After “If you die, I’ll kill you” (“Si tu meurs, je te tue” in French) Kurdish filmmaker Huner Saleem has teamed up with Golshifteh Farahani again in this modern-day western set in a Kurdistan that’s emerging from years of civil warring. In this second film with the Iranian actress Saleem subtly juggles epic with intimate, the tragic with the comical. And while he borrows from the genre’s archetypes he also manages to avoid its pitfalls.
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Saleem focuses primarily on the encounter between the two main characters, characters who themselves symbolize the two pillars needed to rebuild the state: Baran (played by Korkmaz Arslan) represents justice, and Govend (Farahani) education. In fact it’s thanks to these two actors’ terrific performances that the larger debate about the difficulties of a state in recovering from the ravages of a civil war is energized and can thrive.
Beyond the foundations of society lie individuals–women, in particular. “My sweet pepper land” is a declaration of love to these women who are determined to find their place in a patriarchal and oppressive society such as Kurdistan. But instead of fanning the flames of injustice Saleem prefers to ask questions.
Things are happening in the Middle East, and the seventh art that is cinema is a powerful medium to raise awareness and stir up an intelligent debate. “My sweet pepper land” and its unforgettable story context helps feed another strand of world cinema; beautiful and politically-conscious films like these help us take the planet’s temperature by telling stories that are actually worth bringing to the screen. Farahani wisely picked this part, proving yet again her high standards and the respect she has toward her craft.