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Sidik and the Leopard

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IDFA 2019: Sidik and the Leopard

Geoffrey Macnab talks to Reber Dosky, whose Sidik and the Leopard world premieres in IDFA Dutch Competition.

Reber Dosky is a Dutch-based filmmaker who studied directing at the Dutch Film and TV Academy in Amsterdam. He was born in Kurdistan in 1975, came to The Netherlands in 1998 and retains his Kurdish roots. He is therefore well placed to tell stories which explore recent Kurdish history and politics. Unlike so many western documentary makers who work in the region, he has an insider's perspective.

Mention Iraqi Kurdistan to westerners and the images most likely to spring to mind are of war and bloodshed. In Dosky's new film Sidik and the Leopard, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and Production Incentive, he provides a radically different and much more uplifting portrayal of the area. His main character Sidik is determined to protect nature. He spends months waiting and observing, hoping to catch a glimpse of a leopard, an elusive animal which hasn't been seen in many years.

Dosky met Sidik for the first time in 2013 at the Dohuk Int'l Film Festival in Iraq where Sidik had come to see Dosky's short film The Call. They got to know each other. Dosky accompanied Sidik on his trips to the mountains and gradually began to develop the idea for the film.

Sidik shows enormous patience as he waits for the leopard to appear. The appearance of such a rare animal would mean that the area could be designated as a nature reserve. If that happened, Sidik hoped, perhaps the bombing would stop. It would be a sign of peace.

In his painstaking dedication to his task, Sidik resembles Haron, the protagonist in Dosky's 2015 film The Sniper of Kobani. The pointed difference is that he is waiting for an animal he longs to see while Haron is hiding in a ruined city, looking for the opportunity to shoot and kill ISIS fighters. "Sidik is free and happy with his work. Haron was on duty and not happy to kill," is how Dosky sums up the fundamental difference between the two loners.

For Dosky, this was a less stressful film to shoot than The Sniper Of Kobani. However, it still had its challenges. "Turkey's army bombed the mountains during the shootings. Therefore, we could not shoot everywhere, and only during the daytime". Dosky was in the mountains during all four seasons, making five separate trips. During winter, it sometimes became so cold and wet that his camera equipment froze.

At the time of writing, Dosky was yet to determine whether his protagonist would be able to attend the IDFA premiere on 24th November. Sidik had been invited but the director was waiting to see if he would receive the papers he needs from the Dutch authorities. In either case, Sidik has already seen the film. He enjoyed it and joked, "now the tourists will come!"

Sidik and the Leopard
will be released in The Netherlands in January 2020. Before that, Dosky will screen it in Kurdistan in December. It was produced by well-known Dutch filmmaker Jos De Putter, who first collaborated with Dosky on The Sniper of Kobani and went on to work with him on his 2016 film Radio Kobani.

Dosky is already preparing his next documentary, one that promises to be darker in tone. This will be an expanded, follow-up version of his recent short documentary Yezidi Girls. "It's about the re-integration of girls who have been enslaved by ISIS and have to re-integrate in their own communities," the director explains. The girls are deeply scarred by their experiences.

The director hatched the idea for the film when he was shooting Sidik and the Leopard. "I was in Kurdistan when I heard that three girls had managed to escape from ISIS days before I came. I had my camera with me and so I decided to make a short movie about them." Now, that short film is spawning a feature.

SEE NL Magazine #37 November 2019 / IDFA Issue

SEE NL is published four times per year by EYE International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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