of the audiences. (Cheshire, Cineaste) Therefore when analysing Kiarostami’s
films for the portrayal of Kurds one has to make a great deal of individual interpretations of the
films.

Before going into close analysis of the two films, I would like to state that although there are lots
of articles, books and interviews about Kiarostami’s cinema, what is interesting is that not many
critics talk about the function or meaning of Kurdish village as a location or the importance of
Kurdish characters. As a matter of fact the choice of location and characters play a central role in
creating the meaning of a film. The director’s preference of location and characters ethnicity and
his/her representation of these elements, provide significant clues about the theme of the film,
and the director’s stand towards the issue that the film deals with. “For the filmmaker, location
plays a significant role in creating narrative space…A closer look at the locations filmmakers
use and the way they represent them reveals their positive or negative attitude toward them.
(Vafa. 200) Also certain location and certain characters might have political meaning for the film
and filmmaker. That is why I think it is crucial to examine Kiarostami’s two mentioned films in
terms of his treatment of character and location in order to reveal his representation of Kurdish
people and Kurdish landscape.

In the following sections, this essay will provide close textual analysis of the two films separately
in terms of the use of Kurdish village and Kurdish people.

A Taste of Cherry

Shot in 1997, A Taste of Cherry tells the story of a
mature aged man, Badi, who is desperately
looking for someone to help him in committing
suicide. Badi drives his car around the outskirts
of Tehran and encounters first with a Kurdish
soldier then an Afghani worker and lastly an
Azerbaijani taxidermist. To me Kiarostami’s
representation of Kurdish soldier and his
description of Kurds via Badi, the lead character,
are significant for it reveals Kiarostami’s idea and his treatment of Kurds. The young Kurdish
character is portrayed as a shy and immature soldier, and he plays crucial role in the film as he
appears on the screen for approximately 19 minutes.

It must be stated that this film heavily relies on dialogues and for this reason a close
examination of the dialogues is necessary in order to realize Kiarostami’s depiction of Kurds.
Driving his car on the outskirts of Tehran, Badi encounters a soldier and decides to give him a
lift to his barracks. It is Badi who starts and dominates the conversation and asks endless
questions to the soldier. The seemingly immature and shy Kurdish soldier constantly avoids
looking at Badi’s face. The soldier usually looks ahead or puts his head down because he is an
introvert. Throughout the scene the dominant character is Badi whereas the Kurdish soldier just
gives short answers and tries to speak as short as possible. The implication with his shyness
would have something to do with the lack of trust between Kurds and Persian ethnicities of Iran.
What is also interesting is that Badi does not ask the name of the Kurdish soldier but instead
says:

Badi: “You look tired”
Kurdish soldier: “I guess I am.”
Badi: “Are you worn-out?”
Kurdish soldier: “Yes”
Badi: “A soldier is never tired.”

Then Badi asks the soldier where he is from. The shy Kurdish soldier stops one second and in
a different manner; little bit proud, little bit anxious answers: “Kurdistan”.

B: “Are you in the army there?”
KS: “Yes.”
B: “Will you stay here or go back after?”
KS: “I’ll go back to home.”
B: “Back to Kurdistan?”
KS: “Yes”
B: “Good.”
B: “What did you do in Kurdistan?”
KS: “I was a farmer.”

Interestingly, when he offers a well-paid job to the soldier he does not even tell what the job is
about albeit the soldier asks. Badi drives up to the hill and stops at a certain point and gets out
of the car. He tells the Kurdish soldier to come out too, but the soldier is still anxious and stays
in the car. Then he tells the Kurdish soldier that he is going to stay in the hole and commit
suicide there. What he wants from the soldier is to come early in the morning and call his name
out, if he answers he wants the soldier to take him out, if there is no answer however; he should
trow 20 spade of earth on Badi. What is more, he offers very good money for this job. The soldier
nervously rejects the offer and asks Badi to take him to his barracks. At the end Badi gets angry
and gives a lecture to the Kurdish soldier.

Badi: “Where are you from?”
Kurdish soldier: “Kurdistan”
Badi: “You are a Kurd. A Kurd has to be brave. You people have fought so many wars, known
such sufferings. Your village have been decimated.”
Becoming more anxious the soldier opens the door and runs down the hill.

