Transcript: The Forbidden Reel (Feature Version) | Jan 12, 2021Logos: ONF NFB. Loaded Pictures.
Opening credits read A Loaded Pictures and The National Film Board of Canada production. In association with TVO and AJE Witness. A film by Ariel Nasr. Edited by Annie Jean, CCE. Produced by Sergeo Kirby, Kat Baulu.
An older man with short gray hair spins the handle on an old-fashioned film projector. Then, grainy black and white footage shows military men saluting and troops marching on camel back.
As a montage of grainy footage, mostly in black and white, shows scenes from movies and documentaries a female voice says SO MANY ASPECTS OF AFGHAN CULTURE HAVE BEEN SYSTEMATICALLY DESTROYED, OR ERASED, OR FORGOTTEN. THE AFGHAN FILMS ARCHIVE HAS BEEN PRESERVED, ALMOST ENTIRELY INTACT, THROUGH ALL OF THESE YEARS, WHERE SO MANY OTHER THINGS WERE BURNED, WERE LOOTED, OR BLOWN UP.
The montage continues, showing scenes such as a kite flying in the sky, people dancing, people moving around a busy city centre, romantic scenes, bombs exploding and shots being fired.
The woman says THE AFGHAN FILMS ARCHIVE, THROUGH THE EFFORTS OF THE PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE, WHO FELT SO STRONGLY ABOUT THE WORK THAT THEY DID, THEY MANAGED TO PRESERVE THESE FILMS AND THESE RECORDS OF ALL OF THESE OTHER AFGHANISTANS THAT EXISTED BEFORE THIS RECENT PERIOD OF ICONOCLASM AND DESTRUCTION. BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED THESE FILMS HAD SOMETHING TO GIVE TO THE PRESENT MOMENT.
(FILM REEL CLICKING)
The main title appears on a moving film: The Forbidden Reel.
In daytime, an elderly man with a prominent beard wearing a ragged tunic and turban sweeps a parking lot.
(CARS HONKING IN THE DISTANCE)
A tandem motor helicopter flies in the sky.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
As the man walks over to a building, subtitles read At the time, when the Taliban Minister of Information was here, they told us they would burn down Afghan Film, along with all its films. They said it was anti-Islamic. We asked ourselves what to do Would we let them burn the films?
The man heads down a narrow hallway followed by two other men. One has short dark hair and the other has white hair and wears glasses.
The bearded man points to a shut door and says This was the archive of Afghan Film. There was a light there. We made a false wall here. Up to here, so no one could see anything. We brought all the films here, and blocked the entrance, so no one would notice it.
The man wearing glasses says If someone came by, they wouldn't see a thing. Even if they passed 10 times. Only we knew.
An unseen male interviewer says What did the Taliban tell you, exactly?
The bearded man says They said: 'Bring out all the films, and if a single film is hidden, it will cost you your life.'
Outdoors, he walks over to another building, points and says This is the hangar. Upstairs, there was a storage space. It was full of films. We brought all the films down. The rest of the films were hidden in the archive. But whatever was left here was burnt over there.
He steps away, followed by the other men, then unearths a damaged metal reel disk and says Here. They made us throw all the films down here. We had to remove them from their cans. We were crying. We had no choice. We couldn't do anything. These few piece... that's all that's left.
Strips of damaged film lie on dry grass.
Now a man flips through dozens of colour photographs.
As he shows pictures of damaged rooms and walls, he says We took these photos when I became president of Afghan Film.
Afghan Film was in this state. The whole place was like this, with birds' nests. These are little birds that nest in abandoned places.
A caption reads "Ibrahim Arify. Filmmaker."
Ibrahim is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He wears glasses.
Ibrahim continues Which means Afghan Film was dead. There was so much damage. I didn't reject anyone's help. Mariam Ghani helped us a lot. Often, when we needed something, she was there.
A still shot shows the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of Manhattan in the background.
A young woman walks on a crowded sidewalk. Fast clips show her walking into a classroom, then teaching a group of young people.
A caption reads "Mariam Ghani. Professor and Artist."
Mariam is in her thirties, with long wavy brown hair.
She says I'M ALWAYS INTERESTED IN ARCHIVES AS AN ARTIST, AS A FILMMAKER, AND AS A TEACHER. AND I'VE BEEN MAKING WORK IN AND ABOUT AFGHANISTAN FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. AND FOR ME IT WAS REALLY EXCITING TO FIND OUT THAT AFGHANISTAN HAS THIS INCREDIBLY RICH AND DEEP CINEMATIC HISTORY, OF WHICH I WAS TOTALLY UNAWARE. AND THEN TO REALIZE THAT... MOST OTHER PEOPLE WERE ALSO TOTALLY UNAWARE OF IT, IT WAS LIKE FINDING A HIDDEN TREASURE. AND THEN THINKING, "HERE'S SOMETHING I CAN ACTUALLY DO TO START BRINGING SOME OF THOSE HISTORIES BACK INTO CIRCULATION."
In grainy black and white footage, men in military suits play instruments and dance outdoors.
(DRUMMING, CROWD CHATTERING)
Mariam says WHAT IS REALLY EXTRAORDINARY ABOUT LOOKING AT THESE FILMS IS THAT THEY ALL TELL US SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT ABOUT AFGHANISTAN AS A NATION, AND HOW IT ENVISIONED ITSELF AT THE MOMENT THAT THOSE FILMS WERE MADE.
A montage in black and white shows military parades, celebrations and state officials in formal attire attending a ceremony.
(CARNIVAL MUSIC, CHEERING)
Other clips show a sign that reads "Welcome to Kabul" as well as scenes from a bustling city.
Now in daytime a man with white hair who wears a cap walks up to a building and greets two men who sit by the front door.
Inside the building, in a small room, the white-haired man greets a balding man of a similar age with a hug and three kisses.
The white-haired man says How are you?
The balding man says How have you been? Good?
The white-haired man says Everything good?
He steps over to a projection machine and says What's playing?
He looks through a small window, smiles and says I know this scene.
Grainy black and white footage shows six women in ornate costumes performing a traditional dance.
(SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
The white-haired man sits in a chair.
A caption reads "Engineer Latif Ahmadi. Filmmaker."
Latif is in his late sixties, with a white goatee.
He says I am an artist in cinema. I always had this passion and never lost it. I remember when I was a child, my mother took me to the Zainab Cinema. My first thought, as a child, was how is it possible that figures cross the screen. That humans move. As humans, we sometimes feel that something connects us with our inner self. But we can't name it. When we encounter that thing in our life, we realize it was already inside us. My cousin and I used to play in the basement. We made a little cinema there. We made a screen for it, we brought in colour picture, and imagined it to be a cinema we were going to.
(SOFT STRING MUSIC)
A snippet plays from an old colour picture that shows people walking, driving and riding carts down a main street in a town.
(MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
A man sits inside an empty theatre.
A caption reads "Siddiq Barmak. Filmmaker."
Siddiq is in his late fifties, clean-shaven, with wavy brown hair, and wears glasses.
