Miami International Film Festival Anticipating Director of Film About Yazidi Genocide To Be Banned From U.S. Entry


Yesterday, the Trump administration’s draft executive order on “Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals” was leaked to civil rights activists. If enacted as drafted, the order would place severe restrictions on US entry from nationals of Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Iran. And according to The Hollywood Reporter, the effect of Trump’s draft order is already being felt by the Miami International Film Festival, where Kurdish director Hussein Hassan had been set to premiere his film The Dark Wind.

As per The Washington Post, it appears that once the order is signed, there’ll be a 30-day period during which citizens of these countries would be prevented from entering the US for any reason, even if they have a valid visa, while the government works to tighten vetting procedures. Hassan is a citizen of Iraq, and with the festival due to take place from March 3-12, it would seem that he may well be prevented from entering the USA.

Even before the order leaked, Hassan told THR that he felt that he was having an inordinate amount of difficulty getting his visa application approved. The director was apparently told at the U.S. Consulate in Erbil that there was something amiss with his application, and that he needed to resubmit it; he says he did so, but never heard back from consulate officials. Jaie Laplante, who is both the executive director and chief curator of the festival, told THR:

I am just incensed that artists are being silenced and prevented from showing their work. We cannot allow our filmmakers to be silenced. This is not something where we are going to just sit back and say, ‘Oh well.’ This is not the way the soul and spirit of America works…The Dark Wind of the title refers to the spread of ISIS across the region, but I can’t help but feel that a ‘dark wind’ is now sweeping over America as well.

THR says the filmmaker is “devastated” about potentially being blocked from entering the country to share his film. The Dark Wind is about the Islamic State’s rape, devastation, and genocide of (and resistance against said genocide by) thousands of Yazidi people in Iraq beginning in 2014. In a festival review, Variety wrote of the film:

Until ISIS invaded Iraqi Kurdistan, either enslaving or massacring the Yazidi population, few outside the region were even aware of this much-persecuted people. Hussein Hassan’s The Dark Wind is the rare drama made about the community, focusing on a woman’s difficult re-entry after being abducted by the fundamentalist fanatics.

The Dark Wind won the top honor at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2016. It also, interestingly, screened at the Duhok International Film Festival, where it drew criticism from some members of the Yazidi community, through the claim that it portrayed them in a bad light, when a character who gets raped by an Islamic State kidnapper is then scorned for her lost purity among her community. It also went on to the Busan International Film Festival, and the Miami International Film Festival had already hired a Kurdish/English translator for Hassan’s Q&A. Hassan told THR:

The Dark Wind shows the audience what you cannot see in the media. The film is an emotional excerpt of the war in Iraq. USA is an important player in the fight against IS. That is why I would like to personally introduce my film to the American audience and talk about the truth behind the pictures.

THR notes that the executive order’s 30 day period could of course expire before the festival — as that is on March 3, but that the Festival is still concerned he won’t be able to enter the country following that period.

Watch the trailer for Hassan’s film:

And march, rally, tweet, call your representatives, do whatever to voice disapproval of incoming, deeply xenophobic policies.