Abbas Kiarostami’s use of Kurdish soldier is crucial for it represents the Kurdish ethnicity of
Iran. But what is interesting is that the Kurdish boy is a soldier. Why has Kiarostami chosen a
Kurdish soldier? It is out of question that Kiarostami’s preference of Kurdish, Afghani and
Azerbaijani characters is to acknowledge the multicultural formation of the Iranian society.
(Elena, 166) From my point of view, by choosing a Kurdish character Kiarostami, in a way,
acknowledges the Kurdish identity, but by choosing the Kurdish character as a soldier
Kiarostami highlights the way Kurds are seen by Persians and Iranian state. What I mean is that
in general the states that govern the Kurds have always seen and still see the Kurds as sentry. A
Turkish proverb says: “Alavere dalavere Kurt Mehmet nöbete!” It would be no use of translating
this proverb into English word by word, but it means that the ruling states only remember Kurds
when they need sentry. The use of a Kurdish soldier instantly reminded me of that Turkish
proverb. The forgotten Kurds are sometimes described as “brave warriors” when the ruling
states need soldiers to wage a war. I think the use of a Kurdish soldier denotes the Persian
majority’s look at Kurds. In the film, to some extent, Kiarostami critisizes that kind of “orientalist”
look by showing how strange Badi’s treatment of the Kurdish soldier is. Badi is the dominant
character, asks all the questions, praises the military and by his flattering, tries to convince the
Kurdish soldier to help him in committing suicide, an act, which is both from cultural and
religious perspective unacceptable in Iran.

In my mind, as far as Badi’s manner towards the Kurdish soldier is concerned, it is clear that
Badi’s manner symbolizes Persian majority, “the true Iranians”. So to me the use of Kurdish
soldier and the other ethnicities by Kiarostami in A Taste of Cherry, in a way, is to criticize the
Iranian society and tate’s behaviour towards the ethnicities that makes the Iranian society what it
is today. What is more, “this film contains aspects of self-portraiture”. (Cheshire, www.indyweek.
com) So it could be said that Badi is both a reflection of Kiarostami and the Iranian society. It is
not only Badi who is desperate and unhappy but Kiarostami and the Iranian society also. For
this reason it could be said that the film is also a self-criticism of Kiarostami, personified as
Badi’s character in the film.

Another significant point in the conversation between Badi and the Kurdish soldier is the name
Kurdistan. The name Kurdistan is mentioned several times in the film. From my point of view the
repetition of the word “Kurdistan” reinforces the reality of Kurdistan.

On the other hand, Kiarostami, by deliberately leaving some facts untold and not shown, creates
a lot of room for the audiences to make their own interpretations. For example one of the most
important lines of Badi is that:

“You people have fought so many wars, known such sufferings. Your village have been
decimated.”

Indeed the Kurds suffered many massacres under the cruel regime of four governing states that
control the Kurdish areas. Nevertheless Kiarostami does not provide more information on this
point. What kind of sufferings the Kurds have experienced, who decimated their villages, why did
they fight so many wars and against whom? Of course these are the points about which
Kiarostami wants the audiences to think after seeing the film.

The Wind Will Carry Us

    The Wind Will Carry Us is set in a remote Kurdish village, Siah
    Dareh, in Iranian Kurdistan and shot in Persian language with
    some Kurdish dialogues as well. Even though it takes place in a
    Kurdish village, the film does not focus on the Kurdish village or
    villagers. In this film it is important to understand why Kiarostami
    has chosen the Kurdish village as a location and how he treats
    that location and the Kurdish villagers.
Therefore I will try to provide relevant information for these aspects of the film but before that it
would be appropriate to provide succinct synopsis of the film.

In The Wind Will Carry Us, a group of men go to a remote Kurdish village in Iran, to film a
traditional funeral ceremony; there they wait for the death of an old woman, Malek Hanum. Most
of the crew members never appear on the screen accept the lead character Behzad, a middle
aged Persian man who is not so attractive and sympathetic. At the end of the film, the crew
leaves the village without being able to get any footage of the funeral ceremony. Later in the film
we learn that the funeral ceremony is significant because the village women, in order to show
their sorrow and to gain social status, scream and scratch their faces.

