Hiner Saleem’s My Sweet Pepper Land sets a very familiar story against a backdrop of the newly autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan. Baran (Korkmaz Asian) a former captain in the military effort against Baathist Iraq cannot seem to settle into civilian life, so he accepts a post as police commander of a small village in the lawless region along the border with Iran and Turkey. There, he vows to end the frequent trespasses of smugglers and restore the rule of law. He quickly befriends Govend (Golshifteh Farahani, a bona fide movie star) the local schoolteacher, controversial in her gender, ambition, and unmarried status.
Fifteen minutes into My Sweet Pepper Land, Baran’s deputy remarks, “The bridge has gone out, we’ll have to continue on horseback.” From that point on, My Sweet Pepper Land makes no qualms about being a really charming Western. Baran and Govend have serious chemistry, and when Baran stares down a local elder, get ready for visions of Lee Marvin, the Duke, and The Man Without a Name.
Besides Spaghetti Western bliss, the film provides a quiet look at a region recently invaded by the United States. And domestic scenes (families drinking Chai, the astounding ubiquity of AK-47’s, matchmaking, and people living outside the narrative of war) strike truer than any of the film’s vague moralizing, and will stay in your head for days.
Tuesday, April 8, 7:10pm
Friday, April 11, 2:00pm
Director: Hiner Saleem
Producers: Marc Bordure, Benny Drechsel, Robert Guédiguian, Karsten Stöter
Writers: Hiner Saleem, Antoine Lacomblez
Cinematographer: Pascal Auffray
Editor: Juliette Haubois
Cast: Korkmaz Arslan, Golshifteh Farahani, Suat Usta
Premiere: May 22, 2013 – Cannes Film Festival