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Saleem Starts from "Kilometre Zero" at Cannes

Kilometre Zero , Hiner Saleem, France, 2005

The title of Hiner Saleem’s new film is used metaphorically to explain that in the 80 years of Iraqian modern history there has been virtually no progress. Saleem who fled Iraq under Saadam Hussein claims , “when you start from zero, the only direction to go is forward”.

In real life Saleem’s brother was taken against his will on the way to the bakery one day and inducted into the Iraqian army. Saleem did not return to Kurdistan until the fall of Hussein. Yet although the economy of the area has improved due to the humanitarian efforts of Western nations, it was still very difficult to navigate a film crew through the area to tell the story of a young Kurd who is instructed to engage in a suicide mission as a war martyr.

Saleem wanted to go back to Kurdistan after the removal of Saadam Hussein but how the country had been transformed was startling. He noted an embargo and smuggling in operation. Books and films are mistrusted. The director was happy when Hussein fell, but notes with sadness that the people are naive and vulnerable. “What if we are betrayed in the future by powers that make decisions”, adding that the people only seem to want a “happy future”.

“Kilometre Zero” is an exploration of “the hills the mountains and faces of people”, as such ripe with contemplative shooting. Saleem says it is not a “militant or political film”.

“As soon as you say Kurdish it becomes political even a soccer game. “'O Solo Mio' sung in Kurdish may even seem political”, he explained. “I am interesting in people, the life and story of people and landscapes. I went to tell the things that were invisible and convey an ‘inner sense’ of the effects of a dictatorship.

Moira Sullivan

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