Mumbai film fest to screen films from Afghanistan

NEW DELHI: A 13-film special package from Afghanistan is one of the key attractions of the ongoing Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation films.

Short filmmaker Reena Mohan who has curated the package said: “Afghanistan is the most reported but least understood region in the world.”

The war in that country had ensured a heavy international media presence in that country, but the coverage and depiction is often ‘narrow and limited‘, with emphasis on conflict, opium and feuding tribes. A number of other documentaries made by non-Afghans show topics like cricket in Afghanistan or women playing football.

Mohan said her main aim of putting together the Afghanistan package was to show to the world the depiction of the ‘real Afghanistan’ through the eyes of Afghan filmmakers. The package aims to trace the differences in their way of representing and seeing their own country. It also explores the challenges faced by artistes in expressing their thoughts amidst growing opposition to creative freedom.

Films include Addicted to Afghanistan by Jawed Taiman on the issue of opium and drug’s devastating effect on the children of Afghanistan; Death to the Camera by Sayed Qasem Hossaini examines the delicate gender issue; Shabana by Mohammad Haroon Hamdard is an insight into the life of a girl child in Afghanistan; and Hameed Alizadeh’s Checkpoint looks into the life and work of 15 border policemen.

Half Value Life is the story of Marya Bashir, the first woman public prosecutor in Afghanistan. Other films are A letter to light, House No111, Joys of Fervency, Playing the Taar, You Don’t belong to this country, and animation films Hope, Shelter and Death to Freedom.

Cinema entered Afghanistan at the beginning of the 20th century. The political changes in Afghanistan have not allowed cinema to flourish, but several Pashto and Dari film makers, both inside and outside Afghanistan, have been producing films.

Amir Habibullah (1901–1919) introduced film to Afghanistan, but in the royal court only. Pahgam was the first silent film shown to public in 1924. In 1968 Afghan Film, a state-run film production company, was formed and it began producing documentaries and news films highlighting official meetings and conferences of the government which were shown before the screening of feature films, which were mostly Hindi films from India. After the civil wars of the 1990s which forced people to migrate to Iran or Pakistan, the cinema of Afghanistan has slowly started to emerge from a lengthy period of silence.

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