The Iraqi Conference of the Birds - Documentary
What we witnessed so far
The iraqi Conference of the birds tell the story of a small monastery in Suleymaniya, Irak. The here living nuns and monks where forced to flee their original monastery in Syria, because of the ongoing civil war. In exile they continued the humanitarian and inter religious efforts, in which the monastic community of Deir Mar Moussa is routed. Founded in 1982 by father Paolo D’Aglio and father Jaque Mourad, the close relationship to Islam has always been an important pillar of this Syrian catholic community. After both of the founders where kidnapped by ISIS, this work became more important than ever. After long incarceration Father Jaque could escape and find his way to the monastery of Suleymaniya.Of father Paolo there is no news to this day.
With the expansion of the Syrian conflict, and the attacks of ISIS fighters on Iraki ground, waves of refugees reached the Kurdish region of Irak and the city of Suleymaniya. The community opened the gates to over 300 Refugees, at first sharing the little space they had with them, later being able to facilitate them with housing, in neighboring properties. Since then the iraki refugees became part of this group of exiled and the monastery has become a very lively place.
Coming to know of this extraordinary place, Stefan Otteni, a german theatre director, took the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing activities with a theatre workshop. Soon the attendants of this workshop, coming from different social, religious and national backgrounds, would be in close relationship with one another, using this safe space, to express their feelings and talk about topics, they could not anywhere else. The members of the theatre together with the director slowly developed a play on bases of the Sufi epos „The Conference of the Birds“. The book written in 13th century by Faruddin Attar is one of the most important written documents of the mystic Sufi believe. It tells the allegoric story of the birds venturing out in search for god, passing many dangerous valleys to finally reach their destination only to find out that the divine being they have been searching for, is within themselves. This tale offers itself as a metaphor for the journey of the theatre members, as well as all the other refugees and builds the red thread for this film.
Photo by Cecille Massie
The documentary accompanies this people during an important time in their lives. Its the month of the islamic celebration of ramadan and a special time for everyone in the monastery. The here living members of the community are after long time reunited with their brothers and sisters from Syria.
The refugees that found a safe haven in this place, start to return slowly to their now again peaceful city. Cleaning their homes, reopening shops and reclaiming what was their own.
The attendants of the theatre workshop develop the play and while doing so confront many of their own fears until finally they perform the play in all the big refugee camps of the area.
By Sharing personal but universal storys about life in the face of war and exile, they are able to connect with an audience that has shared many of their experiences.
Why we want to go back
The many storys that happen around and after a war, how people deal with its consequences and how life goes on, are at least as important a topic then the war itself and often get lost when the attention of the media shifts. The dynamic of war and peace, not as two separat states but as an ever shifting dynamic process, to which much more contribute then just governments and armies. Its a story of time and to see time through the eyes of our protagonists we want to go back and see how things turned out for them. We want to visit the friends we made, the members of the communities still not able to go back to syria, because of their criticism of the Assad regime. How they continue their work in exile. The iraki refugees back in their hometown, living again in their own houses. The kids going back to school. And the theatre group, which continued their work and in the mean time has had many well reviewed performances in the area. The energy and momentum of this kind of peaceful actions only become obvious in this existential circumstances and one gets to witness that they are indeed the counter weight to the violence and destruction that has taken hold of this part of the world.
Who we are
My name is Shahab Kermani. I graduated with a bachelor degree of timebased media, on FH Mainz in Germany. Documentaryfilm has been a long time passion for me and during the last years I realized several feature length documentary and semi-documentary films. Currently I am studying on Colognes Kunsthochschule für Medien and this project will be my final work for my diploma degree. It is a very personal project on the one hand because of the various international humanitarian projects I took part in during the last years, which made me sensible for the situation of refugees. On the other hand members of the monastic community have been in friendship with my family for long time, and having the opportunity to meet and stay with this exceptional people and see their work has been one of the most mesmerizing and formative experiences of my life.
For this project I am cooperating with various talented friends in Germany, as well as on location in Irak.
For checking out some of my past projects visit:
Why we need the money
So far the film has been self financed, but to continue we need your help. To go back to Suleymaniya, visit the protagonists and get the rest of the story, as well as for the costly process of post production.
We need support for the following steps:
Local Sound specialist
Translation on Location
Translation Film (Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, French, Italian, German)
Photo by Cecille Massie