Gulîstan, Land of Roses
| 86 min 10 s
Prizes and awards
Best Feature FilmMilano Film Festival 2016
Best New Talent From Québec/CanadaRIDM 2016
Spirit & Audience AwardEBS International Documentary Festival 2016
Primer Premio Tiempo de HistoriaValladolid International Film Festival 2016
Selection AwardDoc Alliance 2016
Best Kurdish DocumentaryDuhok International Film Festival 2016
Jury's PrizeTrento Film Festival, Italy 2017
Jury AwardLake Como Film Festival 2017
Jury Prize & Circolo Amerindiano AwardDiritti a Todi, Human Rights International Film Festival 2017
They belong to the armed wing of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is also an active guerrilla movement. The mission of these female fighters? Defend Kurdish territory in Iraq and Syria, and defeat ISIS (the armed militants of the so-called Islamic State group), all while embodying a revolutionary ideal advocating female empowerment.
As filmmaker Zaynê Akyol follows their highly regimented lives, seasoned fighters like Rojen and Sozdar openly share with us their most intimate thoughts and dreams.
Even as fighting against ISIS intensifies in the Middle East, these women bravely continue their battle against barbarism. Offering a window into this largely unknown world, Gulîstan, Land of Roses exposes the hidden face of this highly mediatized war: the female, feminist face of a revolutionary group united by a common vision of freedom.
About the PKK
Hungry for justice, they stand at the forefront of the fight for freedom in the Middle East. These young women, all weapons experts, belong to the armed wing of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is also an active guerrilla movement. The group defends Kurdish regions besieged by military attacks from neighbouring countries. Today, these guerrillas are fighting Daesh (the armed Islamic State group) near the Iraqi and Syrian borders. The documentary Gulîstan, Land of Roses sheds light on the lives of these women who are collectively fighting for a revolutionary ideal. Many of them, particularly Rojen and Sozdar, invite us into their intimate moments and openly share their thoughts and dreams.
From their camp hidden away in the landmine-littered mountains of Kurdistan, the women lead a nomadic life according to guerrilla rules. Though their leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been imprisoned by the Turkish regime since 1999, these PKK fighters continue on with their fight for a more just democratic system. Surrounded by wilderness, they undergo ideological and practical training before being sent out to the front lines. Their daily routine consists of a steady stream of political meetings, strategy lessons, physical training and weapons handling—all in a spirit of military camaraderie. By giving these women a voice, the film captures their ritualized activities as well as the emotional and intellectual bonds that unite them. As they open themselves to filmmaker Zaynê Akyol with poignant sincerity and authenticity, we become privileged witnesses of these moments suspended in time, stolen from the war.
Each woman has her own story. Twenty-three-year-old Rojen feels guilty for leaving her family behind to fight on the ground—especially her mother. But the call of the revolutionary movement was too strong. Despite the rigours of military discipline, she now feels at peace with the decision she made in secrecy. Rojen views her commitment as a token of solidarity toward all women, explaining that she enlisted in a movement that fights for their political education and emancipation from the pervasiveness of male power. Like the rest of her troop, Rojen is eagerly awaiting permission to go to war.
Sozdar, meanwhile, is older and has been involved in the party for a long time. She is a benevolent soul and in some ways, the group’s conscience. She’s also a sharpshooter who has fought in several battles and knows all too well the consequences of war. At times she faces the camera while conversing with the director. Set up in a makeshift shelter behind closed doors, the camera takes the place of a personal diary. Sozdar is an ardent feminist who considers woman to be the origin of everything. In her mind, woman represents the fundamental moral force; the one who gives birth to people. Sozdar also decries capitalism, calling it immoral and the root of oppression and sexism. As war approaches, Sozdar says she believes a truly democratic regime is coming to Kurdistan and that no sacrifice is too great for this ideal.
Gulîstan, Land of Roses is also a film about anticipation. With the enemy active and threatening in the distance, each woman dreams of one thing only: to uproot the Islamic State armed group from their territory. Though these seasoned fighters play a central role in the PKK, they also bring a different tone to the armed struggle. Amid rocky mountains and arid deserts, they are the future of a people and confidently serve the ideal to which they have dedicated their lives. As fighting against Daesh intensifies in the Middle East, these women stand in the front lines of the fight against barbarism. Offering a window into this largely unknown world, the film also exposes the hidden face of this highly mediatized war: the female, feminist face of a revolutionary group united by a common vision of freedom.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is primarily a Marxist-Leninist-influenced guerrilla movement fighting for the independence of predominantly Kurdish regions. It was founded in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan and took up arms in 1984. Since 2005, the party has advocated a new political system called Democratic Confederalism, which calls for people’s self-management through direct democracy. The PKK is on the Canadian government’s list of terrorist organizations.
The Kurds are the largest group of stateless people in the world. Since the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, they have been divided among Turkey (20 million), Iran (8 million), Iraq (6 million) and Syria (2 million). The term Kurdistan—which is used to designate the land of the Kurds—only became a legitimate term in 2005 in Iraq, following a referendum initiated by Massoud Barzani, president of this now autonomous region. Eighty percent of Kurds are Muslim, although other religions such as Alevism, Yazidism, Yarsanism, Christianity and Judaism are also practised by the Kurdish people.
Written and directed by
ROZA SILA NÛDA
Director of Photography
Sound Man Turkey
Sound Man Kurdistan (Iraq)
Additional Sound Recording
Production Managers Montreal
Production Manager Turkey & Iraq
SAID NUR AKKUŞ
Driver Kurdistan (Iraq)
Script Consultant Canada
Script Consultant Germany
Post Production Supervisor
Musical Excerpt From
“LE DINE” BY ELIF & REMZI
On-Line Editor (NFB)
Technical Support – Editing (NFB)
Foley Technician (NFB)
COLETTE LOUMÈDE (NFB)
NATHALIE CLOUTIER (NFB)
DENIS McCREADY (NFB)
A Canada-Germany coproduction
with the financial support of the
Programme d’aide aux jeunes créateurs – SODEC
In co-production with
NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA
About the NFB
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