No Friends But The Mountains

Will the Kurdish dream of independence and freedom ever become reality?

No Friends But The Mountains With the rise of ISIS and the central role played by the Kurdish Peshmerga in the fight against them, the question of Kurdish independence has taken on greater urgency. To answer this pressing question, Kurdish author Kae Bahar travels from his London home to his rocky and mountainous homeland, finding a complex mix of Kurdish nationalism and internal division. ‘War or Peace?’ Bahar asks. The answer is not so simple.
When Kae Bahar was 14 years old he was tortured by Saddam Hussein's secret police. Thirty years on, he returns to the place of his torment: "They pulled me upside down with my head down, and one with a cable started to hit the bottom of my feet." By fate, he meets the man that turned him in thirty years ago: "They tortured me too…I had to do it", the man explains. After a tense exchange, they embrace. Their story of intense trauma is shared by Kurds across the region, as is their determination to put the past aside and look to the future.

After fleeing Iraq to build life in London, Kae returns to Iraqi Kurdistan to fight the cause of Kurdish independence. The Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in the world without a sovereign state; their population split across Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq, with a large diaspora spread across the world.

Kurdish troops from across the Kurdish regions lead the fight against ISIS: "fighting Daesh not just for themselves, but for the civilised world", Kae explains. Whereas ISIS represents the very worst of violent religious fundamentalism, Kae envisions a Kurdish state that could enshrine democratic principles, becoming a "very open and progressive country in the Middle East."

However, as he travels around the country, rallying support for independence, internal divisions appear. Captain Hussein of the Peshmerga tells him that "The Kurdish leaders are not yet politically united to liberate Kurdistan."

One of the most potent tools for fostering internal cohesion is the celebration of Kurdish culture. "It's not just about guns and war", Kae muses; his travels enlivened by rich music and dance, and punctuated by mystical digressions into the ancient history of Kurdish lands.

As Kae moves freely in the city of Kirkuk, administered peacefully by the Kurds, he considers the good that a Kurdish nation could bring to the region: "In a desert of hatred and fear, Kurdistan is an oasis of hope where everybody can live in peace."


No Friends but the Mountains is an exquisite film beyond words” – Utah Film Festival

LaurelSlemani International Film Festival - Best Documentary Film
LaurelFestival Cinematográfico de Mérida - Official Selection
LaurelCopenhagen Kurdische Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelFestival de largos y cortos de Santiago - Official Selection
LaurelTiburon International Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelFICIP International Political Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelSalon International de la luz - Official Selection
LaurelFestival Int. De cine bajo la luna lepe - Official Selection

LaurelUtah Film Festival and Awards - Official Selection

The Producers

Kae Bahar - Director
Growing up under Saddam Hussein's regime, arrested by the secret police at 14 and miraculously saved from death-row, Kae had no prospect of a future in Iraq. So in 1980 he left for Europe. After 25 years of exile, Kae returned to Kurdistan, later producing and directing his documentary film, Return to Kirkuk/ A Year in the Fire. Kae has also reported and produced several films for Channel 4, BBC, More 4 News and Al Jazeera International.

Claudio von Planta - Director
Claudio von Planta is a Swiss freelance documentary filmmaker who started his career in 1985 with reports about the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Occupation. From 1990 Claudio worked on TV news features and longer current affairs programmes for all the main UK broadcasters. In 1996 Claudio filmed a Gwynne Roberts report for Channel 4 Dispatches where they tracked down Bin Laden in Afghanistan. That year, he also filmed Karzan's Brothers for BBC Inside Story, his first Kurdish film with Kae Bahar. Ever since then, Kae and Claudio have continued to produce films about the fate of the Kurds.

Making The Film

Iraq had no peace since its creation by the British in 1921 because of the incompatibility between the Arabs Sunni and Shi’a and the Kurds. Iraqi governments made of Arabs Sunni or Shi’a never tolerated the Kurds, combating them with oppression, mass-execution and genocide – as a filmmaker I wanted to report on my people’s wish for an independent country. Claudio and I covered the Iraq-Kurdistan conflict for over 24 years, now climaxing with No Friends But The Mountains , the only documentary film about Kurdish Independence. For me the solution for potential peace in the region is to separate Iraq and recognise an independent Kurdistan, which is the main message of the film.

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