Documentaries about Rojava
Rojava, The Revolution by Women
Directed by Mylene Sauloy, produced by Arte Geie, ARTE Documentary, 2018. 25 min.
"In the middle of the Syrian chaos, Rojava is home to four million Kurds, Arabs, Syrians and other people who live there peacefully and have signed a surprising “social contract”: gender and economic equality with direct democracy – in a Middle East that is still very much male chauvinistic, multi-ethnic and anti-secularism... All while the region is still ablaze with religious and nationalist intolerance. And yet this ecological and egalitarian social project is never invited to the negotiation tables on the future of Syria. Why does the coalition – which supported the Kurds in their battle against the Islamic State – now refuse to recognize their de facto autonomy in this province that spans a third of the Syrian territory?"
Rojava: A Utopia in the Heart of Syria’s Chaos
Made by Chris Den Hond and Mireille Court, filmed in July 2017. 45 min.
Taking a critical perspective, the film addresses controversial issues and contradictions of Rojava. The footage from the ground includes a discussion of the problems experienced with extracting and refining oil as well as producing electricity more generally; interviews with officials of the autonomous region, Kurdish opposition voices and representatives of other ethnic backgrounds; an investigation into whether the Kurds have conducted human rights violations in regards to local population.
Roza - The Country of Two Rivers
Directed by Kudbettin Cebe, produced by Komina Film Rojava (Rojava Film Commune), 2016. 1hr 15min.
“The film compiles a lot of footage from Rojava, including interviews with ordinary people, combattants, activists and officials from various ethnic backgrounds: “The documentary is detailing the Rojava Revolution, with stories of Assyrian, Kurdish, Arabic people. This people are subjected to the ISIS attacks, on the other hand they are trying to build the democratic confederalism system developed by the Kurdish liberation movement. This struggle is not easy in Syria. This film details the hardships and the political terrain.”
Born from Urgency
By Joey Lawrence, 2017
“Joey Lawrence’s film and photography series highlights the brave men and women on the frontlines against ISIS. It’s an independent, deeply personal and first-person perspective of the war, without the constraints of our mainstream media.”
Journey 1 (31 min) starts with Joey’s visit of the PKK in Makhmour, Iraqi Kurdistan, after ISIS had lost this city, and continues in Tel Hamis in Syrian Kurdistan, also just recently liberated from ISIS, ending in Sinjar (Shingal), Iraqi Kurdistan—where the genocide of Yazidi population took place—to witness the fight for the liberation of the city from ISIS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSWVlac8lUo&list=PLXV9tOIkcN_lDSFr_mz_2RQpxz3Sk11-g
In Journey 2 (65 min), Joey Lawrence returns to Sinjar (Shingal) in Iraqi Kurdistan after the city was liberated from ISIS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CuaLwsYB6c
In Journey 3 (12 min), the filmmaker goes to the frontlines of Raqqa documenting the fight of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZAyr77wT00
The Kurdish movement in Turkey
Voices of Bakur
Made by Two Rivers and a Valley, 2019. 32 min.
"The film tells the story of the events in the small city of Cizre, on the Syrian border. In the summer of 2015, Cizre and a dozen other Kurdish-majority towns declared autonomy from the Turkish State, adopting the model of “democratic confederalism” that Kurds and others had been using in Northern Syria (Rojava) to manage their own affairs since the start of the Syrian Revolution. The response from the Turkish state was characteristically brutal. In Cizre, they declared a series of curfews and proceeded to systematically demolish neighborhoods. The members of the Cizre People’s Assembly, hiding in town basements from Turkish shelling, were burned alive. Throughout the region, more than a thousand died in the fighting, including hundreds of civilians."
Read more: https://communemag.com/voices-of-bakur/
My Whole Life Was a Struggle
Directed by Dersim Zerevan, 2016. 1 hr 35 min.
"The documentary about the life of Sakine Cansiz (SARA), founding member of the PKK, who was assassinated with two other women in Paris in 2013. She is one of the most symbolic figures of the Kurdish Movement, especially for women. The documentary tells her life story in chronological order: childhood, youth, founding of the PKK in 1978, ten-year prison term until she and two other women in the Kurdish Freedom Movement, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez, were murdered in Paris on January 9th in 2013 as a result of a politically driven assassination. Sakine’s story is told about, by herself, her parents and siblings, and mostly by her comrades. One learns about the beginning and development of the women’s movement within the Kurdish movement."
