The first documented Kurdish film is "
, directed by Hamo Beknazarian in Soviet Armenia. "
is a silent film involving romance between a young Yezidi couple Zaré and Seydo. "
Krder-Ezidner" (Kurds-Yezidis) (1933), is the second milestone silent film about Yezidi Kurds in Soviet Armenia directed by Amasi Martirosyan. The film revolves around the establishment of a Soviet era kolkhoz (collective farm) in a Kurdish village.
Four and hald decades later, the first film by a Kurdish director (Yilmaz Guney) was "The Herd" in 1978. It was followed by his Palme d'Or award winner, "Yol" (The Road) in 1982. Both films depict life of Kurds under the Turkish suppression. Despite restrictions levied against him by the Turkish government, forcing him to make his films in the Turkish language, Guney is considered one of the founding fathers of Kurdish cinema.
The first Kurdish language film was made a decade later. "A Song for Beko"
by director, actor, and musician Nizamettin Aric. The film was shot in Armenia in 1992. It depicts Kurdish refugees and those internally displaced in Turkey.This was followed by another film in diaspora, "
Long Live the Bride... and the Liberation of Kurdistan"(1998) shot in France by director Hiner Salim and "Ax (Land) (1999) by director Kazim Oz in Turkey.
Kurdish cinema finally recieved momentum in 2000s upward, starting with a handful award-winning films by filmmakers from all parts of Kurdistan and in the diaspora, among them, Bahman Ghubadi (A Time for Drunken Horses - 2000);
Jano Rosebiani (Jiyan - 2002);
Hiner Salim (Vodka Lemon - 2003); Shawkat Amin Kormi (Crossing the Dust - 2006), and dozens more.
Presently there are over 50 award-winning filmmakers and an average of three films are produced annually. We have compiled into four catagories - Kurdish films by Kurd directors; Kurdish films in dual languages; Kurdish films in foreign languages; Non-Kurdish films by Kurd directors; and Kurdish films in the silent movie era.
Kurdish language films by Kurd directors:
A SONG FOR BEKO (1992)
by Nizamettin Aric
is known to be the first feature film shot entirely in Kurdish (kurmanji dialect) in Armenia in 1992; Aric, a filmmaker, actor, and musician from the Kurdish region of Turkey, now living in germany. The film was premiered at the Venice Film festival in 1992, winning the audience award.
A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES (2000) by Bahman Ghubadi, is the first Kurdish language film shot in Iranian Kurdistan (East Kurdistan). The film is has recieved numrous awards, most prominent among them is the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival where it premiered in 2000.
JIYAN (LIFE) (2001) is the first feature film made in Iraqi Kurdistan (South Kurdistan). The film was released in 2002 with its world premiere at Rotterdam Int'l Film Festival where it was nomintaed for the Tiger Award. The film recived rave reviews and numerous awards, among them the Seattles Int'l Film Festival's New Directors Showcase award in 2002.
The above films were followed by a plethora of productions in the 2000s and 2010s, many of them recieving high critical acclaim and prestigeous awards.
Kurdish films in dual languages:
A good number of Kurdish films are made in dual languages for various reasons - the stories taking place in foreign lands; the filmmakers living in foreign lands;
the Kurdish characters interact with non-Kurds; or the films are supported with foreign funds. Among filmmakers who shuttle between Kurdistan and the diaspora are Mano Khalil (Switzerland), Hiner Salim (France), Hisham Zaman (Norway), Soleen Yusef (Germany), Viyan Mayi and Karzan kadir (Sweden), Sahim Omar Kalifa (Belgium), and Jano Rosebiani (USA). Hence, some of their films are made in dual languages, such as Hiner Salim's
VIVE LA MARIEE... ET LA LIBERATION DU KURDISTAN (Kurdish and French - 1998); Hisham Zaman's WINTERLAND (Kurdish and Norweigian - 2007); Hiner Saleem's IF YOU DIE I WILL KILL YOU
(French and Kurdish - 2011);
Soleen Yusef's HOUSE WITHOUT A ROOF (German, Kurdish and English - 2016);
and Jano Rosebiani's CHAPLIN OF THE MOUNTAINS (Kurdish and English - 2014). CHAPLIN... also marks the first English language film shot entirely in Kurdistan.
Kurdish films in foreign languages:
These films can be placed in two catagories. Films that are made in Kurdistan but due to state ristrictions they are shot in the language of the state. This is most prevailent in films shot in Turkey, including Yilmaz Guney's THE HERD (1978), and YOL (1982). Guney is considered one of the founding fathers of Kurdish cinema. He was a prominent star in Turkey, as an actor appearing in well over 50 films. His most prominent Kurdish film, YOL was directed from a prison cell. Today many, or most, Kurdish films in Turkey continue to be made in the formal language of the state.
The second catagory of Kurdish films in foreign languages belong to films shot in diaspora, mostly in Europe. Among them are Yilmaz Guney's THE WALL (French and Turkish - 1983); Hiner Saleem's BEYOND OUR DREAMS (French - 2000).
Non-Kurdish films by Kurd directors:
Jano Rosebiani's COME BACK (USA 1986) and DANCE OF THE PENDULUM (USA 1995) mark the first non-Kurdish films made by a Kurd. Theyare followed by Hiner Saleems' BENEATH THE ROOFTOPS OF PARIS (France 2007).
Two silent films were made in Sovient Armenia, both about Yezidi Kurds. They are ZARE (1927) by Amo Bek-Nazaryan, and KRDER-EZIDNER
(Kurds-Yezidis) (1933) directed by Amasi Martirosyan. These two films mark the first ever motion pictures about Kurds.
Some useful links:
Kurdish Cinema - Wekepedia
A brief history of early Kurdish cinema: Part I - Jano Rosebiani, Rudaw
Kurdish Cinema Part II: What makes a good film? Jano Rosebiani, Rudaw
Kurdish Cinema Part III: Kurdish women in film - Jano Rosebiani, Rudaw
Kurdish Cinema Part IV: Diaspora in film - Jano Rosebiani, Rudaw