Duhok International Film Festival Celebrates Kurdish Culture & the Arts

by Laura Beans

These days in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, much is uncertain. And even more is needed.
The violent expansion of the extremist group ISIS in Iraq, Turkey, Syria Egypt and beyond has flooded the area with refugees. In June, UNICEF upgraded Iraq’s current crisis to a level three humanitarian disaster, due to the influx of displaced persons migrating there.
Lina Hanson, celebrity make-up artist and natural beauty expert whose skin care line features high quality natural and organic ingredients, is currently in Kurdistan herself, in support of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a nonprofit her brand is currently collaborating with. The IRC responds to humanitarian crisis around the world and offers necessities to refugees including protection, health-care, education and economic recovery. The Lina Hanson line has been committed to working with charitable organizations since its inception.


Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. Photo credit: Lina Hanson

Hanson’s husband, director Kordo Doski, was born in Kurdistan and his new film, MIKAEL, just premiered at the third annual Duhok International Film Festival, which is wrapping up a weeklong celebration of Kurdish culture and universal arts.
The Duhok International Film Festival is an ambitious project, striving to show Iraq as a land of opportunity—along with providing essential relief to those in the hostile region through entertainment. The film fest has reserved more than 1,500 tickets and seats for internally displaced people (IDP) and children that live in the camps of Duhok, in support of the citizens that remain in Kurdistan.
One of the first co-productions between the U.S. and Kurdistan, MIKAEL tells the story of a man against the odds, chasing distant dreams and returning to his ancestral home. Hanson serves as the film’s co-producer.

Lina Hanson and husband Kordo Doski on the red carpet at the Duhok International Film Festival for the premiere of their new film, MIKAEL.

Hanson took time some time to speak with Organic Spa Magazine about the film, finding inspiration and more.
OSM: You’ve traveled the world sourcing ingredients for your line, Lina Hanson, what are you finding (ingredient-wise) in Iraq? What are you finding in Iraq that can’t be bottled?
In terms of ingredients, I’ve found several flowers that are unique to this part of the Middle East that I’m currently trying to see if I can use. In terms of inspiration, Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) is a beautiful place. The landscape is unique and the people are so warm, friendly and welcoming despite everything they’ve been through. I get a lot of inspiration from the strength of the people I meet.
OSM: I’m assuming that daily life has to be quite different (difficult?) in Kurdistan. Is this what you are seeing? 
There are over 1.5 million refugees in the city of Duhok and surrounding areas and I’m definitely sensing that there is uncertainty for many people here. They don’t know what the future holds and that is disheartening. But in the midst of it, people try to go on with their lives as best as they can.
OSM: What is your connection to the International Rescue Committee? 
I was first introduced to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) through my friend and client actress Morena Baccarin. I immediately felt connected to the incredible work they do for refugees all over the world and decided I wanted to help in some capacity. For over two years now we have teamed up with the IRC and given part of our proceeds to them whenever we launch a new product.
OSM: Tell me a little bit about the film, MIKAEL and the Duhok International Film Festival? What made you want to get involved in this project?  
My husband, who is also the co-founder of our company, directed the film. The message of the film is very much in line with our brand. The film portrays the Middle East and its people in a very positive light, which is usually in contrast with what we see on television.
Mikael is a beautiful film about an aging athlete who chases his dream of being a professional soccer player from Los Angeles to the home of his parents in Kurdistan, Iraq. We loved the universal aspect of one chasing his dreams. I think we can all relate.
The Duhok International film Festival is in its third year. It’s a very ambitious festival in that it is putting on a world class event with celebrated films in the midst of all the troubles surrounding the area.
OSM: Culturally, how important are the arts to the Kurdish community? These days, are they revered as a source of normalcy & healing for people? Are there outlets readily available in Iraq today?  
The Kurdish community is entrenched in the arts. Be it music, theatre and now films. Story telling is an important part of this culture. They have used this art as a means of preserving their culture and telling the stories of the atrocities their people have faced.
As far as outlets, live theatre and concerts are common but movie theatres are very rare. Although from what I’ve heard, more movie theatres have been built in the last couple of years.
OSM: Are you moving away from your product line and focusing more on philanthropy? Or are you integrating the two?
We are definitely integrating the two, and that’s something that has been an important aspect of our brand from the very beginning. I think the fact that our brand is growing is the reason this is now being noticed more. I believe sourcing high-quality ingredients from around the world, offering effective and luxury products, by celebrating global beauty and giving back to the people and organizations that are doing their best to help make the world a better place is important and should be taken notice of.

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