Sunday, April 21, 2013

TFF Day 5: Discovering True Honor in ‘Before Snowfall’

OFTEN enough, real life is so incredibly disturbing, senseless and shocking that it is better digested through the prism of entertainment, whether it be film, television, theater, verse, etc.

Such is the case with “Before Snowfall” ("Før snøen faller") which addresses honor killings. The film is showing today at 4 pm. in the second of four screenings at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF). The large number of screenings suggests the popularity of the film and the curiosity about its subject matter. (See video above).

"The film for me is not about honor killings,” director Hisham Zaman said, though honor is an important theme in his work. “It is about this boy in this society who must become a man. This circumstance in this village is pushing him into this way.”

A fascinating element of the haunting “Before Snowfall” is the extreme lengths that some men will go to in the name of honor. It suggests that women who have been accused of dishonoring their families cannot escape a man who demands satisfaction, no matter where they hide, no matter how far away they flee to do so. There are eyes everywhere. In these societies exists an underground that stretches across the world.

The underground in the film brings to mind the Underground Railroad of escaped slaves that existed in the United States in the 19th century. The difference, of course, is that in the West the latter is commendable while the former is detestable.

Incidentally, “Before Snowfall” is not set in India but not that far away either. HZ’s story, co-written with Kjell Ola Dahl, begins in Iraqi Kurdistan, then travels to Istanbul and into Europe, including Norway and Germany, before returning to Kurdistan where a troubling cycle continues.

A runaway bride (Bahar Ozen) in "Before Snowfall." Photos provided by Tribeca Film Festival.

The story that would become "Before Snowfall" had been rooting around in HZ’s head for six years. In the interim, he made four other films. “I was thinking about this boy and a border and he would come of age and he was going to do something bad."

Indeed! The main character in “Before Snowfall” is 16-year-old Siyar (newcomer Taher Abdullah Taher), the man of his family. He is honor bound to defends his family’s name after his older sister goes on the run rather than submit to an arranged matter. Or should it be said that the men from the jilted man’s family push the boy in this direction and provide him with the means to carry out his act?

In pursuit of Nermin (Bahar Ozen), Siyar has some experiences and chance encounters that cause him to question his mission. Alas, they will cost him dearly. Siyar’s struggle between deeply entrenched tradition and potent external emotions is at the heart of “Before Snowfall,” which features many amateurs, including the exotically handsome TAT. He is a natural.

At great risk to himself, Siyar (Taher Abdullah Taher) must carry out what tradition dictates in "Beyond Snowfall."

After deciding against another boy he’d chosen for the role, the director set out again in pursuit of his Siyar and found him in Kurdistan in a group home for boys, some of whom had acting ambitions. It is not clear whether TAT, who had never been outside of Kurdistan before he filmed “Before Snowfall,” was an acting hopeful.

HZ was interviewing various boys, “then I saw this boy standing there and watching us …”

“Before Snowfall” is in Kurdish with English subtitles; It has additional screenings on Friday (26 April at 4 p.m.) and Saturday (27 April at 10 p.m.). Visit to learn more about it and the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule. Rx.

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