Film Reviews

Review: ‘Gulîstan, Land of Roses’

Hot Docs 2016

Courtesy of Hot Docs


Gulîstan, Land of Roses
(Canada, 84 min.)
Dir. Zaynê Akyol
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)

In Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, young men training to become U.S. marines end up dehumanised and cynical at best, murderous psychotics at worst. The female Kurdish guerrillas fighting Isis in Zaynê Akyol’s Gulîstan, Land of Roses are more than willing to take down the enemy, but they come through as soulful, compassionate human beings.

The movie’s early sequences show the young women preparing for battle. They talk about varieties of bombs, guns, and strategies. We see them listen to inspirational speeches from male leaders and do calisthenics. Akyol cuts or pans from face to face in tight close-ups that emphasize their beauty, sincerity, and absence of anything brutal. Not one of them looks like she lusts for blood.

One character says that women gave birth to knowledge, and these soldiers see their mission as ideological, even philosophical. The state of their minds is more important than weaponry. We never see the brigade engage in battle, even after they move from wooded areas to arid zones where the enemy lurks in the distance. In darkness, they wait, and the tension builds. But we don’t see sweating foreheads or crazed swagger. Akyol shows us women who have a calm resolve to stop the fanatics who would enslave them.

Gulîstan, Land of Roses screens:
-Sunday, May 8 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 10:00 PM

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.

Maurie Alioff writes about movies for publications off- and on-line, and is a screenwriter currently collaborating on a documentary featuring Bob Marley’s granddaughter while researching other Jamaica-related projects, including a magical-realist crime story drawing on stories he hears on the island. He has written for radio, journals and TV, taught screenwriting and been a contributing editor to various magazines.

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