- CANADA / 2018 / Kurdish / Color / DCP / 100 min

Directors, Producers: Sami Mermer, Hind Benchekroun
Script, Photography: Sami Mermer
Editing: René Roberge
Sound: Martin Allard
Distribution Company (Canada): Les Films du 3 Mars
World Sales: Les Films de la Tortue

The men of the director’s hometown, a Kurdish village called Xalko, are off making a living in Europe. All the while, the women they leave behind to care for their households in their absence remain worried about them, though the men don’t always send enough money or manage to stay in contact. The women work, airing their grievances about the hard lives they lead in the village, their conversation always circling back to their absent fathers and husbands. The director’s uncle comes for a brief visit after seven years away, to be with his wife and now grown daughters. A formal wedding, the everyday life of women chatting about this and that...beneath it all brims the joy and anger, grief and laughter of one large “family.”

[Director’s Statement] I was born in Xalko and lived there until I turned seventeen. My brother, my sisters, my mother and I waited endlessly for the return of my father, gone to Europe to work. He came back from time to time in the summer, the “season” of marriages. He stayed a few weeks with us and then he left again. Still, in spite of his absence, we knew how to find some kind of happiness for ourselves on a daily basis. Charismatic and strong, my mother held the rest of the family together and our lives continued with the unraveling of seasons: school, holidays, games with the village’s children, domestic tasks, but also the guard of the animals, the tornados of wind and sand, and the winter with its snow, etc.

Then the news came. My father had died of a heart attack while attempting to cross clandestinely the Swiss-Austrian border with other Kurdish refugees. Never again did he return to Xalko. One year later, it was my turn to leave my home and the village to go study.

I only returned to Xalko after a long absence of 10 years in North America. Half of the three thousand houses were empty. Mainly women and children remained. I was touched to see that these guardians of the fort stayed strong, doing all they could to maintain the village’s vitality and to preserve it against winds and tides.

This return to my native village awoke my memories. They are the catalyst for this film. I felt an urgent need to bear witness on the life of this village before it is completely deserted and to pay tribute to those who maintain it alive.

Sami Mermer

Sami Mermer

Born in Turkey, living in Montreal, Canada. Directed The Box of Lanzo (2006), a documentary about homeless people in Michigan, USA, and La chambre (2019), a fiction film.

Hind Benchekroun

Directed the documentaries La petite fille d’avant (2003) and Taxi Casablanca (2008).

Together they have directed Turtles Do Not Die of Old Age (2010), winner of the Grand Prize of the International Film Festival of Tétouan in Morocco and a Jutra nominee at Les Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois. Their last documentary Callshop Istanbul, produced in 2016, traveled to numerous festivals around the world and won several prizes: at Agadir International Documentary Festival (Fidadoc), the Duhok International Film Festival and the Golden Tree International Documentary Film Festival. The film was also nominated for best editing and best documentary at Gala Québec Cinéma in 2017.