On Sunday, August 7, young director Zaynê Akyol became the 9th winner of the unique Doc Alliance Selection Award, awarded since 2008 by the international Doc Alliance platform comprised of seven key European film festivals: CPH:DOX, Doclisboa, Docs Against Gravity FF, DOK Leipzig, FIDMarseille, Jihlava IDFF and Visions du Réel. The Kurdish director based in Canada received the award during an award ceremony at Locarno IFF. Along with the award, the filmmaker also received financial support of 5.000 euro for her future film.

Gulîstan, Land of Roses offers a unique experience of two strong narrative lines combined by Zaynê Akyol into a complex dramatic narrative. The filmmaker follows in the footsteps of a young girl called Gulîstan whom she met in Canadian exile and who decided to fight in the Kurdistan Workers’ Army. Akyol sets out on a journey from the western world back to Turkey where the story of her friend brings her among the members of the female rebel armed forces in whose ranks Gulîstan died in 2000. The film mediates essential insight into one of the crucial war conflicts of the present taking place at the very border between Turkey and Syria.

“Gulîstan was a young woman I met when I immigrated to Canada. I was five years old; she was about 18. We used to live in the same building. She used to babysit me and often I went to see her. I considered her like my older sister. She used to talk to me about things I would not necessarily understand, about Kurds and also about Communism,” director and award winner Zaynê Akyol recalls how she met the protagonist of the awarded film.

The winning film Gulîstan, Land of Roses was selected by a jury comprised of seven European film critics coming from the countries of the individual festival members of Doc Alliance: Michael Bo (DK, Politiken), Gabriel Bortzmeyer (FR, Revue Débordements), Vasco Câmara (PT, Público), Piotr Czerkawski (PL, Dziennik Filmweb.pl), Christian Jungen (CH, NZZ am Sonntag), Tomáš Stejskal (CZ, Hospodářské noviny) and Gisela Wehrl (DE, freelance journalist and screenwriter).

The jury gave the following statement to back up their decision to award Gulîstan, Land of Roses: Gulîstan shows a hidden world: Women in war. With beauty, softness and a tenderness of style the director creates an astonishing dialectic with the violence depicted. Breathlessly you listen to one female soldier as she describes the beauty of her scars from combat. The outstanding camera follows the women during their training and fighting for a free Kurdistan. Gulîstan lets us understand why the women are fighting, but also leaves us with the decision if violence is the appropriate way.”