Switzerland. France 2021
Written & directed by Mano Khalil Drama-filmed in Iraqi Kurdistan Kurdish.
Arabic. English. Hebrew
This film flashes back to the 1980's to the childhood memories of a middle-aged man who was then a seven-year-old boy in a very small Kurdish village on the Turk ish-Syrian border. There is only Jewish family left in the village after the increasingly hostile policies of the ruling Syrian Baathist Party. The film is largely told through the vision of little Sero, who attends school for the first time. A new teacher arrives from Damascus w ith the goal of making Baathists out of the Kurdish children. He forbids the Kurdish language, orders the venerat ion of Assad and preaches hatred of the Zionist enemy. The lessons upset and confuse Sero because his long-time neighbours are the Jew ish family. With a fine sense of satire, the film depicts Sero's childhood, which manages to find moments of light between episodes of dictatorsh ip and danger. In their tiny Kurdish village on the border, everyone knows everyone, and everyone gets along. Sero helps his neighbors on the Sabbath by lighting their lamps and stove, continuing his family's tradition. The Baathist Party teacher is the outsider who brings hate to the village and disrupts their quiet lives, helped by a local man who is the village's sole Baathist Party member. While these two are the primary villains of this child's-eye-view story, other representatives of the authoritarian government in the story, such as the border guards and bureaucrats, also bring either danger or a callous indifference and corruption. Sero's parents and grandparents , and his Jewish neighbours , are the counterbalance to this, w ith their long friendship and w illingness to help each other. NEIGHBOURS is both a touch ing, warm human tale laced w ith humour and childhood appeal, and a pointed satiric look at the roots of hate, not just in Syria.