Dir. Hussein Hassan. Iraq/Germany/Qatar, 2016, 91 mins.
The Dark Wind (Reseba) is based on the true story of a captured Kurdish Yazidi woman who was auctioned off into slavery by ISIS in 2014 and rescued by her fiancé in Syria. Hussein Hassan’s sensitive, muted handling of potentially explosive subject material has the undeniable ring of authenticity, having been shot in refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan with the participation of the Yazidi community.
Hassan restricts even the music to let his sad love story express the emotions of this desolated community
Opening the Duhok International Film Festival in Iraqi Kurdistan this September was a bold move for Hassan, whose previous films Narcissus Bloom (2006) and Herman (2009) have played at Berlin’s Panorama and Pusan respectively. The home crowd, many living indefinitely in the refugee camps depicted onscreen, was upset by the re-enactment of bloody events which are still ongoing, and The Dark Wind moves on to Dubai as part of what should be a wider festival rollout. Exposure and interest in territories affected by the events onscreen could be strong for a film which is reminiscent of Balkan dramas As If I Am Not There and Angelina Jolie’s In The Land of Blood And Honey.
Many documentaries have probed the disastrous events which have befallen Iraq since the departure of US troops and the subsequent rise of ISIS in oil-rich Kurdish territories. No drama, though, has dealt with the persecuted Yazidi minority who, in 2014, were murdered and displaced as ISIS forces captured Northwest Iraq and destroyed the holy grounds of this Kurdish religious community, capturing thousands of women who were raped and sold into slavery in street markets.
The Dark Wind starts out in the religious capital of Sinjar with the engagement of beautiful Pero (Diman Zandi) and her older boyfriend Reko (a muted Rekesh Shehbaz), a security guard at a nearby oil plant operated by the Americans – the screenplay by Hassan and producer Mehmet Aktas makes it clear why there’s such an interest in this area. Suddenly, the black-hooded figures of ISIS arrive, murdering inhabitants, capturing girls, and forcing the Yazidis to flee their home for Duhok where some 500,000 Yazidis now live in UN camps.
Pero is lost in the mayhem, captured and sold in a street market; Reko, who escapes to the camp, pursues her with a quiet determination. The rescue of the traumatised Pero, movingly played by Zandi, is not the end of her problems, however, and although the Yazidis have “forgiven” the 5,000-odd captured women of their tribe, not all of the community elders fall into line. “They abuse and rape our women and sell them back to us,” comments one tribesman. “They are more dead than alive.”
Hassan and cinematographer Touraj Aslani favour wide shots of the Iraqi landscape and the camps which the Yazidis now call home, and begin to look more permanent throughout the film. This is a rare opportunity to see this part of the world framed in a dramatic scenario, and The Dark Wind is quietly authentic throughout, with Hassan restricting even the music to let his sad love story express the emotions of this desolated community.
Production company: Mitos Film
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Producer: Mehmet Aktas
Screenplay: Hussein Hassan, Mehmet Aktas
Cinematography: Touraj Aslani
Editor : Ebrahim Saeedi
Music: Mustafa Biber
Cast: Rekesh Shehbaz, Diman Zandi, Maryam Boobani, Imad Lezgin