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My Sweet Pepper Land
France/Germany/Iraq 2013

Opening 27 Mar 2014

Directed by: Hiner Saleem
Writing credits: Hiner Saleem, Antoine Lacomblez
Principal actors: Korkmaz Arslan, Golshifteh Farahani, Suat Usta

Labeled a Kurdish western, the action takes place on the treacherous, mountainous frontier where Iran, Iraq, and Turkey meet. Ex-insurgent Baran (Korkmaz Arslan), returning home after independence is won, ultimately flees mom’s meddling, going back to the city and police work. He is duly appointed police chief of a newly established remote station at the “Bermuda Triangle” smuggling hotspot. Meanwhile, finally receiving dad’s blessing, Govend (Golshifteh Farahani) returns to Sweet Pepper and teaching, much to her brothers and beaus chagrin. Both are breaking with tradition. Baran clashes head-on with the corrupt local feudal chief Aga Azzi (Tarik Akreyî); subsequently Govend becomes his pawn – Azzi is hostile to a strong-willed, fervent female teaching the village children. Particularly since rebellious women are harassing Azzi, continually deluding his thugs; the rebels inadvertently unite Govend and Baran. When kids stop attending school, Govend’s predicament becomes precarious. As the struggle between good and evil intensifies, amid shoot-outs, cowboy Baran confronts Azzi: “I don’t do compromises.”

Traditional Western films are straightforward morality tales: a semi-nomadic protagonist, with innate civil courage and an honor code, fights villains, and comes to the aid of persecuted townspeople. The hero’s moral obligation always comes before any distressed damsel until the conflict is resolved. The filmmakers ignore this formula; Sophie Reine’s editing choices are splotchy as well. Instead My Sweet Pepper Land’s two inherent conflicts are glossed over for a superfluous affaire de coeur. (Marinell Haegelin)

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