Kurdish village as a location; Iranian Kurdistan is different to Tehran

First of all it is important to investigate why Kiarostami has chosen the Kurdish village as the
location. As said above, the chosen location, by which a director expresses his ideas, has
significant function in a film. In The Wind Will Carry Us, which is shot from the protagonist’s
perspective, Kurdish village provides a perfect landscape for the film. Kiarostami’s interest with
the Kurdish village is possibly related to his “curiosity” about Iranian Kurdistan, and his
obsession with nature. The director states that he chose the Kurdish village because the
original story, written by Mahmud Aydin, takes place in a Kurdish village too. He adds that he did
not know the Kurdistan region and just wanted to see with his own eyes “what lay behind that
name, “Kurdistan”, which has attracted so much attention in our social and political lives. But
there was no direct political motive.” (Elena. 164) Yet, as said by Alberto Elena, in an interview
Kiarostami implicates the choice of Kurdish village has a political connotation. “This is a people
that live in my country, in a region I didn’t know. A people who can withstand anything, be it
natural disaster or other kinds of problems. You can’t say that’s not political. Obviously, when we
talk about their lives, we are also providing important information.” (Elena, 164) From my point of
view, to a degree, Kiarostami either deliberately or unconsciously draws the audiences’
attention to the situation of Kurds and Kurdistan.

The way Kiarostami represents the landscape and the Kurdish village are attention grabbing
too. For example the film opens with a view from a hill; from a distance in a wide angle shot a
car is seen on a zigzag and dusty road. The landscape seems desolated, a reddish or brownish
land along with rare single trees. Simultaneously a conversation between several unseen men
inside the car is heard. The unseen men are looking for a village, Siah Dareh, and as they go
further the landscape becomes greener. This is not a conventional establishing shot of a film,
for it continues more than five minutes, By keeping that scene so long and just showing the
landscape I think Kiarostami praises Kurdistan’s nature and landscape. For the first three
minutes and eight seconds no one appears on the screen and then presumably a Kurdish
woman appears working in a field. She is seen from the perspective of the unseen men inside
the car. They ask her the direction of the village and drive away, but one of them says “Women
work like men here.” From this line we understand that they have come to a “different” place,
namely to Iranian Kurdistan. I think this line is crucial. As film crew approaches the Kurdish
village the camera shows us the Kurdish landscape for approximately five minutes to
emphasize its difference. Furthermore the difference is also revealed by the line “Women work
like men here”.

Obviously, by showing this Kiarostami makes it clear that the film is going to take place in a
different territory. Likewise, what is visually most striking and beautiful is the scene in which the
village doctor and Behzad are seen riding on a motorbike on the dusty village road winding in
and around the spectacular looking fields towards the end of the film. The landscape is
amazing, shown in a wide angle; the colours of nature are stunning and heart-warming. To me
this scene is both celebration of life, nature and celebration of Kurdish village. Similarly, the
scene that shows the houses from a low angle is remarkable. The houses seem like a big
castle. The image of the Kurdish village in Kiarostami’s film is reminiscent to the Kurdish
villages of Bahman Ghobadi’s films, a Kurdish director from Iran. Siah Dareh (Black Valley) is a
typical, ordinary Kurdish village. The narrow streets of the village are characteristic of Kurdish
villagers. The houses are so close to each other that some of them look like they have been built
on top of each other. “Grazing cows, sheep and goats. Women still making fresh cream, butter
and cheese the old way- by swinging and shaking milk in a goat skin. And baking fresh bread
over Saj or in Tandur. Tomatoes sun dried on roofs.” (Jonroy. www.newrozfilm.com) All these
pictures are the associating imagery of Kurdish villages that are represented in Kiarostami’s
film.

Also, I would like to say that the choice of Kurdish village as a location in The Wind Will Carry Us
could have different meanings for Kurdish and non-Kurdish viewers. For the Persians and all
the other non-Kurdish viewers it could mean alienation or dislocation, for they are being
subjected to a relatively unknown location, whereas for the Kurdish viewers the Kurdish village
could create a sense of self-assurance as they are being subjected to something familiar.

