A Kurdish-American man returns to the town of Halabja to build an orphanage. An accomplished and moving feature from writer-director Jano Rosebiani.

On March 16 1988, 5,000 Kurdish people were killed and thousands more maimed when the town of Halabja was subject to a biological and chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein's air force. Jiyan (Life) begins five years after this atrocity, with Diyarî (Galalî) arriving in the traumatized community, where the polluted air still carries diseases and where his friend Salar (Shêxanî) says that those who survived the bombings are between "life and death". Amongst those whom Diyari befriends are two orphaned children: Shêrko (Hawramî), a boy who dreams of becoming a pilot in order to bomb Saddam, and the seven-year-old Jiyan (Berzincî), a girl with a badly scarred face.

Jiyan could equally have been titled And Life Goes On, for as with that 1991 drama from Iranian maestro Abbas Kiarostami, it demonstrates how, in the face of appalling hardship, people somehow keep going: here they gather at a local café, fall in love - one suitor whispers poetry over a wall to his beloved - dance to music, and get married.

Writer-director Jano Rosebiani and cinematographer Al Janabi show a good eye for both the surrounding landscape and the telling detail, whether it's the barefooted workmen on crutches, a blind woman 'feeling' the photographs of her relatives, or empty bomb shells deployed as flower-pots.

Nor does the director ignore the shameful political evasiveness of the West towards the Kurds. A character blames Henry Kissinger for the failed uprising against Iraq in the mid-70s, while another bemoans how the tragedy of Halabja never managed to become impinged on the world's conscience, leaving his countrymen still trapped between the "four monsters" of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.


Jiyan reminds us of the continued oppression of the Kurdish people, while celebrating their resilience, and suggests through the film's younger characters a measure of tentative hopefulness for the future.

Director Jano Rosebiani had to smuggle his filming equipment for Jiyan into Iraqi Kurdistan from Turkey. Post-production was completed in Brussels.

Film Quote:

Let your gun be the pen, and your warplane be the computer.
Diyari (Kurdo Galali) to Sherko


Jiyan DVD