Haunting film on Yazidi refugee family’s trauma screened at Toronto fest

Shingal, Where Are You? by Greek director Angelos Rallis, which was screened at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto, tracks a refugee family in a makeshift camp in Turkey trying to make sense of the devastation of their lives.
In Shingal, Where Are You?, the genocidal violence visited upon the Yazidis is off-camera but it bleeds into the lives of the survivors.(AR Productions)
In Shingal, Where Are You?, the genocidal violence visited upon the Yazidis is off-camera but it bleeds into the lives of the survivors.(AR Productions)
Updated on May 07, 2017 08:48 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, Toronto | By

Three boys trek up a snow-covered hilltop, part of a range that forms a natural boundary between Iraq, Turkey and Syria. One of them gazes into the horizon and cries in anguish: “Kani Shingal?” That in Kurdish is Shingal, Where Are You?

That’s the title of the disturbing documentary by Greek director Angelos Rallis that screened at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto this week.

Looking for their hometown. (AR Productions)
Looking for their hometown. (AR Productions)

The town of Shingal was the cultural and religious centre for Yazidis, the minuscule minority that was subjected to an ethnic cleansing by marauding Islamic State terrorists. IS captured the city in 2014, thousands of Yazidi men were killed, an equal number of women raped and forced into sexual slavery.

This haunting film tracks a refugee family in a makeshift camp in Turkey, trying to make sense of the devastation even as the head of the Havind family tries to rescue his daughter Viyan from IS through bribes paid to a chain of intermediaries.

“The quest for their daughter Viyan, for me, it’s a metaphor for the quest for the Yazidi identity with their religious capital destroyed and half a million population displaced. It’s very important to redefine what’s left for the Yazidi people,” Rallis said during an interview.

The pacing of the film is almost languid, with dramatic tension offered by episodes where Viyan describes her trauma, and those of other women who have been kidnapped, over the phone to her father. She remains a captive as she speaks. The genocidal violence visited upon the Yazidis is off-camera but it bleeds into the lives of the survivors.

As members of the family visit their hometown, they discover nothing remains but rubble. (AR Productions)
As members of the family visit their hometown, they discover nothing remains but rubble. (AR Productions)

“I wanted to do a very personal and anthropological documentary, where I just film the main characters. I wanted to catch the human geography of the refugee camp,” Rallis said. The camera is the observer, taking in the psychological beating the Havind family has taken.

The main narrative arc, the attempt to bring Viyan back, came about by “accident” as the filmmakers developed a bond with the family which “was very welcoming from the very beginning”.

Shot between 2015 and 2016, the final filming also occurred at the newly liberated Shingal. As members of the family visit their hometown, they discover nothing remains but rubble. “There’s nothing left. Even if they are allowed to return, they cannot rebuild the area because they have lost everything,” Rallis said.

So, that question shouted out at the outset has a depressing answer: The Yazidis may have lost their roots forever.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (left), Russian President Vladimir Putin (right).

    Putin, Zelensky feature among TIME's 100 Most Influential People this year

    Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin found mentions among TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the category of political leaders. Amid the ongoing war between the two countries, the addition of the two most-talked about leaders of the year so far on the list is no surprise. What's interesting about the two leaders on the list is their description.

  • In this photo released by the Abu Dhabi Police, debris covers the street after an explosion in the Khalidiya district of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday. 

    Abu Dhabi says 2 killed, 120 injured in gas cylinder blast

    A gas cylinder explosion in the capital of the United Arab Emirates killed two people and injured 120 others Monday, police said, hours after authorities downplayed the incident and warned the public not to share images of the aftermath. The explosion struck a restaurant just after 1 p.m. in Abu Dhabi's Khalidiya neighborhood, just a few blocks from the capital's beachfront corniche.

  •  A traffic officer is dwarfed by the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. U.S. President Joe Biden met Monday while visiting Japan with families of citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago to show his support for their efforts to win the return of their loved ones.

    Explainer: Why were Japanese abducted by North Korea?

    US President Joe Biden met Monday with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago to show his support for their efforts to win the return of their loved ones. Japan says North Korea abducted at least 17 Japanese citizens, possibly many more, during the 1970s and 1980s. Twelve remain missing. They include school children and others living along Japan's coast. It has promised a reinvestigation, but has never announced the results.

  • People wait in a line to buy domestic gas tanks near a distributor, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

    SL Prez inducts 8 more ministers to handle economic crisis: Key points

    Sri Lanka's embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday inducted eight more ministers in his Cabinet to handle the country's financial crisis, its worst since gaining independence from Britain's rule in 1948. The new ministers belong to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, and its allies--the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Eelam People's Democratic Party. However, the crucial finance portfolio continues to be vacant.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses by videolink the opening plenary session, during the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday.

    At Davos, Zelensky calls for 'maximum' sanctions against Russia

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “maximum” sanctions against Russia during a virtual speech Monday to corporate executives, government officials and other elites on the first day of the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos. He said sanctions need to go further to stop Russia's aggression, including an oil embargo, blocking all of its banks and cutting off trade with Russia completely. He said that it's a precedent that would work for decades to come.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, May 24, 2022