He says I was 4 years old when I first went to the cinema. We had just moved from Panjshir Valley to Kabul. And I remember, I would ask my father, who was a policeman in Kabul, to take me to the cinema every week. So every Friday, at 2 PM, he would take me to Ariana Cinema. They used to screen European and American films. I was always looking for the place where the light came from. And finally, one day, I found it.
In a film snippet, a boy steps into a projection room and finds an elderly man who is operating a large projector.
Siddiq continues There was an old man, operating a big machine. I asked him: 'Uncle, what is this?' He said: 'This is a cinema machine! We load the film, we turn it on, and you see the movie!' I became obsessed with one idea: 'How can I make one of those machines?' I wondered how you could add music, and make words come from people's mouths. Later, I realized that cinema is not just technology. It's a long creative process. It's about ideas and imagination. I realized that cinema is art.
(SOFT GUITAR MUSIC)
In daytime, men carry tattered boxes into a building, then into a small room. Other men haul tall piles of old metal reel cans.
Mariam says WHEN I FIRST WENT TO THE AFGHAN FILMS ARCHIVE, THE PHYSICAL PLANT OF THE BUILDING WAS REALLY DETERIORATING SO THEY HAD ACTUAL LEAKS IN THE ARCHIVE. AND WE WERE REALLY OUT OF LUCK IN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WAS AVAILABLE TO SEE.
An unseen man standing inside the room says Here, Uncle.
A bald man walks into the room carrying reel cans and says Where do you want these?
The man inside the room says Right here.
The bald man says All done. There's no more left.
The man inside the room says Good job.
Fast clips show the man examining and classifying the film reel cans.
A caption reads "Habib. Projectionist."
Habib is in his fifties, slim, with short dark hair and a gray mustache.
He says This work was frightening for us, since there were about 2500 historical films that were nearly lost during the time of war. Take this film, for example.
He picks up a large film reel and says I'm working on restoring it right now. Some of the films were completely destroyed. But for others, with the right amount of effort, we hope to be able to screen them again.
Black and white footage shows men in formal suits attending a formal dinner and other stately events.
(MAN SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
A caption reads "Zahir Shah. King, 1933-1973."
Now in daytime, the bearded man wearing a turban waters young trees. A plaque on a wall reads "Afghan Films."
Engineer Latif and follows a man with dark hair down a hallway.
Engineer Latif says Is it still here?
As he opens the door into a narrow room, the other man says Yes, like in the old days.
Engineer Latif steps into the room, touches a film reel crank and says I worked with this for years. The lights were off, and we worked on our films in darkness.
The other man opens a box revealing an old handheld filming camera and says Here it is.
Engineer Latif says My favourite camera! My favourite one. This is... the Arriflex 2. I shot 10 or 12 feature films, with this camera. I filmed Patient Soldier, Epic of Love, Sin, Green Fields, The Sculptures are Laughing...
The other man says Your last films became quite famous.
Engineer Latif says Yes. And I only used this camera. This camera was always in my arms. Many times, during a film shoot, we would have a car accident. I would hug the camera like this. I got injured but not the camera. During the shooting of the film April Revolution, I fell from the top of a tank. It was 3 metres high. And I still didn't let the camera go. Wherever I went, this camera was in my arms.
The other man says We protect the things we love.
As he puts away the camera, Engineer Latif says It served us well.
The other man locks cabinets and shuts the door to the narrow room.
(MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
A colour film snippet shows a man riding a horse as the sun shines low on the horizon.
Mariam says ENGINEER LATIF IS THE MOST PROLIFIC AFGHAN DIRECTOR. PROBABLY THE MOST BELOVED ONE, AS WELL, AMONG HIS PEERS, AND I THINK ALSO AMONG THE YOUNGER GENERATION OF AFGHAN FILMMAKERS. BECAUSE HE'S MADE FILMS THAT ARE TOUCHSTONES, LIKE EPIC OF LOVE. AND BECAUSE HE MADE AT LEAST ONE FILM A YEAR FOR SO MANY YEARS.
In the clip, the man gallops.
Engineer Latif says As a young man, I was passionate about cinema. However, I didn't have the means. You couldn't study it at the university. I started with advertising work. It wasn't easy back then. I didn't have access to good cameras yet.
In a black and white clip a man wearing a crown makes a battery appear on a small table.
An announcer says Which battery? The one and only Aria Battery!
Engineer Latif continues In those years, a great man was in charge of Afghan Film. I introduced myself to him. 'I'm an engineering student, and I have filmed a commercial.' He said: 'Really? As far as I know, there is only one studio in Afghanistan which is the Afghan Film studio. How is this possible?'
In a grainy black and white clip, a fridge door opens to reveal six slender bottles of Sprite.
An announcer says Sprite, Sprite, Sprite! The non-alcoholic Sprite beverage brought to you by Kam company.
Engineer Latif says I made a total of 9 commercials. I also founded my own company: Ariana Film. Then, for the first time, I produced a feature fiction film. It was called The Sculptures are Laughing.
In a black and white snippet, a young woman with light hair plays a record and paces around a living room.
(SOFT MUSIC, DEEP MALE VOCALS)
A dark-haired woman sitting on a couch says Ahmad is a sensitive person. I think he's perfect for you.
The young woman says I'm still looking for my ideal man.
In daytime, Mariam walks down a hallway and into a room. She wears a pink hijab.
She says Engineer Latif! How are you?
Engineer Latif says IT'S SO GOOD TO SEE YOU.
Mariam says NICE TO SEE YOU.
As a clip shows them and other people walking into a film archive, Mariam narrates THE ORIGINAL BUILDING FROM '68. MY FATHER'S THE PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN. SO THERE ARE SECURITY CONCERNS. BUT IT DOES, I THINK, OPEN SOME DOORS. NOT AT THE ARCHIVE, NECESSARILY, BECAUSE I'VE BEEN WORKING WITH THEM FOR SO LONG, IT PREDATES MY FATHER HAVING THIS JOB. BUT IT DOES GIVE THE POSSIBILITY TO HELP THEM WITH CERTAIN THINGS.
Ibrahim says Can you unlock the door?
A young man opens a door into a room containing hundreds of film cans sorted on metal shelves.
Mariam says I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR THESE FILMS TO BE MORE WIDELY AVAILABLE IN AFGHANISTAN AND I WANT TO HELP AFGHAN FILMS TO DIGITIZE THE ENTIRE ARCHIVE. AND OF COURSE, THE FIRST STAGE OF DOING ANYTHING LIKE DIGITIZATION IS TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ACTUALLY HAVE.
Ibrahim says These are the films that we find, clean, catalogue and store here. It's hard work. We only do 1 or 2 cans per day. Sometimes just 1 can per day.
A black and white clip shows women dancing and performing on a small stage for a small crowd.
(UPBEAT STRING MUSIC)
Mariam says THE VIEW OF AFGHANISTAN OUTSIDE AFGHANISTAN IS SO MONOLITHIC. AND I THINK, THE EARLIER AFGHANISTANS THAT EXISTED... AFGHAN INTELLECTUALISM, AFGHAN MODERNISM, AFGHAN LEFTISM... ALL OF THESE OTHER HISTORIES ARE ACTUALLY PRESENT IN THIS ARCHIVE. AND TO SEE THEM ACTED OUT ON FILM, IT REALLY CHANGES THE WAY THAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT AFGHANISTAN.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
Other clips show a machine producing fabric and a man smoking as he paints a portrait of a naked woman.
