YAZIDI GENOCIDE FILM
ISIS' war caused the largest mass migration in modern history. Sadly, the UN does not recognize ISIS' extermination of the Yazidi people as a genocide. We made a NARRATIVE FEATURE FILM IN IRAQ to let the world know the story of what happened to the Yazidi so that it never happens again.
Inclusion StatementOur crew included a group made of Yazidis, Christians, Jews, Atheists and Muslims—from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, the U.S., England and Poland—who spoke Kurdish, Farsi, English and Arabic. Two translators were required at any given time, and two weren’t enough. We are, after all, Culture Shock Productions.
About The Project
ARRIVING IN NORTHERN IRAQ (KURDISTAN)
WHAT THAT SIGN FELT LIKE:
Early April 2017, we traveled to the Kurdish region of Iraq to document testimonies of the survivors of the Yazidi genocide by ISIS that began on August 2, 2014, and the horrors continue to this day. This was a project contracted by the USC Shoah Foundation and was the foundation's attempt to gather testimonials in an active war zone.
While working in the refugee camps, we were approached by a Yazidi tribal council who were desperately seeking help for the refugee crisis. They were funding a feature film project which depicted the events that took place in early days of the genocide. The Yazidi council asked for assistance by getting American actors involved in their project. They had little money and no success. We offered to help and reached out to some actor friends and convinced them that the cause was a worthwhile endeavor. Things went forward and we went back to our work in the camps.
After a few weeks into production, the Yazidi council called us again and asked to visit the set and perhaps advise and assist. Things were not proceeding well; there was no cohesive screenplay or plan and the footage they had shot was not usable. We were asked to take over the project. At first we declined as we didn't see a way forward for a successful outcome and were afraid of further wasting their limited resources. However, they had done quite a bit of local promotion and not completing this film would be a huge humiliation for the community; a community that had endured a genocidal attack and seen their homes destroyed and hence, forced to live for years in refugee camps. Most of the crew were volunteers who live in these camps and it was their dream to see this film completed.
After some careful reconsideration we decided to help them shoot a feature film. It was shot with a documentary hand-held veritas style in an attempt to capture the realism in the events portrayed. We shot in actual locations destroyed by ISIS. With wide sweeping shots we captured the beauty of the Iraq desert but also the brutality of the relentless war torn landscape. Real accounts from survivors of the genocide are purposefully weaved into the film in an attempt to heighten the effect as the viewer also becomes a witness. After completeing physical production one of the Iranian crew members mentioned that we may be the only narrative film ever shot in an active war zone. I believe we are. It wasn't easy.
WHY IS THIS FILM SO IMPORTANT?
The chaos that followed the ISIS attack into Shingal caused the largest human migration since World War II. The genocide was not just a mass murder campaign but also mass kidnapping and sex slavery operation. It only took a few weeks to smuggle thousands of women into supply chains on the black market and thousands will never be found again. Now, many countries in Europe are struggling with the mass influx of refugees creating other human rights issues.
Social impact films like this have traditionally only been linked with documentaries, but with our NARRATIVE film we’re convinced that using the power of this dramatic personal story to link audiences with the factual events that set this off will be exceptionally galvanizing. There is a massive refugee crisis of people who have not yet abandoned all hope and ran for Europe. We are hoping this film will bring this subject into the light. Most of the Yazidis who survived the genocide or have been rescued from slavery are now freezing and starving in refugee camps. Their homes, villages, roads and communities have been completely destroyed. And now the powers that be are fighting over the rights to the oil rich/strategically located lands previously populated by Yazidis. This film is a powerfully moving and inspiring piece of world cinema and we are hoping it will ensure widespread awareness of the issues of sex slavery in supply chains, genocide, human welfare in refugee camps- and subsequently, promote lasting change by turning the world's eye to stamping out genocide before it begins. Genocide always has happened in the "dark" and in this day and age that is not an excuse anymore.
