The Kurdistan Region in Iraq is to host the second British Film Festival in partnership with representatives from the British film industry in February 2013 with a programme of films to be screened in the region's capital city of Erbil. The festival is a celebration of British Cinema and the growing relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the UK.
The second edition will once again showcase a selection of new and classic British films in the Royal Mall cinema in Erbil (opened only at the end of last year). The BFFK remains committed to helping foster the nascent film industry in Kurdistan and a new addition to the programme this year will be the inclusion of both shorts and some medium-length movies by Kurdish filmmakers, such as the acclaimed Chaplin of the Mountains, which will screen alongside the British features.
The timing of this year's festival precedes a week-long commemoration in mid-March of the Anfal/Halabja campaigns that wrought such devastation in the Region in the late 1980s. The organisers are delighted to have the honour of screening the Kurdistan premier of Kulajo, a powerful documentary by the distinguished British film-maker Gwynn Roberts. Kulajo tells the story of what happened to one Kurdish village attacked during the Anfal campaign, capturing the courage and resilience, as well as the suffering, of ordinary people during those terrible events.
Founded by members of the British Consulate-General in Erbil, and Phil Hunt, of London-based Bankside Films, the British Film Festival of Kurdistan aims to bring together people from Kurdistan and the UK in a mutual appreciation of each other's creative talents and to reinforce the special bonds Britain has had with Kurdistan since the first Gulf War in 1991.
"It's an extraordinary and exciting relationship that is being built here between our industry and the people of Kurdistan," says Phil Hunt. "We hope that the films we are screening will inspire and entertain in a way that will encourage local filmmakers and artists to engage with cinema and show us their own stories. The country has changed so dramatically over the last two decades. It's time that those stories were brought to the screen."
"The Kurdish people have endured decades of repression and isolation. But now they are determined to catch up with the rest of the world, reflected in huge economic growth and an impressive record of development in recent years" says Hugh Evans, the British Consul-General in Erbil.
"We in the UK are proud to be forging ever closer and more diverse ties - political, commercial, education and cultural - with the people and government of this fascinating Region. Holding a film festival of this scale and ambition reflects the strength of collaboration between Kurdish and British film enthusiasts. It also taps into a deep Kurdish interest in the creative arts. Last year over 2000 people came to see British films such as Senna, The Queen and Mark Cousins' The First Movie. This year we have an even more exciting range of movies for people to enjoy. We hope this festival can become a long term fixture and will help encourage the emergence of an indigenous Kurdish cinema with international appeal."
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government's UK Representative, who is also involved in the festival, says, "Erbil and other Kurdish cities had cinemas at one time and the older generation used to enjoy watching films on the big screen. But the cinemas were shut down at times of war and eventually fell into disuse. The new generation is hungry to see good films and to have a cinema-going experience. This festival will not only bring some of the best British films to them, but also give people the thrill of seeing films on the big screen."