Mariam says WE'VE BEEN SEEING IT, ESPECIALLY IN THE PAST FEW YEARS, THESE INCIDENTS OF REALLY EXTREME VIOLENCE. AND IT'S IMPORTANT TO BE REMINDED THAT THERE WERE DECADES WHEN AFGHANISTAN WAS NOT A PLACE WHERE VIOLENCE WAS NORMAL.
Clips show children walking down a sidewalk and attending school.
Inside a classroom, a female teacher with a big beehive hairdo in a long dress says It's also a person whom you like a lot. Can you guess who this person could be? Aref?
A young boy stands up and says Mother!
The teacher says Well done. Now pay attention to the chart to see what the mother does.
In daytime, Mariam and another woman walk up a steep street.
The woman says It is very steep!
A young clean-shaven man in modern attire, with a hat and sunglasses, approaches and says Excuse me, may I have a picture?
The woman says Take it.
As he takes a selfie with her, she says Finished?
As another young man approaches, she says Yes, of course.
He takes a selfie and says Thank you.
A female voice says I was born in Mazar-i-Sharif into a very conservative family.
In grainy black and white footage, the woman is in her youth, wearing traditional clothes and sings.
(SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
In present day, she sits inside an office.
A caption reads "Yasmin Yarmal. Actress."
Yasmin says I used to go to the cinema without my family knowing. When I saw those films, I would think: 'Could I too become an actress one day?' But my father was very short-tempered, and very strict. He didn't even want me to go to school. I often asked family friends to intervene and convince him to let me study. Finally, I managed to attend school for a while.
I wanted to become someone special. To serve the public in some way. I especially wanted to serve women, because I could see how restricted women were.
Pictures flash by of Yasmin in her youth.
Old colour footage shows a parade of horse-drawn carts decorated with fresh flowers.
(MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
(DRUMS BEATING, TRUMPETING)
Yasmin says Many men wanted to ask for my hand. I thought that if I married so young, I wouldn't be able to finish my studies. But if I didn't marry, my father would never let me work in cinema. So I spoke to one of my suitors: 'If you want to marry me, you should know I have the dream of working in cinema. Do you agree with this?' He promised me: 'I will never stand in your way.' That's why I married, whether I really wanted to or not. I did it to pursue my own goals.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
A short clip shows the ceilings of a low-rising city made of white buildings, surrounded by hills.
Yasmin says As soon as we got married, I asked him to take me to Kabul.
Siddiq says Afghanistan for me was not a place of political problems, of who was King, and who was poor, who was a senator and who was Prime Minister; which party was in conflict with which other party. My whole life was: Which new movie is coming out today? This was a crazy love, almost an obsession. 'Afghanistan has made a film. When am I going to see this new film?' One day I went to Afghan Film for the first time. It was a nice building. I wanted to get in. I was young. I wondered what was inside this building. People must be making films in there... But how did they do it? I was fascinated. But they didn't let me go inside.
A clip shows women in high-heels with long loose hair and young men with longish hair and mustaches dancing frantically.
(POP ROCK MUSIC)
(MUSIC GRADUALLY FADES OUT)
One man and one woman step away from the party. He has a short beard and smokes.
He says You know Nasrin, Art and emotion go together. An artist without feelings can't create valuable work.
Siddiq says I remember, it was the winter of 1977. I went to Kandahar. I took the bus from Kabul. The roads were safe at the time. People travelled without any problems. Kandahar was safe. And as soon as I sat on the bus, I saw the actor whose pictures I had seen in a popular magazine and who starred in The Sculptures are Laughing. Fatollah Parand came and sat right next to me!
As Siddiq speaks, a clip shows the bearded man smoking as he sits on a bed.
Siddiq continues I introduced myself and said: 'Mr. Parand, I admire your work. You played your role very well.' He was surprised to hear a 14-year-old boy speak passionately about films. He got really excited and said: 'I can see how fascinated you are. Why don't you come work in cinema? I will introduce you to Engineer Latif.
A picture shows Engineer Latif in his youth, balding, with a prominent dark goatee. Another picture shows Siddiq in his twenties, clean-shaven.
Siddiq continues You'll see he's a very kind person.' I got to know Engineer Latif and learned a lot from him. Slowly, we became such close friends, that the age gap between us was meaningless. And Ariana Film became like a school for me.
A colour clip shows men harvesting grains in a field. A woman walks through the crops.
(WOMAN SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
Engineer Latif says Afghan cinema didn't start as an industry. It was the passion of a few artists that started the whole thing. Maybe one film would be produced every couple of years. It was hard to build a film industry from zero. We were making films, but we were also inventing our own cinema. We were not followers of American, Iranian or European cinema. And especially not of Indian cinema.
Black and white pictures flash by showing men filming, and editing film.
Engineer Latif continues I always saw cinema through the eyes of an Afghan. Through the eyes of our own transcendent culture. Our films have always reflected our country's history. And the viewers sensed that everything that occurred on the screen belonged to them.
In a clip, children play in the sun.
Ibrahim sits next to a man in his twenties working on a computer.
The young man says These reels are done.
Ibrahim says Starting from 1957?
The man says Yes.
As he shows Ibrahim pages in a binder, he says We have sorted the films to this point. This is the first newsreel. Until this page. This is year 1977, and these are not finished yet. 1978 begins here.
Ibrahim says It's all about communist presidents.
The man says Yes.
Ibrahim says It's all been entered in the computer?
The man says Yes.
Ibrahim says In those films, you can see people who are from the South, from the North, from the East, or from the centre of the country. The way they dressed is very different from today. You don't see that anymore. It's like... you're skimming through the pages of history. The pages of history pass in front of your face.
In grainy black and white footage, men in suits shake hands.
A caption reads "Daoud Khan. President. 1973-1978."
(PLANE TAKING FLIGHT)
A black slate reads Everything changes.
Colour clips show tanks moving, men loading missiles, a radar spinning and a fighter jet taking off.
Siddiq says I'll never forget. It was April 28, 1978. I saw a dark cloud over the airport. All of a sudden, a fighter jet flew past, and dropped a bomb that made a huge explosion. I quickly went home. My uncle, who was an army officer, was there. He was very nervous and sad. I asked: 'What's the matter, Uncle?' He said: 'There's been a communist coup.'
In a clip, a family gathers around a radio nervously.
A male voice on the radio says Dear countrymen! For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, the last vestige of the cruel monarchy of the bloodthirsty Nader Khan dynasty came to an end. The government's power is now in the hands of the people of Afghanistan.
Clips show torn-down palace rooms.
A young woman says Hamid, do you hear the noise?
Hamid, a young man in black clothes and a leather jacket says I hear it. It's Revolution.
An older woman says What are people saying?
Hamid says People are happy! They prayed for such a day!
An older man says Really?
Hamid says Yes. They put flowers on tanks and hug the soldiers.
The young woman says You saw this?
Hamid says Yes.
The older woman says Oh! God!
Hamid says You are not happy?
Another young man barges into the house and says It's chaos outside. Tanks everywhere!
The older woman says Oh, my God!
