The woman’s status in the society is a major concern of the film. In a culture where arranged marriages are common and the question of honor looms high, a woman’s place has often been at the receiving end of the whip. Such predicaments are commonplace throughout the Middle East, and the Kurds, though more liberal than their neighbors, are no exception.
The Kurdish region, unlike the rest of Iraq, has taken significant strides in social reform and in conforming to Western-style liberty. This, hand in hand with a boom in reconstruction and development, along with the returning Kurds from Diaspora, has paved the way for the emergence of a new generation to counter the rural traditionalists and the tribal way of life.
As for casting, many of the characters are played either by amateurs or non-actors, including an actual mentally-impaired man who was homeless (the chain-smoking bearded man at the teahouse).
The casting process is always an uphill struggle in Kurdistan. I resorted to bringing in a German actress (Katrin Ender) to play the role of Viyan, as no local actress would dare accept a role that involved a kiss and a rape scene. Katrin, who had directed a TV action series in Germany and a few short films in Kenya, picked up her lines not only in perfect Kurdish, but also in the dialect of the region.
The filming took 28 days in the town of Akre, dotted with churches and mosques, and known for its Zoroastrian background. The townspeople and the authorities were very helpful, however there were a few challenges. One was getting a crowd to run barefoot across the town and up a mountain. The scene required them to chase the village idiot who had stolen their shoes during a mass prayer. However a bigger challenge was during the scene in which Haji Hemmo tries to burn Viyan, but instead his own backside gets caught on fire. Safety was a factor and the crew lacked the customary props but managed to do the work.