August 12, 2006

‘Don’t ask me where I’m from’

By Jamal Penjweny

Kurdish filmmaker Akram Sleman challenges racism ‘in all its forms’ by using child actors to convey his messages.

"I have a passion to fight racism in all forms, using my films and shows,” said Akram Sleman, a Kurdish film director. Akram wishes to portray a new method of directing by using Kurdish children in order to change western methods.

He believes by using these children he will be able to show how much potential they have. In his most recent film, produced in the Netherlands, he highlights the intelligence of the Kurdish children by showing them as the protectors of an endangered species, while traveling to school. He continued to say, in his film ‘Crossing’, he wanted to show his audience the positive impacts European cultures have had on the Eastern world.

“I am trying to show how smart these young people are by the things they do. I also wanted to show how helpful it was for younger children to move to Europe and integrate into the European communities, while also trying to show the difficulties older people may have at doing the same thing,” said Akram.

On their way to school and accompanied by their parents, these children realize that there is not a decent crossing path for animals in their area. They see several frogs that have been run over by cars lying dead in the middle of the road. And they see this more than often particularly during the mating season. On their own initiative, they form a crossing path for the animals to ensure they safely cross over from one side to another. Dressed in highly visible clothing and using 'Stop' signs they manage to save the lives of many animals.

“It is very difficult to produce films that will benefit all children. You have to make sure it is absolutely perfect and will be accepted by the audience, as well as the critics,” said Akram.

Akram Sleman has participated in scores of films and plays, both in Kurdistan and abroad and has seen the roles of an actor, writer and director. He has now managed to set up his own production company in the Netherlands. In his films, he wishes to prioritize humanity before religion and race. He believes all humans are equal; therefore, language and color should not play a role in someone's everyday life.

“I have noticed this takes place a lot in Europe. This is why I have based all my work there and I hope it will have an effect on the European people,” he said. In another film, ‘Hello Holland’, he focused on portraying the difficulties Kurdish families faced while fleeing to Europe. The problems they faced while trying to integrate into the new societies and how their dark past still haunts them even after leaving all their sufferings behind in Kurdistan.

“In this film, I wanted to show the negative views the Europeans have towards the Kurds and the way they treat them when they arrive in these foreign countries,” he concluded.

Printed with permission. From Soma