This year’s programming centers Kurdish women and their contributions to human rights discourse, feminism, literature, and egalitarian social organizing. The festival includes feature and short film screenings, live music performance, and book talks. New York’s landmark movie theater, Village East by Angelika will host the festival.
The event will take place on Friday, September 10 from 6–10pm and on Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12 from 2–10pm.
“This is what we have, Kurdish cinema. We are offering our story in a universal language to feel, you know, that we are united despite all the oppression, despite all the division, despite all the borders. We are Kurds united,” said host Xeyal Qertel who established the festival in 2017.
On the festival’s opening night ethnomusicologist Ozan Aksoy will give a talk followed by a performance. Aksoy is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who grounds his work in the musical traditions of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey—which include the Kurds, Armenians, Laz, and Alevi among others.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon will read from her best-selling book, The Daughters of Kobani (2021). The book details the lives of Kurdish women-led coalition fighters and their victory against the terrorist group DAESH (ISIS). Her text explores the YPJ (Women’s Protection Unit)’s efforts to heal from patriarchy while responding to threats brought on by the civil war in Syria.
Veysi Altay’s documentary film Nû Jîn (New Life) (2017) explores the story of the Kobanî resistance by following the daily lives of three YPJ fighters. The film shows their successful fight to protect their city from being taken by DAESH (ISIS).
The Return, Life After ISIS (2021), directed by Catalonian director Alba Sotorra, explores the controversial fate of the ISIS women from Europe and America and their children in the Kurdish region of Rojava, Syria. The film negotiates the relationship between women who were members of ISIS and local Kurdish women attempting to help them heal.
Love In The Face of Genocide (2020), directed by Şêro Hindê, one of the co-founders of the Rojava Film Commune, explores the oral history of Kurds through spontaneous song and storytelling—a practice known as Dengbêj.
The festival programming predominantly features works made by Kurdish peoples along with non-Kurds’ work about Kurds. The intention of this festival is both to share Kurdish arts to enjoy and reflect in them—but also to foster solidarity within Kurdish communities and friends of different lineages. Because carving out a safe space to honor our histories makes it easier to respond to our present conditions with the wisdom needed to entertain complexity, this festival is an offering.
Ticket sales will be available both at the door, and online via Eventbrite at this link.
The New York Kurdish Film and Cultural Festival is sponsored by Justice for Kurds, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung NY Office, NYU Kevorkian Center, and Kurdish Lobby in Australia.
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