OPENED FEBRUARY 14, CERT 12A, 94 MINS
A Kurdish-American man returns to his homeland after a long exile. His aim is to build an orphanage for the children of Halabja, the town in Iraqi-Kurdistan where, in 1988, 5,000 residents died after a chemical and biological attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces. In the process he meets 10-year-old Jiyan and her cousin, forming a friendship that introduces a crucial element of optimism into a film which doesn’t shy from showing the terrible long-term consequences of the attack.
It’s not hard to spot the autobiographical elements. Director Jano Rosebiani is a Kurdish-American who left his homeland in 1975, the same year as his central character. And, understandably perhaps, there’s an undercurrent of anger in this film about the plight of his people. But he avoids didacticism by concentrating on small-scale individual stories rather than overt political comment. Iranian directors like Abbas Kiarostami are clearly an influence, particularly on the exquisite cinematography. However, there are moments when emotional heavy-handedness obscures the power and simplicity of the story.