Another young woman approaches and says Father, let's go downstairs.
Hamid takes the first young woman by a hand and says Let's go, Humeira. We'll see it up close!
The mother yells Hamid!
On the streets, crowds march following tanks and celebrate.
Yasmin says I remember, I was still young when the Communist Revolution succeeded. That revolution had opponents, yes, but it also had supporters. It's supporters were mostly younger people and people who were ready for communist ideas.
A colour clip shows a military helicopter flying low with a sign in Arabic hanging from its tail.
Other clips show a busy city centre, tanks driving down a road, men handling anti-aircraft guns, and an official and his wife smiling and clapping.
Engineer Latif says Soon after the 1976 Communist Revolution, I was ordered to shoot a docudrama about the revolution. At that time, no one could say no! Minister Hafizullah Amin gave the order: The film must tell the story of the Communist rise to power exactly as he had written it. One day we had to recreate how the old flag was brought down, and the Communist flag was raised in its place. But when we put up the old flag, people started whispering in the market: 'The Revolution got reversed!' This talk reached some Communist Party members. The first thing they did was to shave their mustachios. They did it right there. Because wearing a mustachio was a symbol for Communists. But Amin did not forgive them. He ordered the arrest of every Party Member who had shaved his mustachio and he put them all in prison.
(SOFT CLARINET MUSIC)
Clips show military man looking disapprovingly at human hair floating down a stream.
Siddiq says There was a rumour about how they were executed, but the details were kept secret. I had a close friend who was always telling me: 'Siddiq, you are young and have energy. Come join the Communist Party.' I was telling hi, that I am afraid of the Party, because it is going to restrict me. It is a closed-minded system. I would rather be a member of the 'Cinema Party.' In the beginning, people thought their lives would change with this revolution. But I was just concerned about one thing: What will happen to the cinema? Seriously, I was thinking: Will I still be able to see my favourite films? Will it still be possible to see the American or Italian detective movies again? Because I heard that the Party was anti-West and if there are any films at all, they would be Russian.
Shaky colour footage shows crowds of men celebrating as they wave red flags.
A male announcer says Words cannot describe the magnificent march of September 24th. Dear Workers of Afghanistan, the previous cruel regimes were afraid of your name and your presence. But the Democratic Republic Party of Afghanistan is proud of you and relies on you, and will provide for your needs.
Children sing and march as red flags are raised.
(CHILDREN SINGING AN ANTHEM)
Wearing cotton gloves, Ibrahim carefully handles photographic film.
He says THIS IS... NEGATIVE. NO, POSITIVE.
A woman says YES, IT'S POSITIVE.
As he slowly spins a crank moving the film, he says Starring Sabour Tufan and Homayoun Paiz. And Salam Sanghi. This film is totally damaged. We used Russian projectors in Afghanistan, and those projectors scratched the films.
Colour clips show scenes of war and troops marching, as well as still slates in Arabic.
Mariam says YOU SEE VERY DIFFERENT KINDS OF FILMS BEING MADE AT DIFFERENT TIMES. THIS IS A HISTORY AND A SERIES OF HISTORICAL SHIFTS THAT YOU CAN TRACE. AND IT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT THE ARCHIVE IS SO VALUABLE AND IT PROVIDES SUCH AN IMPORTANT, KIND OF, WAY TO LOOK AT AFGHAN HISTORY THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND ANYWHERE ELSE. AND WHAT'S VALUABLE ABOUT IT IS NOT ONLY WHAT YOU SEE ON THE FILM, BUT HOW THE FILMS WERE MADE. YOU KNOW, ALL THE CLUES THAT ARE EMBEDDED, AND HOW THE FILMS WERE MADE, AND HOW THEY WERE MADE DIFFERENTLY IN THE DIFFERENT TIMES.
Grainy colour footage shows poppies swaying in the wind.
(WOMAN SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
A young woman sits among the flowers and sticks a few in her long wavy brown hair.
Engineer Latif says At first Afghan Film's main purpose wasn't to make fiction films. It was most of all meant to cover official visits of the King and other prominent figures, or events that would happen in society. But after the Communist Revolution, the ideology about that changed completely. The Government provided more funds to make fiction films. Our directors started to produce 6 fictional films per year.
In the clip, another young woman, played by young Yasmin Yarmal, approaches and says Mazari, why do you put yellow flowers in your hair?
As she adds flowers to Mazari's hair, she says How beautiful it looks.
(WOMAN HUMMING SOFTLY)
Suddenly, Mazari says Pari! I hear a horse coming!
Pari says I hear nothing.
In present day, Yasmin says A beautiful new chapter began for art. Our films were seen in cinemas and on TV. Many good directors and actors emerged. People welcomed our work and embraced us. We were recognized wherever we went. I became a star. They realized that I was talented. Many directors wanted me to play in their films.
In an old picture a young Engineer Latif poses with Yasmin as they drink tea.
In a clip, Pari approaches a young man who rides a horse and says Sharif! This is for you.
Sharif says Who is it from?
Pari says The girl with the orange scarf.
Grainy footage shows a woman driving a bus, another woman giving an official statement and a group of women marching with machine guns.
Yasmin says I was confident in front of the camera. I wasn't scared at all. It felt very natural. At that time, women were really encouraged to work. They could develop important roles, hold positions in government, and even become ministers.
(SOFT CHIMING MUSIC)
A group of young women in Western style clothes talk and laugh as they walk together.
Engineer Latif says Gradually, with the support of the government, women were more present in society. They would go to work, go on picnics, go to parties and stay out all night. And we had no problem with women playing roles in cinema.
In a clip a band plays as young men and women dance.
Engineer Latif says This period was the Golden Age of Afghan cinema.
Mariam says AFGHAN FILMS IS A STATE FILM INSTITUTE. SO, THE SCRIPTS ALL HAD TO PASS THROUGH APPROVAL BY A CENSORSHIP BOARD. BUT, I THINK, VERY MUCH UNLIKE WHAT YOU SEE IN CHINA DURING THE SAME KIND OF PERIOD WHERE THINGS WERE ATTRIBUTED TO A WORKSHOP, YOU CAN'T REALLY FIT THE COMMUNIST FEATURE FILMS FROM AFGHANISTAN INTO A SERIES OF AUTHORLESS FILMS, BECAUSE THEY ARE VERY MUCH THE PRODUCT OF SINGULAR ARTISTIC VISIONS.
In grainy black and white footage, a young man looks directly into the camera, smiles and says My name? Akhtar. Everyone calls me: Akhtar, the joker.
(SOFT MUSIC, CARS HONKING)
As he walks down a sidewalk, one of several men sitting in a balcony above him says Hello Akhtar, come upstairs! Come and have tea!
Akhtar looks up and says Enjoy your tea! Thank you! Goodbye!
Mariam watches the movie on a computer screen.
She says THERE ARE PARTICULAR FILMS THAT I SAW AND I JUST FELL IN LOVE WITH THOSE FILMS. FOR EXAMPLE, AKHTAR THE JOKER BY ENGINEER LATIF IS AN EXTRAORDINARY FILM AND I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING ELSE LIKE IT. BEGINNING WITH THIS DIRECT ADDRESS TO THE CAMERA, BY FAQIR NABI PLAYING AKHTAR. AND HE'S THIS COMPLETELY UNRELIABLE NARRATOR OF HIS OWN LIFE.
