Kurdish film director, Mano Khalil, recently released a documentary called “The Beekeeper.” The film was screened during the 2015 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival in Australia. Mano Khalil spoke to The Guardian about The Beekeeper. This is his story.
The Beekeeper and The Filmmaker
Khalil’s latest film, The Beekeeper, is a film about a Kurdish man, Ibrahim Gezer, who was forced to leave his home in the mountains of the Turkish region of Kurdistan by the Turkish army. His wife and children were killed, and Gezer went on the run, leaving behind his home, and livelihood — dozens of bee colonies.
After seven years on the run, Ibrahim Gezer found refuge in Switzerland. Eventually, he began beekeeping again. The Kurdish director, Mano Khalil, heard of the man who was making Kurdish honey in Switzerland and went to investigate more.
Mano Khalil found a gentle old man who was at first cautious around the camera. Over six months, the two men shared picnic lunches without the camera, and “built a friendship on the basis of love and respect.” Ibrahim gradually warmed up to Mano. Mano says they “wouldn’t have had the emotional moments on film if [they] didn’t have that strong friendship.”
Growing Up as a Kurd in Turkey
Mano Khalil is also a Kurd. He grew up in Syrian Kurdistan. Khalil says that growing up Kurdish was “strictly forbidden.” In school, he once spoke Kurdish and the teacher physically assaulted him.
After leaving the country to study film, Khalil returned to Syria, where he was jailed when a magazine described him as a “Kurdish student.” Soon thereafter, Khalil was granted asylum by Switzerland, where he lives today, as a refugee.
Khalil says: “Many refugees exist as a result of England and France carving up the Middle East, but it’s very difficult for rich countries to change their mind about refugees. They see the problem as an illness – they are afraid and they refuse to talk about it.”
Khalil’s whole family are refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. “As a Kurdish refugee from Syria, I’ve been made to feel as though I am only a number,” Khalil says. “But refugees are like you: they have children, they cry, they laugh. They are human beings. How can you love your own child but hate the child of your neighbor? Thousands and millions of people need help. We have to find a solution.”[To read the whole interview, visit the Guardian]