A panel to discuss the role the film community can play in raising awareness of the current crisis in Afghanistan was held at the Venice Film Festival this afternoon.
The Afghan filmmakers Sahraa Karimi and Sahra Mani took part in particular. The first is the first woman president of the Afghan Film Organization and the author of the recent appeal to film communities around the world as her country fell to the Taliban.
Mani (A thousand girls like me) is a documentary filmmaker who presents her latest project at the Coproduction Market here on the Lido.
The two women described the situation that led to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August and passionately pleaded with the film community to make their voices heard.
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Karimi described the progress made by the film industry leading up to the insurgency, including having several films in production and post-production, preparing for the second National Film Awards and being close to finalizing insurance for the equipment to help independent filmmakers and co-producers shoot inside Afghanistan. “And all of a sudden it all stopped in a matter of hours.”
Karimi said: “Imagine, Sunday August 15th you start your normal day, but a few hours later you decide on the most difficult decision of your life – stay or go – you see the collapse of your dream, your country. . It’s not just about me or other filmmakers, it’s about the younger generation of filmmakers.
She added: “Now Kabul and other big cities are dead cities. In less than two weeks, the most promising young people have just left. The most talented, educated, brilliant minds… Imagine a country without artists, without filmmakers. How can she defend her identity?
The Taliban, Karimi said, “are trying to show their gentle faces, but now they are as cruel as before, but they are smarter than before using modern communication technologies. They will use the cinema or audiovisual product for propaganda purposes.
The filmmaker called on the international film community “to be our voices. All of you, don’t forget Afghanistan. We have talent, we work hard, we have stories to tell the world. We can be part of the global community… we have tried so much, we should not be forgotten.
Karimi did not come to Venice with solutions or looking for financial support. Instead, she said she was asking for “intellectual support, something that gives us hope that we don’t feel like we’re going to die.” Support the Afghan people because we deserve to live in peace, in a calm society and we deserve to make our dreams come true.
Mani said that even before recent events, it was “not at all easy” to work in Afghanistan, citing the “corrupt” government and the constant bombing. The Taliban’s stance against music was particularly notable: “They arrested a musician and shot him for playing a musical instrument. We are not 100 years ago. It is shameful for us in any part of the world if someone is killed for playing a musical instrument. His current film is about boys and girls studying music together, but the Taliban occupied the music school and broke all instruments, including old pianos, while some students went into hiding. “Perhaps the next generations the Taliban will educate them to be terrorists,” Mani said.
She concluded: “Today is my misery, my people are losing everything. Who knows if tomorrow they will come to the rest of the world or not? This is an important question that we all need to ask ourselves. “
Also present were members of the Board of Directors of the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR). A theme of the discussion for them was the need to create humanitarian corridors and a guarantee that those who leave them obtain political refugee status.
Orwa Nyrabia, artistic director of the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival, described the Taliban as “the villain of the film who invades the whole country, a villain (who) chose the filmmakers as enemies”. He said: “We have to push governments that the film community does not shut up and wait… We have to stand up and help and not be overvalued, because while you calculate, people will be killed.
The IFCR has helped bring out a few hundred artists from the country, with some European countries welcoming them. Mike Downey, president of the European Film Academy, read a note from a filmmaker who was evacuated: “Thanks for contacting me. I got out before the explosion and left everything behind, including my heart.
Downey added: “The destruction of art and artists has never been incidental to the Taliban. Cultural heritage undermines its claim to power. But if a new vision is to emerge, we must give some hope to the artists of the country to survive. We have to work together to provide some kind of lifeline. “