x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

1001 Apples departs a poignant message

The film, itself a message of peace and reconciliation, tells the story of the 1988 genocide of 182,000 Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

A still from 1001 Apples by Iranian director Taha Karimi. Courtesy Dubai International Film Festival
A still from 1001 Apples by Iranian director Taha Karimi. Courtesy Dubai International Film Festival

The poignant drama 1,001 Apples — by the Iranian-Kurdish filmmaker Taha Karimi who died in a car accident in May after completing the film — is screening at DIFF.

His brother Hara Karimi, who attended the premiere, spoke of his brother’s passion for telling the story of the 1988 genocide of 182,000 Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

“He wanted to use the apple as a symbol of peace and love, and as a message for other countries that have suffered such horrors of war. He always used to say that the first apple was from Eve to Adam, the second was Newton’s apple, the third was Steve Jobs’s Apple, and the fourth is the apple that will bring peace to the world.”

Faraj Topkhane, a survivor of the brutal massacre, remembers as a small child a quarrel with a boy next door getting out of hand. Following a centuries-old Kurdish tradition, his mother told him to pierce an apple with cloves as a symbol of peace and reconciliation, to offer to his friend as a way to make amends.

Topkhane, who survived the killing spree because he was hidden under a pile of bodies, later came up with the idea of using apples and cloves as a gesture of peace and reconciliation to send to the people of Baghdad. He tracked down four other survivors of the genocide, who, like him, had crawled out from the mass graves. Together, they paid door-to-door visits to the homes of survivors, handing out clove-pierced apples to each family.

Taha Karimi’s beautifully shot film does not dwell on the personal stories of the victims and their families, but is more of a historical account of the way that the survivors escaped.

In one poignant moment, Karimi shows TV footage of a remorseless Saddam Hussain at his trial years later, coming face to face with one of the survivors.

In the final scene, 1,001 apples are placed in jars along with photos of each of the family members they represent. And in a touching ceremony, the jars are dropped into the Tigris, which flows to Baghdad. Sadly, this plea for peace and reconciliation fell on deaf ears in a city that has suffered so much bloodshed in recent years, and was not reported in the local press.

“My brother believed that in the Middle East we are like a family together. Unfortunately, people in the Middle East do not listen to each other, or try to understand each other,” Karimi said.

A woman in the audience felt compelled to share her own story: “My father was killed by Saddam Hussein, and I have tried to erase my memory of these times in Iraq. I always thought of Kurdistan as a separate country, with it’s own language and currency. I really hope that the message of peace and love is heard in Iraq.”

artslife@thenational.ae