Carpenter ★★★★ Bolton International Film Festival

Carpenter ★★★★ Bolton International Film Festival

Xelîl Sehragerd’s Carpenter (Dartaş) is a lovely and moving observational study focusing on connection. Be it with our carpenter’s connection with those afflicted by landmines in his region or for the nature he takes from – an enlightening documentary.

Kurdish carpenter Hussein Mahmood trudges through the snow in a remote mountainous Kurdistan region. Watched by squirrels, he searches for the best wood to craft artificial legs. In an area plagued by landmines, his careful work brings peace to victims of these indiscriminate weapons of war.

Carpenter stands out so much because we barely hear Hussein Mahmood talk. He reassures those trying on their new artificial legs, letting them know he can adjust it and what they need to do to make it more comfortable. But we never talk to him about what he is doing. We never have a voiceover of his thoughts. We don’t need to in Xelîl Sehragerd’s excellent observation documentary. Everything this man thinks is shown to us, and by the end of the film, your heart swells for what this older man does for those around him.

Sehragerd also mixes up his shots with some wonderful creativity. We are not merely trudging along in the snow with Mahmood. Cameras are inside the holes of the unfinished legs and in the water, forcing us to look up to Mahmood. Almost as if that is what we should be doing, looking up at a man who is serving his community in the best way that he can. It’s a clever trick that helps you see the man for who he is.

As we watch Mahmood travel to find the perfect trees for the legs he needs to make, you sit in awe. He is there no matter what, walking for what looks like an endless amount of time through the snow and carrying multiple logs on his back in the spring. He is constant and never-ending. This shows us all we need to know about him, but also the dire circumstances in the countryside of the Kurdistan region that he needs to go off in the depths of winter to get some more wood to help someone out. The fact that there are still so many landmines thrown around the country means his job is never-ending. As much as you feel an appreciation for what Mahmood is doing in Carpenter, you feel a great dejection at the same time.

Sehragerd never mentions this throughout his film. He doesn’t have to explain to us, for it is all over the screen visually. We do not need to take great steps to understand the point he is making. This allows him to focus on Mahmood, so when we see him take wood to help others, we later see him planting the acorns from trees to ensure that he replenishes nature from what he takes. Nature is a big part of Carpenter; while humans are losing limbs because of what they wish to do to one another, squirrels and ants simply keep living and minding their own business. In what was already an almost meditative documentary, it becomes quite tranquil.

Carpenter is the type of documentary that works its way on you emotionally. You don’t expect it to, yet by the film’s end, you feel yourself moved by the work and life of Hussein Mahmood. Filmmaker Sehragerd has a keen eye on the humane throughout his film that you can only appreciate.


The Bolton International Film Festival is running physically from October 4th – 8th and Online from the 11th – 22nd October. For more information please click here.

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