Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Kalifa smartly draws Zagros so that he is not merely painted as a monster."

Conflict between the modern world and family traditions is brought into sharp relief in the debut film from Belgian-Kurdish director Sahim Omar Kalifa, which explores the way toxic masculinity is fuelled as much by societal pressures as by the psychology of the central protagonist.

Viewed from a distance - which is how we first encounter him - Kurdish shepherd Zagros (Feyyaz Duman) appears to be leading an idyllic life with his wife Havin (Halima Ilter) and young daughter (Daria Hachem Mohamed Gulli). Step further into their tight-knit village, though, and flash points start to emerge. Havin's incomer status is obviously an existing bone of contention and, with her husband tending his sheep away from home much of the time, suspicion has begun to spring up over her dealings with the salesman who visits her to buy rugs.

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When gossip leads to much worse, Havin calls for her sister Elvin (Elvan Köçer) - a guerilla fighter - to help her escape, going so far as to flee the country for Belgium. Far from being the end of the story, this is just the start as Zagros, believing her innocence, is determined to follow her, only for his jealousies to emerge with a vengeance.

Although there are refugee elements to this tale - including some sharp scrutiny of Belgian bureaucracy - the focus is firmly on the family drama and character study of the shepherd.

Kalifa smartly draws Zagros so that he is not merely painted as a monster. We see the world through his eyes and it's clear he loves his wife even while being confused by her embrace of a new future when he wants to cleave to his past. There's no doubt that some of the seeds of doubt that start to form after he follows Havin to Belgium push believability, but Duman's measured performance keeps the shepherd's conflict grounded and believable. The idea of family opinion being almost overwhelming to the point where Zagros may feel damned if he does anything and damned if he doesn't is also well realised.

There is nothing wrong with an inevitable destination but the manner in which events unfold suffers from some predictability as the film draws to a conclusion. Nevertheless, an assured debut that shows how toxic traditions are worryingly unfettered by time or distance.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2018
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A Kurdish shepherd is consumed by jealousy after he follows his wife to Belgium.

Read more Zagros reviews:

Maryam Ghorbankarimi ***1/2

Director: Sahim Omar Kalifa

Writer: Sahim Omar Kalifa, Jean-Claude Van Rijckeghem

Starring: Maaike Neuville, Feyyaz Duman, Halima Ilter, Suat Usta, Yusuf Çetin, Aziz Çapkurt, Karl Ferlin, Steve Van Nuffel, Daria Hachem Mohamet Gulli, Leyla Batgi, Elvan Kocer, Ezdam Parilti, Munip Seven, Serkaut Mustafa, Brader Musiki

Year: 2017

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Belgium


EIFF 2018

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