Hor­ror film cap­tures Me­sopotamia’s his­tory in a dra­matic form

The Kurdish Globe - - SPORTS - By Salih Wal­ad­bagi

It was go­ing to be a film about a bru­tal tyrant but was dis­rupted when per­haps the most bru­tal mod­ern day group got com­fort­ably too close to Iraqi Kur­dis­tan's cap­i­tal city, Er­bil, where it was be­ing shot. As the ex­trem­ist Is­lamic State's mil­i­tants ap­proached Er­bil's gates in Au­gust 2014, Lauand Omar rushed his in­ter­na­tional cast and crew out of the coun­try quickly.

"We had to stop film­ing in Er­bil af­ter only 2 weeks of pro­duc­tion, mid au­gust, due to the ad­vance of Daesh," said Omar, re­fer­ring to the Is­lamic State by its Ara­bic acro­nym. "We lost a lot of money due to that un­ex­pected halt, it took me 7 month to raise money to com­plete film­ing in Jor­dan."

Omar's Curse of Me­sopotamia tells the story of how the Kur­dish new year, Newroz, came into be­ing when a Kur­dish black­smith, named Kawa, re­belled against a blood­thirsty king, known as Az­da­hak. The film's theme is one too fa­mil­iar for Kurds through­out his­tory: ruth­less op­pres­sion and the costly strug­gle for free­dom. Struck by devil and hav­ing two snakes grow on his shoul­ders, Az­da­hak mur­dered count­less young men and fed their brains to the snakes so they won't be­come hun­gry and de­vour his own brain. But set in a mod­ern set­ting, Curse of Me­sopotamia has lots of twists to make the story a proper hor­ror one. Mod­ern day young men and women play the role of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures that were in­volved in Newroz leg­end. It's got all el­e­ments of an ap­peal­ing hor­ror film: blood, mur­der, fear, sex and even a witch who for most of the film ap­pears as a psy­chi­a­trist.

Stacey Thunes is an Amer­i­can ac­tress and Curse of Me­sopotamia was her first movie in the Mid­dle East. She plays the com­pli­cated yet fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter of a psy­chi­a­trist who tries to treat a num­ber of young men and women seem­ingly pos­sessed by demons an events from the past. And the end, it turns out she her­self is the per­sonal witch of King Az­da­hak rein­car­nated gen­er­a­tions later as a psy­chi­a­trist.

"I loved it. As an ac­tor, play­ing evil is much more fun than por­tray­ing good," Thunes said. "And one could say that the De­mon who pos­sessed King Az­da­hak is com­pa­ra­ble to the ‘de­mon’ who has pos­sessed those peo­ple who felt they needed to join IS."

Curse of Me­sopotamia is the first hor­ror film in English made by a Kur­dish film­maker. For the Syr­ian Kur­dish di­rec­tor, the story of the film is per­sonal too.

"Be­ing Kur­dish, I grew up cel­e­brat­ing Newroz, I al­ways found the leg­end in­trigu­ing, a evil king tricked by a de­mon, feed­ing off chil­dren's' brains to calm the snakes grow­ing out of his shoul­ders, a pretty creepy story," Omar told The Kur­dish Globe. "I al­ways loved hor­ror movies, so I took the leg­end and played around with it, writ­ing a mod­ern day hor­ror film which plays with re-in­car­na­tion, set in the past and in the pre­sent. Cinema should be di­verse, why only mak­ing war movies about the mid­dle east? There are so many more sto­ries to be told."

Though the film's story may ap­pear too dis­tant and un­real for to­day, the core idea has been sur­re­ally re­cur­ring through­out ages.

"The movie talks about a curse that seems to have been put on this re­gion, for­mer Me­sopotamia," says Omar. "With the cur­rent hap­pen­ings in the re­gion, the spot­light is back on the Kurds, who have fought and suf­fered for­ever, it seems."

Omar pro­duced the in­de­pen­dent film with a lo­cal in­vestor with a bud­get of just $800,000 and brought in an in­ter­na­tional cast from the United States, Mex­ico, Morocco, France and Kur­dis­tan.

It was pre­miered in early Novem­ber in Er­bil and has since been com­mer­cially screened in the­atres in a num­ber of Iraqi cities in­clud­ing Er­bil and Bagh­dad.

Omar aims for a world­wide VOD and DVD re­lease and lim­ited the­atri­cal re­leases in some parts of the world.

The film has in­ter­est­ing twists of­ten in the shape of un­ex­pected and shock­ing char­ac­ters ap­pear­ing ev­ery now and then. A par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter in Omar's film is Zu­leykha, a blood­thirsty mis­tress of King Az­da­hak brought for him from Baby­lon. Kaoutar Boudar­raja, a well-known model and tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity in Morocco plays the role of Zu­leykha.

"Zu­leykha is the crazy mis­tress of a de­mon, with a real dark and ice side," Boudar­raja told The Globe. "This movie breaks ev­ery­thing about Kaoutar Boudar­raja mod­el­ing , host­ing or pro­duc­ing TV Shows. It’s not about be­ing sexy, beau­ti­ful or friendly girl, Zu­leykha is not hu­man and she hates hu­mans."

This is Omar's sec­ond film and he hopes to in­tro­duce more diver­sity to the types of films that are pro­duced by Kurds or come out of Kur­dis­tan.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.