Watch with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA49qeTScu8
News Reports & Short Videos
The Communes of Rojava - A Model in Societal Self-Direction
Made by Neighbor Democracy, 2018. 43 min.
A compilation of visual material from Rojava (not a documentary) with a voiceover reciting the basic information about how the commune system of Rojava works, with some concrete examples. The disadvantage is the lack of interviews with people on the ground; the scenes shown in the film are neither voiced nor subtitled.
Jinwar - Free Women’s Village Rojava
By Jinwar, 2017. 6 min.
“JINWAR Free Women's Village is an ecological women's village currently under construction in the heart of Rojava (West Kurdistan/ North Syria). As images of the Women’s Defense Units’ (YPJ) successful resistance against ISIS continue to spread all over the world, the Rojava Revolution has shown the true potential of women. Now, the women of Rojava have come together once again to continue in their struggle for a free and peaceful life through the creation of an ecological women’s village called JINWAR.”
Welcome to Jinwar, a women-only village in Syria that wants to smash the patriarchy
By The Independent, 2017. 6 min.
"Jinwar is a women-only commune a few miles from Qamishli, a city in the mainly Kurdish region of northeast Syria. It was set up by local women’s groups and international volunteers. The Independent's Middle East correspondent Richard Hall went to meet the women who live there. Read the full story: https://ind.pn/2SpbnRB"
PKK Youth Fights for Autonomy in Turkey
By Vice News, 2015. 12 min.
“A news report during the military operation launched by the Turkish state against the Kurdish cities of the southeast to suppress the resistance initiated largely by the Kurdish youth. “VICE News gained exclusive access to members of the YDG-H, mostly in their teens and early twenties, who give their story on why gun battles broke out between them and the Turkish security forces, leading to some of the worst fighting in Cizre since the 1990s.”
Field of Vision—Our Allies: The Kurdish Women
Directed by Anders Hammer, 2017. 14 min.
"A short film that interviews women-fighters in Rojava. “‘We can even say that women are ahead of men. Women lead men.’ Meet the fighters of the YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units in Syria. OUR ALLIES is a three-part series that shows the daily lives of anti-ISIS combatants in Iraq and Syria, with this part focusing on women’s protection units.”
Rojava: A Democratic System in Progress
By System D Media, made in 2017 in London
A compilation of interviews with Mehmet Aksoy, a journalist and filmmaker, killed in 2017 while documenting the fight between Kurdish forces and ISIS in Raqqa, Northern Syria; David Graeber, an anarchist activist and anthropologist at LSE at who travelled to Rojava; Havin Guneser, a journalist and activist with the International Kurdish freedom movement, one of the spokespersons for the international campaign "Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan - Peace in Kurdistan" and translator of several of Öcalan's books, and others.
David Graeber - Syria, Anarchism and Visiting Rojava
By Real Media, 2017
“In the last part of our interview, a special 20 minute discussion with anthropologist David Graeber about anarchism, Syria, building a new kind of democracy, the bureaucracy of activism and his visit to Rojava where the building of a new kind of society is underfoot.”
Talks / Panels
Confederalism and Its Critics
Debbie Bookchin traces the origins of democratic confederalism and how it has been applied in Rojava. 2016. 35 min.
Dilar Dirik on Democratic Confederalism
Dilar Dirik talks about the basic tenets of Democratic Confederalism, its three pillars—ecology, grassroots democracy and women’s liberation—and the push towards abolition of the nation-state, as these are practiced in Northern Kurdistan (in Turkey) and Rojava. 2017. 15 min.
Fréderike Geerdink - Rojava - the most feminist revolution in history
By MerJa Media, October 2017
“Their heroic frontline role in the resistance to the brutal, women-hating Islamic State gangs produced both widespread admiration and curiosity which has continued to this day. But as necessary and attention grabbing as the military struggle is, it is not the most important thing. In the liberated zones of northern Syria, women are playing a leading role in building a new kind of society — one which is marked by a radical grassroots democracy, ethnic and religious inclusivity, and by an unprecedented effort to empower women. Arguably this is the most feminist revolution in history.”