Akhtar sits on a concrete bench in a square, points around and says Do you know? For each of these houses, millions were spent. It's true. Millions!
Mariam says AND YOU CAN SEE WHY THEY WOULD ASK FOR THIS PROJECT TO BE MADE BASED ON ZARIYAB'S NOVEL BECAUSE IT IS A REAL EXCORIATION OF THE DECADENCE OF A CERTAIN WESTERN-INFLUENCED BOURGEOISIE DURING THE MID '70S
Akhtar approaches a man in expensive-looking clothes as he is about to get in a car.
The man laughs, then says Where have you been?
Mariam says AND THE CHARACTER OF AKHTAR IS THIS YOUNG MAN FROM THE WORKING-CLASS WHO HAS, SORT OF, ADOPTED, ALMOST AS A MASCOT, BY A FAMILY FROM THIS UPPER-CLASS. AND IT'S A REALLY TRAGIC STORY.
Fast clips show people ridiculing Akhtar as they walk him on a leash, then Akhtar chases a scared young woman.
Inside a small room, an elderly man with a white beard who wears glasses writes in Arabic on a strip of paper and handles film reels. He labels a can.
A black and white clip shows a massive military parade.
(PERCUSSIVE MARCH MUSIC)
Engineer Latif says In Kabul, we were so busy with our work that we didn't worry about the political things. We thought it was going to be a positive change. But not everyone thought it would be positive.
In damaged colour footage, one man approaches two others on a dirt road and says Rebels attacked the Government outpost! Can the rebels defeat these tanks? Not a chance!
Yasmin says At that time, there was peace in the cities, but outside of the cities, there were insurgents. And they were at war with the Government.
In the clip a dishevelled man in torn clothes, with an unkempt beard and long hair chases a tank as he laughs WICKEDLY.
A soldier addresses a man in a shirt, tie and cap who is missing one eye and says Please Comrade.
Addressing a crowd, the man says We begin today's meeting in the name of Great Lenin, the leader of the world's workers! The Communist Revolution is irreversible! We won't yield one inch, or even half a centimetre! But you, dirty people, are helping vicious traitors, the Americans and the Pakistanis!
An elderly man in the crowd says Teacher Aziz! Where does your mother come from, then? Are you Russian?
Aziz says Silence, fossil-minded man! We are proud that the Soviet Union sent comrades to support our Revolution!
(FIGHTER JETS ROARING)
A slate reads "Life in times of war."
Colour footage shows explosions and buildings on fire in a small town surrounded by mountains.
Siddiq says It was a crazy time. Unfortunately, after the Communist coup, many of our people were living in a distressing situation. When the Soviet Army invaded the country at the end of 1979, it made that crisis twice as bad. At the time, a lot of people thought we had been colonized by another country. On the 23rd of February, 1980, one month after the invasion of the Soviet Army, the people of Kabul arose. They came out onto the roofs of their homes at night, and called out 'Allahu Akbar.'
Colour footage shows the rooftops in a small city at dusk.
(PEOPLE SHOUTING, CHANTING IN THE DISTANCE)
Engineer Latif says Many were put in prison. Pul-e-Charkhi Prison was full of political prisoners. There wasn't any room left. The situation was headed toward a crisis. Behind the Interior Ministry, lists were posted with the names of those who had been killed.
In a clip, dozens of hand-written sheets of paper hang on a wall.
Engineer Latif says I witnessed dozens of women reading their husbands' or sons' names on these lists. They would faint on the spot before they had a chance to cry or to mourn. And this happened every day.
In black and white, an aerial view shows massive crowds on the streets.
(CELL DOOR RATTLING)
A male announcer says The unity of our ideology, the unity of our Party, the banner of our Revolution, and all the lives we have sacrificed, we hold them all high!
The man with glasses who has seen labelling cans and another man watch a movie on a small TV set.
(PEOPLE SHOUTING ON TELEVISION)
A male announcer on TV says THE CHORUSES SUNG BY THE YOUTH, AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS, ARE VALUABLE MEMORIES OF THE UNIVERSAL UNITY OF THE PEOPLE OF AFGHANISTAN, FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE LIBERATING SOUTH REVOLUTION, AND IS INDICATIVE OF UNSHAKEABLE UNITY.
Crowds cheer and celebrate.
Engineer Latif says At first, the Mujahideen weren't organized. People still didn't know what would happen. Small resistance groups were created in cities, towns and villages. And every day more people joined them. They were united by the idea of fighting against the Soviets. Some of their leaders went to Pakistan, they brought weapons from there, with which the Mujahideen would fight.
In grainy colour footage a short man examines a group of over a dozen young men and fixes one's belt.
He says Go with God's blessing!
They all chant ALLAHU AKBAR! ALLAHU AKBAR!
A clip shows militants marching down a mountainside with guns.
(SOFT A CAPELLA, MALE VOCALS)
A man sits outdoors in daylight.
A caption reads "Yussuf Jannesar. Filmmaker."
Yussuf is in his forties, clean-shaven and shaven-headed.
He says I was born in Panjshir Valley. My family moved to Kabul when I was 3 years old. I got into trouble with the Communist regime because two of my brothers were Mujahideen fighters. If you were suspected of working with the Mujahideen, they would arrest your whole family. So when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, I left school and joined the Mujahideen resistance.
In the clip, the militants cross a makeshift bridge over a stream.
Another clip shows a militant leader giving instructions to several dozen armed men.
Siddiq says Being from Panjshir was a specific thing. Everyone associated Panjshir with the name of Massoud. Massoud was known as a strong Mujahideen commander. He was also seen by many as a hero. His fights against the Soviets were admired. And his enemies, especially in the Communist Party, treated him with hatred. And that hatred was felt by the people of Panjshir who lived in Kabul. Those Panjshiri people were always under surveillance, even if they were not politically active.
A still shot shows a wide river flowing through an open valley.
(WAVES LAPPING, BIRDS CHIRPING)
An old picture shows Yussuf in his youth, flexing his muscles as he holds a trophy.
Yussuf says The first time I met Massoud was in the Kheilab Valley. My brother had already told him I was athletic.
Old pictures of Yussuf and other young militants flash by. In most pictures, Yussuf handles filming equipment.
Yussuf says The first thing Massoud did was take my arm. He said 'This guy is very strong!' He joked with his friend: 'This young man, in wrestling, defeated his competitor by crushing him on his stomach.' Commander Massoud gave us each a role. He told me: 'Many boys can hold a gun. You should go with Gholam, the cameraman.' Gholam had learned video recording in Pakistan, and was already working on the front line. So, from that time, I was part of the Mujahideen camera unit.
In a sepia tone clip, young Yussuf smiles as he assembles a filming camera. Another young man appears in video, smiling.
(SOFT, DEEP MUSIC)
Yussuf says I worked with Gholam for a year. Then he went to Pakistan and was killed in an explosion there. So I became the leader of the film unit.
A clip shows a building exploding.
Pictures show men posing with cameras next to tanks.
