Willemien Sanders
Dr. Willemien Sanders is a regular critic at Modern Times Review.

Film director Alba Sotorra spends five months at the Kurdish frontline in Syria following the life and struggle of the female Kurdish fighters belonging to the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).

Commander Arian

Alba Sotorra

Germany/Spain, 2018

The YPJ (Women‘s Protection Units) is the lesser-known Kurdish women’s army – allied to the YPG (People‘s Protection Units) – fighting in northern and Kurdish Syria. Alba Sotorra’s new film Commander Arian focuses on one of its commanders – Arian Afrin – whom Sotorra follows both at the front line and behind it. When we meet Arian she is in a women’s shelter, recovering from being hit by five bullets inflicted on her one and a half months earlier. Scenes from her recovery period are intertwined with scenes from the front shot the preceding year. First impression: she misses the front, the combat, the comrades, the suffering and the thrill of success. Her thoughts reflect a romantic idea of war, which in reality is often rather both messy, especially in Syria with the many different groups fighting each other (see Francesca Borri’s piece), and boring.

A feminist perspective

Commander Arian is yet another film about war in the Middle East, but indeed it is different from films such as Peshmerga and No Place for Tears reviewed earlier at MTR. First of all, it offers a distinctive female and arguably feminist perspective.

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