A Kurdish-American man named Diyari travels to the village of Halabja, one of the targeted sites of the 1988 chemical and biological bombing of the Iraqi Kurdistan region by the Iraqi military (acting under Saddam Hussein’s Anfal genocide campaign against the Kurds), on a personal humanitarian effort to build a facility in order to accommodate the area’s high rate of orphaned children. His first encounter with the proud and determined villagers is through a shy, yet affable little girl orphaned by the bombing named Jiyan whose face has been permanently scarred by chemical burns. As Diyari immerses himself in the daily life and continued struggle for survival of the Kurdish villagers – witnessing the area’s decimated and poisoned landscape (where the occasional windstorm inevitably results in a secondary bombardment of the deadly airborne materials) and increased rates of infertility, genetic anomalies, and mortality – Jiyan becomes his guide and inspiration to the indefatigable soul of an oppressed people. Reminiscent of Kaneto Shindo’s Children of Hiroshima in the interweaving of real-life testimonies of actual survivors from the inhumane bombing campaign with the fictional narrative of an estranged native witness, Jano Rosebiani’s Jiyan is a somber and haunting, yet affectionate, charming, and celebratory portrait of human courage, community, dignity, and resilience.
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