On August 2, 2014 ISIS attacked the Shingal region of Northern Iraq targeting Yazidi men for extermination and women to be sold into slavery. Adlen, a Yazidi nurse, is captured by ISIS in one of the villages. After horrific treatment, she manages to get away, hide in a barn and call her father. Her father enlists the help of his old army buddy, Adil, and because ISIS controls all the roads, they set out on foot across the desert to rescue her. Along the way, they discover two Americans (journalist and NGO worker) about to be executed by ISIS. In the ensuing battle, Adlen's father is killed. Adil takes the Americans with him as he seeks out Adlen. The Americans grasp for understanding as they stumble along. Late that night they reach the village where Adlen hides in the barn and they rescue her. Adlen speaks English and is able to communicate with the Americans who finally begin to comprehend what is happening around them. Now the group must escape, however, ISIS has advanced surrounding the mountain and forcing a far longer and more difficult journey to safety. As they work their way through the Shingal mountain region they search for water and shelter. Forced by thirst and hunger, they take a chance and search a burned out village. There they discover the full magnitude of the horrors they face. ISIS is executing a genocide against the Yazidi. They travel further and stumble upon survivors and witnesses to the massacres that has happened all over the mountain. Meanwhile, ISIS has discovered they escaped and is hunting them. The group is forced to make hard decisions on who they can help and who they can't. The closer they get to the front lines and safety on the other side, the worse the danger of getting caught becomes. As the group prepares to make their final escape from ISIS, the survivors are each left facing a truth from which there is no escape.
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About This Team
Dave and Drew -Kabbe Bros. -Culture Shock Productions
Producer, Dave Kabbe was born to expat parents in Kabul, Afghanistan. His parents worked with NGOs that helped the poorest regions of Southeast Asia. The cultural diversity of his youth had an impact on his life and began his journey to connect to people and cultures through storytelling. He attended DePaul University in Chicago and graduated with a BA in Film and Media Studies before moving to Los Angeles to work in film and television. After 20 years of working in production, he started Culture Shock Productions with his ugly brother.
Writer-director, Andrew Kabbe spent his childhood in war torn and poverty stricken countries around Southeast Asia. His family returned to the US when he was in high school. Without money for college Andrew decided to look to the military for help. He joined the Navy where he became a Navy Diver/photographer. After studying writing at University of Illinois, he took his in field experience to work on documentaries first, then features. Andrew has worked as a cameraman, writer, director and director of development.
Producer, Dr. Stephen D. Smith, Andrew J. and Erna Finci Viterbi Endowed Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education, holds the UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education. He is also Adjunct Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California. Dr. Smith is committed to making the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust and of other crimes against humanity a compelling voice for education and action. His leadership at the Institute is focused on finding strategies to optimize the effectiveness of the testimonies for education, research, and advocacy purposes.
A theologian by training, Smith has a particular interest in the impact of the Holocaust on religious and philosophical thought and practice. He wrote his dissertation on the “Trajectory of Memory,” examining how Holocaust survivor narrative — and in particular, visual history — has developed over time and shapes the way in which the implications of the Holocaust are understood. He founded the UK Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, England and cofounded the Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity and genocide. He was also the inaugural Chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which runs the National Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom.
In October 2013 Smith was named the inaugural UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education. Smith will collaborate with genocide researchers and educators around the world to develop educator training and multidisciplinary programs that foster learning about the causes and effects of mass violence.
Smith is involved in memorial projects around the world. He is the executive producer of Kwibuka 20, the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide to be held in 2014. He is currently a delegate of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. He was the project director responsible for the creation of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda and trustee of the South Africa Holocaust and Genocide Foundation.
As an international speaker, Smith lectures widely on issues relating to the history and collective response to the Holocaust, genocide, and crimes against humanity. His publications include Never Again! Yet Again!: A Personal Struggle with the Holocaust and Genocide and The Holocaust and the Christian World. In recognition of his work, Smith has become a member of the Order of the British Empire and received the Interfaith Gold Medallion. He also holds two honorary doctorates, Honorary Doctor of Letters from Nottingham Trent University and Honorary Doctor of Laws from University of Leicester.
Co-Producer, Lynnette Gryseels is passionate about helping filmmakers navigate through the entire process of development and production. She nurtures thought provoking stories that entertain, stimulate social change and ultimately guides the filmmaker’s vision from script to screen.
Lynnette holds a BA’s in Film Studies and in Media Studies, and has a long history of working with notable film organizations such as the American Film Institute, Film Arts Foundation, Women in Film, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, AFI Fest, Hot Docs and currently, The Film Collaborative as Director of Fiscal Sponsorship. Lynnette helps filmmakers through project development, funding strategies, marketing, audience development, distribution and creative consulting. Her producing credits include feature film FINDING NEIGHBORS and THE RUGBY PLAYER documentary.