Women Reviving Cinema Culture in Sulaimani

24/11/2012 RUDAW By JAMAL JAMIL – The 4th Kurdish Film Festival at the Women’s Tawar Hall in Sulaimani. Fewer and fewer people are going to the theater in Sulaimani. There is only one cinema in the entire city, and it sees only a handful of customers.

However, local halls show Kurdish films, and a large number of women frequent these halls as they feel comfortable there.

Ashna Rauf says that the tradition of families going to the theater has a long history in Sulaimani. “This tradition was practiced for a long time due to the city’s rich cultural background,” she said. “Fortunately, it is emerging once again, especially among women.”

Hapsa Khani Naqib, a prominent advocate for women’s rights who founded the Kurdish Women’s Association in 1930, is often cited as playing a role in encouraging women to go to the movie theaters in Sulaimani.

Rauf noted that women prefer the halls to the movie theater, which often plays movies they are not interested in. Sozan Sidiq, a resident of Sulaimani, believes that the type of the movies being shown in the movie theater don’t attract women as most of them are action movies, which mostly appeal to men. “The movies that women are interested in watching are usually shown outside the theater,” she said. “The film ‘Shirin,’ which was shown recently, attracted a large number of female viewers.”

Shiwan Atuf, who starred in ‘Shirin,’ said, “In the past, cinema halls had a bad reputation in Sulaimani as they used to play inappropriate movies.”

“Seventy percent of ‘Shirin’ viewers were female as they related to its story: a woman making choices to find her soul mate,” he said. “A Kurdish actor and actress in the film play the role of two lovers in Kurdish society; this explains a lot about the culture.”

Bayan Zarifi, an actress, added that showing a movie in Kurdish was another reason the film had so many viewers. Zarifi recalls going to the theater with her family during the 1970s to watch Indian movies. “There were a lot of women among them,” she said. While Zarifi acknowledged that “Shirin” had an impact on reviving the tradition of women going to the theater in Sulaimani, she added, “I would prefer films to be shown in a real movie theater, instead of the local halls.” But the actress found so many women going to “Shirin” a beautiful scene, one that existed regularly a long time ago in Sulaimani. “This tradition should keep growing,” she said.