With only 29 years Soleen Yusef has created short films, documentaries and now her own motion picture. ©Hiua Aloji

"The people must learn to dream“ – Interview With Movie Director Soleen Yusef

There is one thing Soleen Yusef is not aspiring to do – niche films. Yet to gain this knowledge, she had to experiment with quite a few things. Drawing, acting, singing and designing. Eventually the film industry drew her attention and has been the center of her interest ever since. Her newest creation „House Without Roof“ tells the story of siblings Alan, Jan and Liya, who were born in Kurdistan but raised in Stuttgart. At the beginning of the tale, they all set off for their Kurdish hometown to bury their deceased mother. On their journey, they are confronted with themselves, their kurdish extended family and their search for identity.

Corduene: At the age of nine, you fled to Germany with your family. “Flight“ surely is no abstract term for you and also consumes a great amount of focus in „House Without Roof“. Why are you sending your protagonists on such a long journey?

Soleen: For the majority of Kurdish people, flight plays a defining role. The fleeing and arriving. But also the returning to ones homecountry. This “forsakenness and search“ is a Kurdish issue. The concept of a roadmovie is a good form of presentation where a lot can happen dramaturgically. It is mostly used to convey social, philosophical and religious themes. Roadmovies are also coined by the spiritual journey the characters experience additional to the physical one. A journey which reveals questions that are meant to be answered throughout the movie. For Kurds, this has always been the question of identity.


Scene from "House Without Roof". ©mîtosfilm

Corduene: As a setting for your movie “House Without Roof“, you chose your town of birth, Dohuk. To what extent is the movie influenced by your own life and your personal experiences?

Soleen: I have always had the wish to create a Heimatfilm and revisit my childhhood. I love the countryside and the people in Kurdistan and wished to convey these feelings toward my country. In time, the topic Kurdistan became more and more relevant. I recognised, though, how it bothers me in which manner people only read the regional punch lines and don’t even dare to do some research on the actual people there. This is why I wanted to tell the story of a Kurdish family that flees to Germany but still has its roots and home in Kurdistan, making it undecided as to which country it truly belongs. And finally, this is how the title came to exist. It is the reflection of my own life events, the career of my family, the current political occurences and the identity oft he Kurds themselves.

Corduene: Do you see yourself as a multiplier of Kurds in Germany?

Soleen: Actually, I want to tell universal stories. I don’t consider national borders when doing so. But the Kurdish people is oppressed to this day and has barely any platform to explain its identity. Hence I feel bound as a film maker to help create this picture of Kurds for others. It is easiest to tell stories of oneself rather than letting others do so. Movies have a very special liberty and also connect with the audience in a much different way. You see, these are no political slogans that stifle the reader, but a discussion in a creative sense, especially when one accomplishes to tell stories which are emotional and worthy of self-identification.


On the set of "House Without Roof". ©Hiua Aloji

Corduene: Before the creation of „House Without Roof“, you directed two documentary films concerning the NSU legal proceedings. Now it is a movie about Kurdistan – what will your future films be focusing on?

Soleen: I do not really want to commit myself to anything. At the core, there is always the analysis of Kurdish topics. This also consumes a large part of my private time, so it is obligatory for me to process it in a way. But I also don’t want to be shoved into a certain area. It is my goal to be taken seriously as a filmmaker in Germany, as somebody who can tell stories far from pure Kurdish or foreign background.

Corduene: Are there any ideas for further movies yet?

Soleen: I would like to tell a Kurdish romantic comedy next. This is very exciting since Kurds are very funny people and there are always problems in love. It is something the Kurdish audience might like since they are already confronted with so much tragedy. In genereal, I would love to create Genrefilms: Kurdish comedies, Romantic Comedies and Action movies. The Kurdish cinema needs to be more colorful in order to enable new motion. At the moment, it is more of a refurbishing kind of cinema. The movies emphasize the past. It is important to speak out on these topics and present them on the big screens in order to explain what has happened in Kurdistan. A movie is something like a manifest. Yet, the Kurdish audience is in dire need of a bit more hope – the people must learn to dream.

HOUSE WITHOUT ROOF // HAUS OHNE DACH // Trailer from Soleen Yusef on Vimeo.

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