Criticism or exploitation? Orientalism; superior Tehranis versus Kurds

The relationship between Behzad and Kurdish villagers is another important aspect of The Wind
Will Carry Us, for it reveals the Persians’ approach towards the Kurdish minority of Iran. What is
an important feature of this relationship is that throughout the film; the film crew, especially
Behzad, do not socialize much with the villagers. The Kurdish villagers are predominantly
subjected to Behzad’s gaze in the whole film.

What is crucial is the conversation between the unseen crew members and Kurdish boy. Taking
Farzad in the car they tell him not to tell the villagers why they are in the village. During the whole
conversation the crew members tease the Kurdish boy, and that sets the logic of the crew
members’ strange and alienated behaviour in the whole film. To elaborate this point I think it is
necessary to look at the conversations as this film too heavily relies on dialogues.

One of the unseen crew members says: “If people ask, say we are treasure hunter” and they
start laughing. They even make the child repeat what he is supposed to say:

“Now I’ll pretend to be someone else. Why are they here?”
Kurdish boy: “Treasure hunting.” What we see here is that the Iranian city guys teach a Kurdish
village boy what to say.
An unseen man, supposedly Behzad:
“That’s a pretty village. Did you hide your village so no one can take it away?”
Kurdish boy: “No, we didn’t hide it. The old people built it here.”
Behzad: “I see the old people hid it, so no one can take it?” Indeed, the appearance of the village
from a distance is quite remarkable. Built on the slope of a hill, the village is hardly
distinguishable from the landscape or mountain.
Behzad: “Why do you think the old people built the village here?”
Kurdish boy: “I wasn’t here when they came and built the village.”
Behzad: “So you weren’t here in old times.”
Another one adds: “Only in recent times.” Then they start to laugh again at the boy.

I think there is a kind of “superiority complex” with the way the crew members treat the Kurdish
boy in this scene. It is maybe because they are educated urban Persians. In this there is a kind
of “orientalism” in their behaviour: Persians (Westerners) versus Kurdish boy, (Easterners).
Professor Hamid Dabashi says that Behzad’s and his team’s behaviour towards the Kurdish
villagers is an indicator of “domestic colonialism” in Iran. Dabashi says: “Nativitism not only
blinds Kiarostami’s generation of engaged intellectuals to the global configuration of power, but
also makes them ignorant of subnational, domestic colonialism. The result, so horribly evident
in The Wind Will Carry Us Away, is that the relation of power between national center and ethnic
peripheries simply replicates that of the presumed metropolitan center and its implicit colonial
periphery. There is not much difference between Iranian cultural colonization of ethnic minorities
like the Kurds and global relations at large Tehran simply replicates what London, Paris, and
Washington have done to their satellite peripheries.” (Dabashi, 257)

The meaning of stable scene

The stable scene is another crucial scene that once again reveals the oriental, “colonialist”
manner of Behzad. The scene in which Behzad is seen at the house of Zeynep, the pit digger’s
lover, is quite interesting in terms of dialogue and mis-en-scene. When Behzad steps into the
barn where Zeynep is milking the animals the scene becomes black. For a few seconds nothing
is seen. Then a girl carrying a light which doesn’t provide much illumination for the place barely
appears though her face cannot be seen, while Behzad stays totally unseen. As soon as she
starts milking, Behzad recites a poem from a famous Iranian poet. Then he asks Zeynep
whether she knows Farough, the woman poet whose poem gives its name to the film. Although
he asks for it Zeynep does not show her face. In the scene Zeynep does not talk much, she
seems so innocent and introverted, like the Kurdish soldier in the Taste of Cherry. Her shyness
and silence are a kind of reflection of the Kurdish culture once again. A young Kurdish woman
would not show her face to a stranger just because he wants to see her, especially in a dark
barn where they are alone.