Yussuf says Massoud told me that filming had three goals. First, when an operation was planned somewhere, we'd film the enemy position and bring the pictures to Massoud. He'd watch the footage with his commanders, so everyone would understand the area. The second goal was a lesson. We would film the battles. Then Massoud would show it to the fighters, so they could see their deficiencies in those attacks. The third goal was to keep those films for the next generations.
Shaky footage shows armed men charging alongside a tank amidst clouds of dust.
(SHOUTING, GUNSHOTS IN DISTANCE)
In another clip, traffic flows through a city.
Siddiq says One day, in September 1982, I received a phone call from film director Toryalai Shaffaq. He asked me, 'Siddiq, would you like to study outside of the country?' I asked: 'Study cinema?' 'Yes, cinema.' 'Of course! Where?' He said: 'In Moscow...' I didn't know what to say. I was deeply troubled by the fact that Soviet forces were in Afghanistan. On the other hand, I loved Russian cinema. Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Romm, Tarkovsky, Paradjanov. When I heard those names, I didn't know what to do. All night long, I had an internal debate. I couldn't sleep at all. Early in the morning, my mother stood beside my bed. She said, 'My son, if you are thinking about me, don't. And if you are thinking that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, well, that's life. Maybe it was meant to be. Go, study and achieve your dreams. Don't be too rational. Do what your heart wants.' That same day, I said goodbye to my mother. It was difficult. I was just 19 years old.
A montage shows a nearly full moon in the night sky and a river flowing.
(SOFT MUSIC, CRICKETS CHIRPING)
(EERIE CHIMING MUSIC)
A parachuter jumps from a plane.
Now, in present day, a truck drives up to a building carrying a large wooden crate. Two men unload it and Ibrahim opens it, revealing a large machine resembling a glass-door cabinet.
He says It took a year for us to import this new equipment to the country. I hope within a year and a half, all the films will be digitized. But in Afghanistan we cannot be certain about anything. The power is not in our hands.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC, DRUMMING)
A man walks into the film archive and pours water from a large plastic container into a bucket.
Mariam says WHEN YOU GO TO AFGHAN FILMS AND YOU LOOK AT THE ARCHIVES, ALL ALONG, YOU SEE THIS LONG HISTORY OF REALLY IMPROVISED FILMMAKING BECAUSE AT NO POINT DO AFGHAN FILMMAKERS REALLY HAVE ACCESS TO A LOT OF TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT. BUT I THINK DURING THE COMMUNIST PERIOD IT GETS MUCH WORSE, BECAUSE THE COUNTRY IS AT WAR, AND ONLY INSIDE THE CITIES, DOES THE REGIME ACTUALLY HAVE CONTROL.
In a clip, two men stop a man hauling buckets of water and one of them says Your papers please.
Mariam says SO ONLY IN KABUL CAN THEY ACTUALLY CONTROL THE LOCATIONS THAT THEY'RE SHOOTING IN. AND FOR CERTAIN FILMS... THEY DO NEED TO LEAVE KABUL IN ORDER TO GET THE SHOT
Clips show cars driving down dirt roads.
(MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
Engineer Latif says It was really dangerous at that time. But we never said: 'We can't film there.' I think it was a kind of madness.
In a clip, a young man approaches a family enjoying a picnic on a blanket by a river.
As he hands out beverages, The young man says Take them. Akbar?
Akbar, an older man, says No, later.
Engineer Latif says We loved our work and we did crazy things while working. We accepted many dangers.
Akbar walks away, over to a young woman who sits by the water eating.
He says Why do you hate me?
She says I don't hate you, but I don't like you. Got it?
He says What does that mean?
She says Nothing. Just normal.
He says What do you want.
She says Stupid question!
Another clip shows dozens of armed militants descending from a hilltop.
Engineer Latif says Mujahideen were everywhere, firing their weapons. Sometimes, the even targeted the crew. Because our big zoom lens looked like a weapon. We often had to send people up the mountain, to persuade commanders. We would argue: 'This is not government propaganda. It's a personal film!' But that was a risk!
(SOFT ROMANTIC MUSIC)
In another clip, a young man and woman travel on a barge down a river as a man steers.
Mariam says IF YOU TALK TO PEOPLE WHO WERE ACTUALLY PARTY MEMBERS A LOT OF THEM ALSO WILL EXPRESS TO YOU THE FEELING THAT THAT PERIOD WAS LIKE BEING ON A RUNAWAY TRAIN, WHERE NO ONE KNEW AT THE BEGINNING WHERE THINGS WOULD END UP. AND THERE WAS A MOMENT, THERE WAS A MOMENT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PERIOD WHEN THERE WAS A GENUINE INVESTMENT FROM A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS LEFTIST DREAM. BUT IT DETERIORATED VERY QUICKLY. BUT BY THAT POINT, IT WAS ALSO DANGEROUS TO DETACH YOURSELF FROM IT IF YOU WERE OPERATING IN AN OFFICIAL CAPACITY, WHICH THE PEOPLE AT AFGHAN FILMS WERE.
Grainy black and white footage shows militants training and soldiers performing road-checks.
A male announcer says OF THE COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY ELEMENTS, LOCATED BEYOND OUR FRONTIERS INSIDE PAKISTAN. THE FIRST NUCLEUS OF THE COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARIES EMERGED FROM HERE. THE ASSISTANCE OF WASHINGTON PROVIDED NEW TASKS FOR CIA AGENTS IN THE FRONTIER OF PAKISTAN. THE UNVEILING OF THE SINISTER INTENTIONS OF THE ENEMIES OF THE REVOLUTION. ENCOURAGED OUR PEOPLE TO VOLUNTARILY TAKE UP ARMS AND TO WIPE OUT THESE INHUMAN AND SAD ACTS WITH THE HELP OF UNITY AND ONENESS. THE ROADS AND HIGHWAYS ARE OPEN. THE LIFE-ENDURING BLOOD OF THE REVOLUTION IS SLOWING IN THE VEINS OF THE FREE PEOPLE OF THIS LAND.
Engineer Latif says At the time, the war was escalating everyday, and we became skeptical. We didn't know whether the Communist government would fall or survive. We were torn between contradictory feelings. On the one hand, we were passionate about filmmaking, on the other, the threat of war made us wonder: What will happen to us? What will we become?
Colour footage shows soldiers boarding a military plane and a convoy of tanks driving across a desert.
(SOFT MUSIC, MALE VOCALS)
Engineer Latif says We began to understand that this was a larger war. The Mujahideen needed to get help from somewhere, and the Americans had their own goals. They needed armed groups in the region. In my opinion, the Soviets and the Americans both did unacceptable things in this war.
Fast clips show young men in military uniforms training.
Engineer Latif says I wanted to record in my films all that was happening in my country. Another change was taking place. The Communist regime needed many soldiers. They would take boys right off the street, and force them into training camps without telling their families. They were sent all over the country to fight.
In a clip from a coloured film, a young man looks at an official document with seals and a picture of him and looks worried.
He says Military service...
Inside a room, Yussuf takes a briefcase from a tall shelf, places on a desk and opens it to reveal hundreds of old photographs.
