For the first time in its 44-year history, the Nashville Film Festival is devoting a sidebar to a regional or national cinema. The focus this year is on a "Celebration of Kurdish Film" — a natural fit, since Nashville is home to one of the world's largest populations of Kurdish immigrants outside the Middle East.
For the past two days, courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a delegation representing the Duhok International Film Festival in Iraq, NaFF audiences have received an introduction to the work of Kurdish filmmakers such as Bahman Ghobadi (Rhino Season) and Hiner Saleem (If You Die, I Will Kill You), as well as films detailing the lives of Kurdish people beyond Iraq and Turkey to France, Germany and Sweden. The celebration is capped by what should be a feast of food, drink, music and lively talk tonight at War Memorial on Legislative Plaza, where the festival honors the visiting filmmakers starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission for two is $35.
In addition, several films from the celebration will show today and have repeat screenings throughout the week. Below, we've posted trailers and synopses.
THE GUERILLA SON (2:30 p.m. today; also 12:45 p.m. Monday) From the festival website: 23 years after being abandoned by his father Taher, Zanyar is still afraid to confront him with these questions: How could he leave his son in the midst of a war and then send him to Sweden alone? The father does all he can to forget his past, but he can’t hide it anymore. Any day now, Zanyar will become a father himself and there is no time like the present. Together they will return to Iraq. Screening sponsored by Lipscomb University.
IF YOU DIE, I WILL KILL YOU (12:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 23) Two Parisians — sad-sack ex-con Philippe (Jonathan Zaccaï) and his roommate Avdal (Billey Demirtas), a Kurd pursuing an Iraqi war criminal — have lives stuck in neutral. Their accidental friendship energizes them, until Avdal is betrayed by a bad ticker. The tragedy brings in members of Paris' Kurdish community, along with Avdal's fiancée (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani) and his glowering fundamentalist father. The film's tone veers from Jarmuschian humor to Gallic ooh-la-la (look for cameos by three lovely actresses of a certain age) and female empowerment story. Odd, yes, but expatriate Kurdish director Hiner Saleem knows these worlds and assembles a diverting ride. DANA KOPP FRANKLIN
KURDISH SHOWCASE (4:45 p.m. today; also 2:15 p.m. Tuesday) From the festival website: As part of our celebration of Kurdish cinema, we feature shorts from filmmakers from Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Turkey, and Norway. Included are the shorts "Bicycle," "Dalya," "Ghi Ghoo," "The Other Ones" and "Silent."
RHINO SEASON (5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25) Kurdish-Iranian poet Sahel (Behrouz Vossoughi) is released from an Iranian prison after serving nearly 30 years for writing poems considered "against the state." When he's released, he learns that his wife Mina (Monica Bellucci) thinks he's been dead for many years. The latest work from acclaimed director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time For Drunken Horses, Turtles Can Fly), Rhino Season is based on the true story of a Kurdish-Iranian poet known as Sadegh Kamangar, some of whose poems are used as narration, giving the film an impressionistic, dreamlike quality. It's an extremely dark and disturbing tale, but it's artfully told, and Turaj Aslani's cinematography is fabulous, with many of the scenes bathed in sepia hues that accentuate the characters' faded memories and broken hearts. Part of the festival's "Celebration of Kurdish Films," running Friday through Sunday. JACK SILVERMAN
TRATTORIA (noon Wednesday, April 24) From the festival website: Nineteen-year-old Lea is honest, direct and not afraid of speaking her mind. She calls her father, Bosse. All she knows about him is hearsay provided by her mother, before her recent death. Bosse, a likeable small-time criminal and the owner of a trattoria, is shocked to learn of his ‘sudden’ fatherhood and tries to get rid of Lea. But Lea is too much her father’s daughter to take such a brush off lying down. On the pretext of looking for a job Lea manages to inveigle her way into the trattoria. Ali, the head chef and Bosse’s right hand man, takes the girl under his wing and somehow — oscillating between recognition, instinct and not-wanting-to-know — Bosse and Lea gradually manage to develop a relationship. Meanwhile Nazmi and Dana, two Kurdish henchmen sent to collect protection money begin turning up at the trattoria with alarming regularity and threaten Bosse’s business interests. Before long, things begin to get out of hand. With trenchant wit, Trattoria succeeds in turning the tables on the conventional mores of the mafia movie.