Thursday, August 01, 2013

My Sweet Pepper Land

An independent Kurdistan is one of the more intriguing possibilities that arose out of 20 years of conflict between Iraq and the USA. While that possibility is looking less likely than it did in say 2006, it has produced an autonomous region which in turn has led to Kurds doing things that they wouldn't otherwise be allowed to do. Such as producing feature films.

My Sweet Pepper Land follows our two protagonists as they each run away from family pressure to meet at the end of the earth, namely tiny an Iraqi Kurdish village near the borders with Iran and Turkey. The village has been cut off from the rest of Iraq since Turkish war-planes bombed a bridge 2 hours walk away. The main industries are smuggling alcohol into Iran, guns into Turkey and expired medicines back again all on horse back.

Baran was a hero in the peshmerga during the war and has since found it difficult to adjust to peace. Neither a job as a city police officer nor living with his mother appeal, so he requests a transfer. Meanwhile Govend's horde of brothers want to her to get married, but she wants to return to her teaching job at the remote village school. Both soon clash with the local chieftain Aziz Aga. Aziz Aga doesn't want an independent single woman in the village and neither does he want anyone interfering with his self appointed position as local enforcer and chief smuggler. Baran announces his intention to enforce the law impartially rather than just collect his pay cheque but rethinks this ideal once he meets the women's branch of the PKK.

My Sweet Pepper Land could all too easily be a political film, but the status of women is the only political issue addressed. With a local tough man and his henchmen, a straight-up new-in-town sheriff and a plucky independent woman; with guns, horses and wild countryside; with everyone's honour at stake and a sound track that in places is suspiciously close to Ennio Morricone's in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly we are in no doubt as to the genre. The western is dead in America but it still works in this corner of the world where the rule of law hasn't quite arrived.

Everyone knows what to expect from a western, so we get taken by surprise when My Sweet Pepper Land deviates from our preconceptions of the genre. The seriousness of the subject matter is liberally punctuated by deadpan humour which contrasts with the serious personalities of the protagonists.

Govend's prize possession is her Hang, a modern Swiss musical instrument that features liberally in the soundtrack.

Ian's rating 5/5 Anne's rating 5/5

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