He says These are pictures of the Mujahideen of the central battalion. Massoud called them the future officers of Afghanistan. Most of these young people were killed during the Civil War in Kabul. Very few of them survived. I have a picture of every person from this battalion. We hand printed them during the Jihad.
Several pictures are portraits of young, bearded men in tattered clothes and turbans.
Bleached colour footage shows emerging from a building as a tank drives by.
(GUNSHOTS, DISTANT SHOUTING)
Yussuf says Before a battle started, you were waiting to see what would happen. In those moments, my heart beat very fast. But once the order was given to fight, the fear would disappear.
A militant opens fire.
(MACHINEGUN FIRING, SHOUTING)
In a clip from a colour film, a young man and woman walk up a winding staircase.
She says I got a letter from my aunt.
He says Lucky you. What did she write?
She says They live in peace. Look.
She hands over the letter.
As he reads, he says Do they miss it here?
She says Would you?
He pauses, then smiles sheepishly.
She says Hamid? Let's leave this country.
He says To go where?
She says America.
He looks pensive.
Later, inside a house she hurriedly wakes up a young girl sleeping on a couch and says Nargis, time to go, dear!
The girl says The Where?
The woman says Let's go now!
Engineer Latif says I based my film Escape on the bad situation that we were living back then and that affected me a lot. The brightest and most cultured people, including many friends from our cinema circle, were so discouraged that they left everything behind and fled the country.
A clip shows the family travelling down a dirt road across mountains in a crowded truck.
Engineer Latif says They chose to escape because they were opposed to the regime with every ounce of their being. This was a big loss for Afghanistan that tore us apart. And for me, this was the best subject about which I could make a film.
In the film, the driver lights a cigarette. Hidden militants survey the road from surrounding hills and aim rifles at the truck.
(SOFT CLARINET MUSIC)
An armed man runs downhill towards the truck.
A man traveling in the front seat turns around and says Sit down! Put your head down! Don't be afraid.
An unseen passenger says What is going on?
The driver stops and steps out of the truck.
The armed militant points his rifle at the driver and says Get out! Who are they?
The driver says It's a family. They are running away.
The armed man says Go up the mountain!
Another man escorts the driver uphill at gunpoint.
Engineer Latif says When I finished the film Escape, a big commission came and watched the film, and the Soviet advisor exploded like a bomb and said: 'You know nothing about cinema! This film is a betrayal of Russia and Afghanistan. Because it shows that the government of Afghanistan has no authority, except on paved roads. They have no control. It's all Mujahideen there!' And the film was banned for 9 months.
Colour footage shows military checkpoints and a helicopter in the sky.
Now Mariam sits next to two men at a desk as the three examine something on a PC monitor.
A young man says LIKE THIS, IS IT 'CAUSE, LIKE, THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE FILM?
Mariam says YES.
The young man says CAN YOU FIX THAT STUFF?
Mariam says IT DEPENDS. IT DEPENDS WHAT THE PROBLEM WAS.
The young man says YEAH.
Damaged footage shows Akhtar speaking.
Mariam says I'VE ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT YOU CAN'T PRESERVE AN ARCHIVE BY LOCKING IT UP. ESPECIALLY NOT BY LOCKING IT UP IN A PLACE WHERE IT'S FAR TOO EASY FOR IT TO BE PHYSICALLY DESTROYED. AND I THINK THE AFGHAN FILMS ARCHIVE IS ALWAYS GOING TO BE UNDER SOME THREAT, AS LONG AS AFGHANISTAN REMAINS SOMEWHAT UNSTABLE. AND I BELIEVE THAT THE ONLY WAY THAT IT CAN TRULY BE PRESERVED IS FOR IT TO PROLIFERATE. FOR PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT IT. FOR MANY, MANY COPIES TO CIRCULATE.
A man carries two large cans into a room, then wearing cotton gloves loads a film reel into a projector and a film plays on a computer screen.
A black and white clip shows the Afghan Films logo, then a montage of active city scenes and an official descending from a plane.
A male announcer says Moscow, the pounding heart of the Soviet Union, is awaiting a great guest. Comrade Najib, the new President of Afghanistan, has arrived in the Soviet Union. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the growing relationship between their countries.
Fast clips show Soviet soldiers marching.
(RUSSIAN ANTHEM PLAYING)
Black and white pictures of young Siddiq flash by.
After graduation from the cinema institute of Moscow, in 1987, I came back to Kabul. And I decided to go to Afghan Film because it was the only place to make film at that moment. The government was then the only producer of film. But the situation in Kabul made it hard for me to work on my own projects. And I had the feeling that even if I make a film it will be censored. Sometimes just being from Panjshir was a sin in itself. So I decided to make my own way.
Old footage filmed from a glass-bottomed helicopter shows a city in daytime.
Engineer Latif says The State Intelligence Agency was surveilling the guys regarding with whom they had connections. My friends from Panjshir, who worked with me at Afghan Film, fell under suspicion. The Minister of Information and Culture told them: 'We can't work with you.'
In colour footage a military helicopter flies over a valley river.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
Siddiq says At that moment, I felt I should reach out to Massoud, to see if I could work with the Mujahideen film unit. That's why, with some of my close friends, I decided to send him a request. And we got a very quick response: 'Welcome to your home. Come work with us!' When I got to the Panjshir Valley after 10 years away, I was happy to see the land where I was born. The place where I spent my summer holidays. But Panjshir was not like before anymore. Everything was destroyed. After so many Soviet attacks, no creature had survived. All the people were gone. All the houses were empty, and the one where I was born had been totally destroyed.
Fast clips show wrecked buildings.
(MIDDLE EASTERN FLUTE MUSIC)
In a clip, Mujahideen militants walk down a mountainside trail.
Siddiq says I knew that the Mujahideen, especially Massoud, could understand that I studied in the Soviet Union because I loved cinema. And my knowledge about cinema, and my filmmaking skills could be very useful.
Yussuf says Siddiq Barmak came from Kabul to the front line, and he taught me how to frame shots in a professional way. He showed me all the different ways to film. The two shot, the long shot, the medium shot... I first learned these concepts from Siddiq Barmak.
In grainy colour footage, a young, bearded man smiles.
An unseen man says How did you feel the first time you saw the enemy through your lens?
Yussuf says Feelings?
The interviewer says Did you feel sorry for him because he was wounded? I saw a shot you filmed in Khojavar. The guy was crying and begging the Mujahideen. What were you feeling there?
Yussuf says When the enemy is weak, they always talk like that. First, they resist and fight us, but when we catch them, they cry for mercy. The Mujahideen are not hard-hearted. We dress the enemy's wounds.
The interviewer says You feel sympathy?
Yussuf says Yes.
The interviewer says Thank you. What is your wish?
Yussuf says I have a dream that... in this Jihad that we fight for God, our actions will succeed and free our country.
Colour footage shows militants firing from a hilltop in low light. Dozens of incoming bullets crisscross the sky. Black smoke rises as explosions occur.
(SHOUTING, DISTANT GUNFIRE)
Siddiq says Yusuf was one of the bravest cameramen on the front. One of the films that we made together was a documentary called Narration of Victory. This film was not only about fighting, but also about people's daily life during the war. About how much war affects their lives. But beside that, I was writing a screenplay to make a fiction film. I felt there was not enough information about why people became Mujahideen, and why they arose to defend their land. These things were not said. And I thought documentaries were not enough. A fiction film should also tell these stories.
