Tim Evans
Sky Movies

This all-too-rare Kurdish film centers on the emotional and physical fallout of Saddam Hussein's bombing of the town of Halabja.
Stars: Kurdo Galali, Choman Hawrami, Pisheng Berzinji, Derya Qadir, Enwer Shexani

You probably won't have any cause to recall March 16, 1988 - there were no acres of newsprint, no endless TV footage or seismic political shocks.

Yet on that day Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein unleashed a chemical and biological air strike on Halabja, a Kurdish city of 70,000 people.

Up to 5,000 suffered an appalling death from mustard, nerve and cyanide gas poisoning - that's almost double the death toll of the September 11 attack.

Despite the scale of the slaughter, international reaction was muted, with the UN Security Council even failing to single out Iraq as the culprit.

Kurdish-American director Rosebiani seeks to put the spotlight back on the fate of the victims in this unashamed polemic.

He uses Americanized Kurd Diyari (Galali) - a survivor of an earlier atrocity - to act as storyteller, heading to Halabja five years on to build an orphanage.

The first person he encounters on the dusty road into the city is Jiyan (Berzinji), an acid-scarred victim of the chemical attack whose name means Life.

Rather than a hopeless ruin, Diyari encounters colorfully resilient people, keen to rally round his effort to house the local orphans.
Despite the horrors, they are not without humor: when he asks directions to the hospital, a wizened old codger replies, "Keep going until you see a big crowd."

However, the grim legacies of the atrocity are everywhere - blind, deformed and scarred locals are used as extras.

While there are calls to "break Saddam's neck 100 times", the soft-hearted Diyari urges progress rather than blind revenge.

If anything, he's the weak link in the film, so good to be true you rather wish he would cop off with the smitten Tavga across the road.
To a Western audience used to gorging on cheap Hollywood sentiment and computer-enhanced violence, the sentiments may appear naïve. But in the current climate there has never been a better time to give them a bit of thought.


Jiyan DVD