What’s next for Encounters alumni? – Kae Bahar

We were proud to screen Kae Bahar's remarkable film 'I am Sami' at our festival last year. The short film follows the story of a young boy named Sami. Living in a war zone, Sami is forced to make decisions beyond his understanding; decisions that could deprive him of his childhood and change his life forever.

Now Kae Bahar has taken his love for writing beyond screenplays and released his first novel 'Letters from a Kurd.'

Kae by Tashan - Gringo- 1 - Very good

Kae Bahar pictured with his novel, photograph by Tashan


‘Letters from a Kurd’ tells the story of Marywan, a Kurd growing up in Iraqi-occupied Kurdistan under the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein, whom he secretly nicknames Qayishbaldar – the monster. To survive his harsh reality Marywan lives in the fantastical and magical world of his citadel. He loves singing, acting and dancing but his father expects him to become a Darwish, a devout Muslim.

Marywan deals with the tragedies in his family, the tyranny and bullying that make his life hell by discreetly visiting the cinema and escaping into the magic world of Hollywood. He secretly writes letters to Gringo, a legendary American actor, begging for help to bring him to the US. As his great escape is twisted, Mary is drawn deeper and deeper into a dark, roller-coaster ride of drama, intrigue, savagery, love, betrayal and heroism which makes the movies he adores seem almost trivial by comparison.


A native of Kurdistan, growing up under the regime of  Saddam hussein, arrested by the secret police at the age of 14 and miraculously saved from death-row, Kae had no prospect of a future in Iraq, and storytelling and watching movies helped him survive those years.

Once he had completed his studies at high school in 1980 he left for Europe where he worked as an actor, writer and filmmaker. ‘Letters from a Kurd’ is Kae’s first novel. The book is dedicated to the less fortunate young boys and girls, innocent civilians, tortured and killed under Saddam’s regime.

His next project is the feature film, Blindfold Shows, a UK/Kurdistan co-production.