My Sweet Pepper Land

Window into Kurdistan

Most of us have never been to Kurdistan, the remote area at the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran. This film offers us an opportunity to venture into this remote region, encounter the people who live there.

Pepperland is actually the name of the local bar, a venue mainly for the men of the village where the film is set. It plays its part in the confrontations we are invited to watch.

The film opens rather sardonically with a prisoner being asked to invoke the help of Allah. Next, we are in an open courtyard with a military man addressing a small tribunal of a lawyer, a judge, a mullah and a former soldier. They are told that it is 2006, that they are free from Saddam Hussein, that they need to set up institutions, develop a police force as well as a military force. And the symbol of this reconstruction is the use of the death penalty.

The pretensions of this meeting are undermined when the accused is put on a large cask and strung up – only for the cask to topple and for him to fall. There is continued discussion about whether the law and the Koran have indications how he should die.

But this is the story of the former soldier who wants to return home. The soldier‘s mother has other ideas and wants him to be married – so he reapplies to work in the police force, agreeing to go to the remote village where he is met on the highway by his deputy and they have to ride by horse to the village because the bridge has not been rebuilt.

They encounter a young woman the audience has already been introduced to, a teacher who has several brothers, the older of whom disapproves completely of her work, though she has the trust of her father. The two policemen have to let her dismount before they reach the village – appearances in terms of suspicious relationships are the subject of gossip and disapproval.

The film also introduces us to the local warlord, upholding the traditions of centuries, especially in strict sexual moral expectations – but has not a hesitation or scruple in using violence to control, to get rid of opposition, and to protect trade in selling medicines which are past their used by date.

This is not essential viewing, but audiences who do go to see it will not be disappointed.

- Peter Malone, ACOFB

France, Germany, Iraq, 2014, Colour. Starring Korkmaz Azlan, Golshifteh Farahani. Directed by Hiner Saleem. Rated M (Mature themes, Violence, Coarse Language). 100 minutes.

My sweet pepper land

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