This scene has created a lot of discussion among critics. Some critics talk about the meaning of
the poem but not many critics mention the meaning of the scene for Kurds. When I first saw this
scene I thought why Zeynep’s mother herself didn’t go down instead let Behzad go to the barn
alone. The answer might have something to do with the villagers’ trust in Behzad. But why does
the scene become dark for a few seconds? I think there is a sexual reference in this scene. This
scene as a whole shows the interest of Behzad in Zeynep, a girl whose face he did not even see
and a girl who has a lover, Youssef. It is Kiarostami’s way of denoting “sexual desire” under the
restrictive censorship in Iran. Moreover there are some implications about the urban Persians
abusing the trust of Kurdish villagers. The Kurdish villagers trust the film crew, they welcome
them, give them food and fresh milk, even though the crew never tell the real reason of their
being in the village. In this scene Zeynep is represented as an innocent, shy and defenceless
girl whereas Behzad, although unseen, dominates the dark room by his voice, by reciting a
poem, by projecting his gaze at the vulnerable Kurdish girl in a dark barn. There is a kind of
voyeurism in Behzad’s gaze at Zeynep, at the same time reciting a poem he tries to influence the
Kurdish girl. This scene indeed is so distressing. According to Professor Hamid Dabashi the
“stable sequence is one of the most violent rape scenes in all cinema.” (Dabashi, 254) What is
more Dabashi says: “…he cast the deadliest, powerbasing global gaze on it; the gaze of the
First at the Third World, of the powerful at the powerless, of the center at the periphery, of the
metropolitan at the cononized, of the Tehrani at the Kurd, imitating the Europeans at the height of
colonialism. It is as if Kiarostami rescued the naked Iranian reality from its countervailing layers
of native mataphysics to subject it to a more debilitating globalism.” (Dabashi, 254)

In the film Kiarostami shows how the urban Persians, including himself, are alienated from
Iranian Kurdistan and from the country life. I say this because the film never lets us identify our
selves with Behzad or other crew members, Behzad and his team are represented as non-
attractive and kind of pragmatists who are just waiting for the death of the old woman. (Walsh,
1999) By this portrayal, the film structurally and stylistically alienates the audiences from the
protagonist and film crew. Conversely, as far as seen on the screen, when it comes to the
depiction of Kurdish villagers they are portrayed as affectionate, trustworthy and natural people.
(Elena, 166) The woman owner of the teahouse tells Behzad: “Here no one will touch your car
even if there’s gold in it.” For this reason, in contrast to Dabashi, I could say that Kiarostami, to a
certain degree, makes criticism of the oriental behaviour of the film crew that is symbolizing
Persians. This point will be explained in details below.

The dominant Kurdish woman or Iranian style feminism

Kiarostami criticise Behzad’s “oriental” attitude via a Kurdish woman. From my point of view the
most crucial scene in The Wind Will Cary Us is the teahouse scene because it reveals the
response of Kurdish villagers to the “superior” looking Persians. Astonished by seeing a
woman managing a teahouse, Behzad says: “It’s the first time I’ve seen a lady serving tea.” This
line makes connotation to the difference between Kurdish and Iranian women. Behzad,
obsessed with his sense of “superiority”, is astonished when he sees a Kurdish woman
working in the field, another managing the teahouse of the village, and a little Kurdish boy
reciting a poem. All his astonishments indicate how he is alienated from the country life and
how he is unaware of Kurdish people’s culture. Nonetheless the most crucial aspect of this
scene is Taj Dawlet’s answer to Behzad’s perplexity. In my opinion, this scene is a feminist
criticism of Iranian intellectuals. What is noteworthy is that even the famous feminist film critic
Laura Mulvey does not talk about the representation of Kurdish woman in this film. (Mulvey, Sight
and Sound) I think it would be better to look at these dialogues more closely.

Taj Dawlet: “What planet do you come from?” Behzad is more bewildered by the woman’s
question and lowers his eyes slowly.
Taj Dawlet: “Who serves tea to your father?”
Behzad looks like a child says: “My mother.”

Taj Dawlet: “Then why say you haven’t seen a lady serving tea? Women have three jobs. Work
during the day, serve tea in the evening, and keep company at night…I don’t mean your mother.”
Behzad feeling ashamed of himself and shocked by the woman’s self-confident answers and
cannot say anything except “Thank you”.

