Based predominantly in Iraq and Turkey, the PKK (or Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has been a left-wing military force working to keep Kurdistan safe from Daesh fighters (a.k.a. the Islamic State), as well as Iraqi and Turkish interests that might want to move into the region. One of their biggest assets is a brigade made up entirely of female soldiers. Outside of allowing women to fight on the same battlefields as men in a notoriously sexist society, the brigade has become feared for religious reasons. If a Daesh were to get killed at the hands of a woman – regardless of the situation – that fighter would never reach paradise in the afterlife.
The easiest comparison for Canadian filmmaker Zaynê Akyol’s Gulîstan, Land of Roses would be Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Just like Kubrick’s fictional look at the Vietnam conflict through the eyes of new recruits, Akyol manages a similar structure, but without the theatricality associated with a fictional work. Akyol follows soldiers through training and their graduation in the first half, while shifting to the regiment going into action in the second half.
It’s not a particularly flashy look at modern warfare, and if anything it accurately depicts the life of a soldier as one that involves a lot of waiting around for things to actually happen. But through Akyol’s realist approach and the candid interviews with some of the troops, the film becomes a slow burning meditation on the warrior mindset and how soldiers of all sexes approach their own sense of mortality.