Good Kurds, Bad Kurds


In his film Good Kurds, Bad Kurds, journalist Kevin McKiernan cites his desire to investigate post-Gulf War Iraq as his initial introduction to one of the most marginalized ethnicities in the world. With 20 to 25 million living in the Middle East, the Kurds are the largest ethnic population without a nation-state. This award-winning film concentrates its energy on exploring their plight.

McKiernan spends a great deal of time exploring the physical and emotional journey of one Kurdish family's migration to the United States. Continually shifting focus, McKiernan keeps viewers interested by alternatively focusing on the family's tribulations in America (including one man's lobbying for his people in Washington), the statements of American politicians, and the guerrilla struggle overseas. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler creates a stunning visual world, matching each shot with the spirit of the narration.

McKiernan pays special attention to the use of American weapons by the Turkish government on Kurdish people. Tight, restrictive shots make a series of interviews with government officials uncomfortable: the realization that U.S. tax dollars may be killing Kurds turns discomfort into alarm.

Good Kurds, Bad Kurds runs like several intertwined documentaries. Its one drawback is its lack of attention to the attitudes and emotions of Kurds not affiliated with the PKK guerilla movement. A population of 43 million surely deserves wider representation.

McKiernan himself plays a pivotal role in the film, expressing his personal feelings as the story progresses. The viewer is witness to his emotional evolution as a journalist struggling to "break the story" in the face of prime time news rejection. His is not the cut-and-paste documentary thrown together in the sunless vaults of old film archives. It is not sterile and distant, nor objective, but a product of passion and commitment.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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