review by Jaap Mees
Jiyan made by self taught Kurdish/American filmmaker Jano Rosebiani, is a magnificent film. Seeing a film like this in the London Film Festival reminds you why you want to be in film making in the first place. It has all ingredients that makes a memorable and fantastic film.I Like good and natural acting, exquisite photography by Koutaiba Al Janabi, who made the maximum out of minimum resources. A story that matters and needs to be told urgently, and most of all a film with a warm beating heart.
What is it with those Kurdish films? Two years ago another fabulous Kurd, Bahman Ghobadi, made the wonderful A Time For Drunken Horses about mountain children smuggling to survive in very harsh conditions.
Jiyan deals with the aftermath of the evil actions of Saddam Hussein, who killed 5000 people of Halabja (Kurdistan) in a chemical and biological attack. More than 9000 inhabitants remained mutilated for life. Five years later Diyari visits the city in his car and plans to build an orphanage for the victims. He is very well played by the sympathetic Kurdo Galali, through whose eyes we see the story develop. This is one of the clever moves of director Rosebiani, which shows he understands how important it is to have a lead character who is instantly likeable, so the audience can identify themselves with him.
He meets a shy and sweet orphan girl Jiyan, which means life, slowly but gradually an intense and touching friendship develops. The only person who survived the chemical genocide of her family is her brother Sherko. Jiyan is my heart and soul, he says several times, she means everything for him. We meet all different people in Halabja: a woman who falls in love with Diyari. He denies her in a very gracious letter and explains he is honoured that she fancied him, but he is happily married with two children. Another magical character is an old man who refuses to talk anymore, after the killing of his wife and eight children. He plays the whole day on his flute on the roof of his house.
Much credit should also go to D.O.P Koutaiba Al Janabi, who excels in creating sublime images, his shots of the flute player on the roof at night, the capturing of a sandstorm, his sense of time and place are unforgettable. Koutaiba's genuine eye for the beauty and hardship on the faces of the Kurdish people is very impressive indeed. Quite a revelation to see a cinematographer who takes the time to frame and light with great care and not pan along rapidly without allowing people to really see.
Filmmakers and producers should queue up in signing him for their next projects!
Jiyan is an important, authentic and moving film. It is intended as the first part of a trilogy on Kurdish life and culture. Truly inspiring films like Jiyan should be cherished and talented filmmakers like Jano Rosebiani should be embraced.