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On the sec­ond day of Suley­maniyah’s 5th edi­tion of the Suley­maniyah Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­tive, Kur­dish Film mak­er Ersin Çelik ‘s film “Ji Bo Azadiyê” was pulled out of the program.

Screen­ing of the film had already been for­bid­den on Decem­ber 31 2019. The “offi­cial” rea­sons giv­en then con­cerned the pan­dem­ic. But since the film talks about the resis­tance in Kur­dish towns under siege from the Turk­ish State in 2015, one can­not fail to see a causal rela­tion­ship, giv­en the very “diplo­mat­ic” rela­tion­ships exist­ing between the Ira­ki Kur­dish enti­ty, and the Turk­ish regime, and the way in which this enti­ty main­tains a per­sis­tent pol­i­cy of clo­sure con­cern­ing Roja­va. Incur­sions and attacks by the Turk­ish army with­in the Ira­ki Kur­dish enti­ty, under the ali­bi of pur­su­ing the PKK in bor­der areas, are also an aspect of the tac­it agree­ments with the Barzani regime.

In this con­text, there is noth­ing sur­pris­ing in the exer­cis­ing of pres­sures on the fes­ti­val plan­ning to screen it, and pro­hibit­ing the view­ing of film con­sid­ered as “ter­ror­ist pro­pa­gan­da” by the Turk­ish regime, when this same film encoun­ters suc­cess on the inter­na­tion­al scene.

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Press release about banning the screening of the film “Ji Bo Azadiye” at the 5th Sulaymaniyah International Film Festival.

The deci­sion to ban the film was made by the direc­to­ry board of the fes­ti­val a few hours before the screen­ing. No legit rea­son or excuse for this ban was pro­vid­ed to us, nor an offi­cial announce­ment about it was released by the fes­ti­val board in the event as it was not deemed nec­es­sary. Due to this, we would like to share all aspects of this top­ic and its developments.

We, as the Roja­va Film Com­mune, had con­clud­ed the pro­duc­tion of our film “Ji Bo Azadiye” or “The End Will Be Spec­tac­u­lar” in Sep­tem­ber 2019. It had its world pre­miered in Novem­ber 2019 at the 25th Kolkata Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val, com­pet­ing for the (NETPAC AWARD).

ji bo azadiye afficheAs for the nation­al pre­miere, we had planned for its first screen­ings in Kur­dis­tan in both Sulay­maniyah city and in Roja­va in Rime­lan city. How­ev­er, the screen­ing in Sulay­maniyah, which was sup­port­ed by the Direc­torate of Cul­ture there at the time, and was planned to take place in Sal­im Cin­e­ma on New Year’s Eve (Decem­ber 31st, 2019) was banned by the Gov­er­norate of Sulay­maniyah and the secu­ri­ty forces (Asay­ish) of Sulay­maniyah. Nonethe­less, the screen­ing in Roja­va took place as per our plans, and after that, despite the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, our film was screened in 20 dif­fer­ent fes­ti­vals around the world and received awards in some of them. In addi­tion to fes­ti­vals, the film was dis­trib­uted and screened in many coun­tries around the world, from Japan to Brazil, Tai­wan to Spain, and more than 30 coun­tries, with­out ever being banned.

Our film “Ji Bo Azadiye”, and the film “Black­ber­ry Sea­son” which we co-pro­duced, took part in the fes­ti­val based on the request from the fes­ti­val itself. Our admin­is­tra­tive mem­bers of Roja­va Film Com­mune and the Sulay­maniyah Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val board mem­bers have been meet­ing and in con­tact since Octo­ber. Accord­ing to that, the fes­ti­val board select­ed “Ji Bo Azadiye” direct­ed by Ersin Celik, “Black­ber­ry Sea­son” by Hashim Aydemir, and the doc­u­men­tary “Love in the Face of Geno­cide” by Shero Hinde, for the fes­ti­val pro­gram. On that base, we sent the screen­ers of the three films to the fes­ti­val. Lat­er, they revealed that the doc­u­men­tary ‘Love in the Face of Geno­cide’ would not be screened as it was sup­posed to be screened at the Duhok Film Fes­ti­val. Regard­less, the oth­er two films will still be screened to com­pete in the Inter­na­tion­al Fea­ture Films sec­tion; and after our con­fir­ma­tion, both films were in the festival’s program.