What we see here is that Behzad is lectured by a middle aged Kurdish woman, probably
uneducated, this I think is a kind of “Iranian style” feminism. Interestingly the scene does not end
here and the camera shows the Kurdish woman telling an unseen driver not to park in front of
her teahouse as the truck’s fume disturbs her customers. Observing her, Behzad’s
astonishment increases. Then a man sitting on another table interrupts with the woman and a
discussion starts between this man and Taj Dawlet on the “third job” of the men. More
astonished by this discussion Behzad takes a picture of Taj Dawlet but instantly she tells him
not to take her picture. She is so self-confident and so dominant. Her stand and appearance are
extraordinary and to my mind this scene is in effect praising Kurdish women. This scene reveals
the role of Kurdish woman in the Kurdish society. The first woman we saw was working in the
field and now we see a Kurdish woman operating the teahouse of the village. Besides later in
the film a Kurdish woman is seen working on the balcony of her house right after giving birth the
night before. What is noteworthy is that all three women astonish the outsiders.

Self-criticism?

On the other hand what I think is that, The Wind Will Carry Us, like The Taste of Cherry, partly
makes a self-criticism of Kiarostami, since Behzad is a self-reflection of the director.
(Rosenbaum. www.chicagoreader.com) I say this due to the change in Behzad’s behaviour. For
example towards the end of the film, after telling off Farzad and probably feeling guilty, Behzad is
seen apologizing twice to Farzad, though Farzad does not accept his apology. (Kurds are
actually well-known for their stubbornness.) Behzad’s apology indicates that he has changed. At
the end of the film Behzad seems impressed by the life of Kurdish villagers, and becomes more
affectionate towards the villagers. He has found something he had lost, namely his “humanity”;
the missing link with the country life and villagers. Also Behzad, to some degree gives his
superiority complex and biases up. “Now he has found a new way of looking at the world…ready
to accept the enigma ‘otherness’.” (Bergala, in Elena. 159) The change is especially obvious in
the scene in which the pit collapses on the digger, Yousef. Behzad rushes to the village to get
some help, and he even lends his car to the villagers to take Yousef to a hospital. Then we see
him on a motorbike with the village doctor in-between beautiful looking fields, but interestingly it
is the village doctor who recites a poem this time. From my perspective this change in Behzad is
a kind of Kiarostami’s self-criticism.

Signifying Kurdish culture

In terms of signifying Kurdish culture the emphasis on studying, Kurdish language and the fate
of Kurds are crucial. In the film Farzad is a guy who is obsessed with studying. As far as I am
concerned, the desire of education or schooling is a simple feature of Kurdish culture. In the film
the repetition of the dialogues between Farzad and Behzad on Farzad’s schooling emphasises
the importance of education for the Kurds. For Kurdish villagers and even for all Kurds the only
way to overcome the poverty and restriction they are experiencing is schooling. I would also like
to state that in Kurdistan any educated person is a “big!” and “precious person” in the eyes of
Kurdish villagers who are deprived of adequate education. Also, Zeynep too, pit digger’s lover,
makes references to the importance of education for the Kurds. In the scene where Behzad
leaves the barn, Zeynep asks how many years schooling did the writer of poem have. I think
Zeynep’s question is another reference to the importance of education for the Kurds.

Alienating Persian viewers, translation required!

Another interesting point from the film is that it reveals the difference between Kurdish and
Persian language. This point is exposed via some conversation between Behzad and the
Kurdish villagers. When Behzad arrives at the house in which the crew is going to stay, an
unseen Kurdish woman tells something to Farzad in Kurdish; instantly Behzad demands
translation from Farzad. These kinds of translations occur several times in The Wind Will Carry
Us and thus Kiarostami’s film represents and emphasizes one of the important aspects of
Kurdish culture which differs from Persian/Iranian culture. In my opinion, by using some Kurdish
dialogues for which Behzad demands translation, Kiarostami creates an alienated atmosphere
for the Persian viewers as it is not only Behzad who requires translation but all non-Kurdish
Iranians also. Another important aspect of using Kurdish dialogues is that it undermines the
centrality of Persian language which is also the case in another Iranian film, Bashu; The Little
Stranger, directed by Behram Beyzai in 1985 (Rahimieh. 241)

Kurds’ “rope of fate is woven black”

A as one of the most important moment of the film; on the way to Farzad’s school, walking in a
narrow street Behzad asks Farzad why the villages name is “Siah Darreh/Black Valley”, while all
the houses appear to be white. Farzad says: “Our ancestor chose the name.” Then Behzad
recites a poem “Once your rope of fate is woven black…” This line from the poem makes such a
strong reference to the ill-fate of Kurds. Kurds are not free, they cannot govern their territory
because their “rope of fate is woven black.”

