Visual Art Exhibition   .   Freedom?  .   Special Projects

Anne Szefer Karlsen
on "Bawke"
Short film by Hisham Zaman, 2005

Bawke (2005). Screenplay and directed by: Hisham Zaman, DoP: Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen, cast: Broa Rasol and Sedar Ahmad Saleh, produced by: Gudny Hummelvoll/4 1/2 Film. Kurdish with English subtitles. Courtesy of the Norwegian Film Institute.

It is almost impossible to talk about Bawke because of its overwhelming implications. There is an ambiguity connected to the idea of freedom and the characters in this 15 minute long film. Whose freedom is really described? Wrapped in waves of sentimentality, the short film portrays several brief moments of decision making. I will describe two of these moments to make you, even without seeing the film, catch a glimpse of the predicaments the characters meet. Bawke means Father in Kurdish, and the director Hisham Zaman shows us the execution of a plan made by a Kurdish father to leave his son in the foreign country where they have arrived after a long journey. A set of circumstances helps the father, and the good intention of his choice is put into action: The son is left alone in the foreign country while the story suggests that he himself is deported. Without traditional travel documents to prove your identity, your nationality, your starting point the only way you can prove your route is through telling the story which is generated by the route. Other telling signs might betray you. Instead of official travel documents the image of the football player Zinédine Zidane acts as indication of what route the father and son might have travelled and thus becomes a possible limitation to the freedom to seek refuge. The image has to be discarded of, yet it re-appears at the end of the film as a token and recognition of the connection between the father and son. Hiding in the overwhelming drama at the end of the film is the voice of the interpreter. This stranger becomes the Father’s voice, bridging the gap between the adult and the society, the country where they have arrived. The interpreter has a clear mandate to translate the father, and when he is witnessing the son addressing the father he is not obliged to translate the little boy’s words. By choosing to not betray his assignment, the interpreter is assisting the father with his plan to leave the son. Freedom is handed to the father, and taken away from the son at the same time, since the son is not given voice in this foreign country. The two scenes, where the interpreter is the father’s voice and where the image is discarded of, are thresholds in the narrative which drive the story further and further, and make me think that questions of speech and movement is close to the understanding of freedom, which in this instance is linked to ideas of choice and sacrifice.

Anne Szefer Karlsen November 2009

Anne Szefer Karlsen (b. 1976, lives and works in Bergen) is Director of the Hordaland Art Centre in Bergen, Norway. For a number of years she was an independent curator as well as producer of different events and festivals. She is co-founder of Flaggfabrikken - Centre for Photography and Visual Art, co-founder/editor of Ctrl+Z Publishing, and co-founder of the curator collective

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