The fes­ti­val board mem­bers were informed about the ban on the screen­ing of the “Ji Bo Azadiye” film on the 31st of Decem­ber 2019. This was dis­cussed in our ver­bal and writ­ten chats. At the same time, the fes­ti­val point­ed out that the film pre­mier should uphold in Iraq, and no pub­lic screen­ing should take place until the date of the festival

Apart from the films; it was the wish of the fes­ti­val board for the film­mak­ers to be present at the fes­ti­val, thus, offi­cial invi­ta­tions were sent by the fes­ti­val and our friends and col­leagues went to par­tic­i­pate in the fes­ti­val. They had also includ­ed visu­als and infor­ma­tion about our film in the pre­sen­ta­tion on dig­i­tal media, as well as in the fes­ti­val catalogues.

After the begin­ning of the fes­ti­val, and on Decem­ber 18th, 2021 i.e. the day of the film screen­ing, and just a few hours before the screen­ing; the board report­ed that “Since the film is a 2019 pro­duc­tion, it will be tak­en out of the com­pe­ti­tion on this cat­e­go­ry and it can­not not be screened today”. This was ver­bal­ly stat­ed to our friends who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the festival.

Of course, this was not the real rea­son behind that! We would have take the excuse into con­sid­er­a­tion if it was a new, but we have dis­cussed it with them from the very first moment. But as we men­tioned above;

We did not sub­mit­ted the films to the fes­ti­val, but the board of the fes­ti­val request­ed and select­ed the films itself
The fes­ti­val board mem­bers knew that the film was banned in late 2019. There­fore, it could not pos­si­bly be pro­duced the year after!
The appli­ca­tion for the films sub­mis­sions are done through “Film Free Way” plat­form. And there are no reg­u­la­tions as such regard­ing the pro­duc­tion year of the films, and no such reg­u­la­tion was ever men­tioned in our meetings.
There are 2019 pro­duc­tion films in oth­er cat­e­gories of the festival.

These issues were all dis­cussed in detail in our meet­ing yes­ter­day, and in order to not deep­en the prob­lem, we told them that “It does not mat­ter to us whether the film is in the offi­cial com­pe­ti­tion or not, but we want the screen­ing to take place time­ly, as was planned.” But by no means were they close to a solu­tion, which could be a sign that some devel­op­ments had tak­en place in that day itself. There was also some infor­ma­tion going around at the fes­ti­val area that there was an “exter­nal” influ­ence on the direc­to­ry of the fes­ti­val. Even with­out this infor­ma­tion, the things that hap­pened alone clar­i­fied the situation.

Fur­ther­more, we would like to draw your atten­tion to that in the “Fea­ture Film Com­pe­ti­tion” sec­tion, which is the main sec­tion in the Fes­ti­val; out of the 16 films select­ed; only two films were made in Kur­dis­tan and their lan­guages are Kur­dish, and they were our films “Ji Bo Azadiye” and “Black­ber­ry Season”.

Because of all this, we, as the Roja­va Film Com­mune, crit­i­cize and protest this act which is first and fore­most far from the morals and ethics of art, far from the ethics of cin­e­ma and film fes­ti­vals. We dis­cussed this with our peo­ple who we col­lab­o­rate with; friends, artists, col­lec­tives, and com­pa­nies we worked with. As a result of these dis­cus­sions; Since this Fes­ti­val is not a “free art plat­form”, we have with­drawn our sec­ond film “Black­ber­ry Sea­son” as well.

We urge the fes­ti­val board to make a state­ment to the pub­lic about this inci­dent. We call them to explain this ban that that hap­pened in the intel­lec­tu­al cap­i­tal of Kur­dis­tan, to the peo­ple and artists of Sulay­maniyah city, the guests of the fes­ti­val, and the pub­lic of Kurdistan.

Rêveberiya Komîna Film a Rojava
Syr­ia, Kamish­li, Arbawiye — Sinaa Road
Com­mu­nique pdf Eng­lishKur­dî

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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.