Dir.: Negin Ahmadi; Documentary with Negin Ahmadi, Nasrin Abdulahh; Iran/France/Norway 2023, 65 min.
The “Women’s Protection Union (YPJ)” is an all-female section of the “Armed Forces of Rojava” that forms part of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Since 2011 the unit has been involved in Kurdish/Syrian resistance, fighting the “Islamic State of Iran”, “ISIS” and the forces of the Turkish army, who have occupied parts of the autonomous Kurdish region.
In her first feature documentary Iranian filmmaker Negin Ahmadi has spent the last six years in the company of these women to see what makes them tick and, in the process, she found her own voice. On returning from the conflicted region to Tehran she admits to “missing the war”. Being part of the group of courageous female fighters gave her a sense of purpose, and a real identity in the bigger picture, having felt lost in her own large male-dominated family.
Dream’s Gate shows how Syria is still very much a man’s world. Negin realises she reacted against this growing up in family where men made all the decisions. The women fighters showed Negin another reality: women were capable of being naughty and rebellious one minute, then suddenly transformed into “martyrs” prepared to give up their lives for a worthy cause.
Sometimes the motives are personal: one of the female fighters actually killed her father for supporting “Isis”. But even though Negin identifies more and more with the female warriors, she never loses her perspective. Seeing the constant stream of violence and death on her mobile during the fighting in Deir-Ez-Zor, she states: “The ones I saw today won’t live long”. Negin also films interviews. One of the fighters admits to finding an ISIS spy amid their ranks. Finally Negin gets access to Nasrin Abdulahh, a founder member of the (YPJ), who explains why the organisation is under pressure. Once women marry they have to leave the service, “for biological and emotional reasons”. But Negin is more than sceptical. For Nasrin everything is political, but for Negin women’s right are paramount. After her return to Tehran we see her hanging the washing out on the roof terrace, wondering “ What is happening to me? Nothing seems to be the same as it was before, even shopping is suddenly an alien pastime”.
Dream’s Gate feels all the more powerful for its compact running time of just over an hour. There is no need to aim for ‘objectivity’ or expand on the narrative. The pictures tell a thousand words. AS
PREMIERED DURING BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL 2023