Conclusion

In conclusion, it should be stated that because of Kiarostami’s “half-finished cinema” and the
level of ambiguities in his films, interpretations of his films differ immensely amongst
individuals. For this reason, although it looks like there are contradictions at first glance, what I
see after analysing his two films in terms of his portrayal of Kurdish people and Kurdish village
was that his films both have paradoxical features. On the one side he is being “oriental” towards
Kurds as a Persian director who is represented by the protagonists of his films, and on the other
to a degree he is criticising the alienated, oriental manner of Persian’s towards the minority
Kurds. This contradictory feature of his films and his conflicting portrayal of Kurds could stem
from Kiarostami’s own personal reality. In these two films to some extent he both represents the
Kurds through the eyes of Persian majorities including himself , and at the same time he
criticise that “oriental” look by depicting the Kurds as sympathetic, innocent, “working like men”
and self-confident people who astonish the outsiders.

Finally I must state that that one cannot draw concrete conclusions or interpretations about
Kiarostami’s films because as he has noted, his style of filming is “half-made cinema” therefore
any interpretation in regard to his films would be “half-made”. “It's impossible to tell whether or
not his films have been staged” (Anderson, www.combustiblecelluloid.com) Nevertheless, it
could be said that in these two films his portrayal of Kurds has to some extent, been effective in
showing how Kurds are in real life.

Works Cited

1- Anderson, Jeffrey M. The Hills Are Alive. Review of The Wind Will Carry Us.

www.combustiblecelluloid.com 10/05/2006

http://www.combustiblecelluloid.com/windcarry.shtml

2- Cheshire, Godfrey. How to Read Kiarostami. Cineaste 25.4 (2000): p: 8-15

--- Cheshire, Godfrey. Poetry and Sufism; A guide to understanding Kiarostami’s latest film.
www.indyweek.com 13/12/2000. http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A15283
12/05/2006.
3- Bashu, The Little Stranger. Written and directed by: Bahram Beizai. Perf: Admam

Afravian, Susan Taslimi. 1989.

4- Dabashi, Hamid. Close up: Iranian Cinema, Past, Present and Future. London:

Verso, 2001.

5- Elena, Alberto. Through a Glass Darkly. The Cinema of Kiarostami. London: Saqi,

2005. 150-167.

6- Rahimieh, Nasrin. ‘Marking Gender and Difference in the Myth of the Nation: A Post-

revolutionary Iranian Film’. The New Iranian Cinema: Politics, Representation and

Identity. Ed. Richard Tapper. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002.

7- Jonroy, Jalal. The Wind Will Carry Us by Abbas Kiarostami. newrozfilms.com
http://www.newrozfilms.com/windwillcarryus_review_jj.htm 02/05/2006
8- Rosenbaum, Jonathan, The Universe in a Cellar www.cihacoreader.com http://www.
chicagoreader.com/movies/archives/2000/1200/001208.html 26/06/2006.
9- Taste of Cherry. Dir. Abbas Kiarostami. Screenplay: Kiarostami. Perf: Homayoun

Ershadi (as Badi) Iran, CIBY 2000,1997.

10- The Wind Will Carry Us. Written and directed by: Abbas Kiarostami. Perf:

Behzad Dorani, Farzad Sohrabi. New Yorker Films, 1999.

11- Vafa, Saeed Mehrnaz. ‘Location (Physical Space) and Cultural Identity in Iranian

Films’. The New Iranian Cinema: Politics, Representation and Identity. Ed.

Richard Tapper. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002.

12- Walsh, David. A dry bone in a steam. World Socialists Web Site. 18/05/2006

http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/sep1999/tff2-s28.shtml

e-mail to: devrim kilic: kurdishcinema@hotmail.com


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’
KurdishCinema
KurdishCinema

Articles

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

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

Yol: A monument to
human endurance

An interview with the
contreversial Kurdish
director Lauand Omar

Narcissus Should
Blossom

David & Layla:
Criticism of cultural
biases and
celebration of love!

Interview with Yilmaz
Güney

David & Layla

Pain of Giving Birth

Kurdish Cinema

Crossing the Border
The New Kurdish
Cinema

Yol - Jalal Jonroy

Breaking the Silence
Through Film