Fast clips show militants marching down mountainside trails, then a group of men resting among rubble.
(MAN SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
Siddiq says So we began to make the film Ascension. And Massoud agreed to provide the funds.
In the clip, one of the men resting sings Go and visit Nassim to see if the girls of the country are visiting the shrine.
Two other men sit on top of a boulder and talk.
One says Akbar? Remember those moonlight nights with our friends?
Akbar says I remember everything. Amazing nights.
The other man says Everything passes.
Akbar says Back then, we didn't understand one thing. We didn't know our enemy.
The other man says Akbar, do you think we'll ever be blacksmiths again?
Akbar says With God's will. They say the world turns with hope.
Engineer Latif walks into a projection room.
ak says Rafi Jan?
Rafi Jan, in his sixties, with a mustache and stubble, approaches Engineer Latif smiling and says Hello!
Engineer Latif says Hello!
They greet with a hug and three kisses.
Rafi Jan says How are you? Have you been well?
Engineer Latif says May I have a chair, Brother?
As Rafi Jan brings a film reel can, Engineer Latif says Which film is this?
Rafi Jan says Epic of Love.
Engineer Latif says Very good. Very well organized.
As he examines the film, Engineer Latif says It's written here, 'Reel number 17'. They put it on black and white leader. It starts here. It's a night scene, I'm not sure which one. Very good.
Rafi Jan projects the film and Engineer Latif smiles as he watches.
In the film, dozens of men ride horses on a plain.
Engineer Latif says Eventually, I became the head of Afghan Film, and I worked night and day. Making films was all that I did. When my films were released, people felt the stories were their own. Gradually, I became an important public figure. And the Communist regime began to take an interest. President Najib wanted to see me. I remember he had enormous fingers that he would push through mine. I used to sit beside him. President Najib used to say: 'Latif is my best friend, he's serving the people. Engineer Latif is not a Party member, but he is an Afghan. He's not on my side or yours. He's on the side of his country.'
A montage of fast clips shows crowds cheering for President Najib, a middle-aged man with short dark hair and a thin mustache.
Then, colour footage shows several men in traditional attire riding on horseback.
(MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
Siddiq says I remember that when we were in Panjshir, I wrote a letter to Engineer Latif. I wanted to know how he was doing. I heard about his film Epic of Love, and I was eager to see it. Someone who joined the Mujahideen from Kabul, brough a response from Latif, with a copy of his film. I had been away from the film industry for a long time, so watching a film from Kabul was a special joy. I saw it from a new perspective. And when I showed it to the Mujahideen, they liked it. They felt they were watching a realistic film that had a lot to say about their own emotions, and about their own way of life. The Mujahideen were not unfamiliar with cinema, but they took a special delight in watching an Afghan film.
In the film, a young man hops off a horse and bows down to an older man who rides a horse.
(SOFT STRING MUSIC)
The young man says Forgive me, Father. I had to do this to save Mazari's life. He would have killed her, Father.
Another clip shows a large group of Mujahideen watching this film on a small TV inside a torn building. They look enthralled.
The father says You are not my son! You betrayed me because of your lover!
The son says Father, I didn't stand against you. I'm not opposing you. Even if you shed my blood, I won't resist you.
The angered father says I don't know you. Don't call me father!
Siddiq says Nothing could separate Engineer Latif and me, because we were both filmmakers. Of course, politics can set people against each other. He worked in Kabul, with a regime we were fighting. But this didn't mean that we were separate. Engineer Latif, for me, was a great person. A teacher, a mentor, a friend. We were never strangers to each other, because cinema was a powerful bond between us.
In a different scene, the father walks into a room looking deeply troubled.
A young woman with long wavy brown hair sobs and says Father! Kill me! I can't live without him. I can't!
The father says With my enemy? I can't stand it anymore.
A black and white clip plays.
A caption reads "1989. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces."
President Najib solemnly addresses a group of elderly men, most of whom wear turbans.
He says It has been ten years that Afghanistan is burning, filled with fire, smoke, rockets, bombs and air strikes. What have we done? God commands us, in the Holy Quran: 'All believers are brothers to each other, and must keep the peace between them.' These verses were not sent just for me, President Najib. They were sent for every Muslim. Should we become united or not? Our unity is God's will. Dear Elders... Tell me, my dear uncles, I asked you to gather to give me your advice. Whose orders should we accept?
A group of men say God's orders.
(FILM REEL RATTLING)
A slate reads "Mirror mage."
In grainy colour footage, armed uniformed militants board war helicopters.
Yussuf says Our film unit was in Takhar province, when we received a message, commanding us to come and join the Front. The Mujahideen were about to enter Kabul for the first time. So two captured helicopters landed, 20 to 30 Mujahideen got into each one, and flew to the outskirts of Kabul. I filmed everything, and went to see Massoud. I stayed with him until the ground forces moved on Kabul.
In the footage, Massoud shouts out orders to groups of armed men.
He says Move on! Everyone go! Hurry up! Make a neat row!
Addressing a line of armed men he says Don't do something that brings us shame. You understand?
The men say Yes.
Massoud says Seriously, avoid roving around. That's a serious order. Did you understand? May God be with you.
Mujahideen travel in crowded trucks in a large city.
(SOFT SAXOPHONE MUSIC)
Siddiq says The Mujahideen were conquering Kabul. We were entering a new stage of our lives. I looked forward to seeing my mother again. I would be able to go to the cinema again. But in my heart, I was anxious. This time, we were not alone. There were lots of different Mujahideen groups, so something would happen for sure.
Yussuf says It was one of the best days of my life. I was always thinking of that one day, I would film these images.
In a clip a Mujahideen officer gives a televised statement.
He says Today, April 26, 1992, the Jihadi Council passes its first decree. The armed forces of Commander Massoud, Minster of Defence of the Islamic Government, take responsibility for the security of Kabul.
Yussuf says This Jihad had lasted 14 years, and after all those years, the Mujahideen were finally in Kabul. And only our forces, under Massoud's command, were able to conquer Kabul. For us, it was a historic moment.
Fast clips show victorious Mujahideen parades in the city.
Engineer Latif says Those were hard times when the Mujahideen came to power. When I met with Massoud, he told me: 'Keep working in cinema and you won't have a problem. But I will give you some advice: For 6 months the situation in Kabul will get really bad. No one can give assurance to anybody. You should go abroad for 6 months, and after that, the situation will improve. Then, you can come back and work again.'
(SLOW EERIE MUSIC)
A short clip shows smoke rising from a ravaged city.
Yussuf says At the time, I thought that when we entered Kabul, I would finish my education. I never expected that when we entered Kabul, the war would come with us.
Fast clips show men moving about in a wrecked city with no traffic.
Yussuf says I really never predicted that.
Siddiq says The fighting between the different Mujahideen groups who were struggling for power in Kabul slowly began to destroy parts of the city.
Grainy colour footage shows civilians fleeing areas of open fire.
Yussuf says Rockets were being fired into the city, people were escaping. It was very tragic to see innocent people in this terrible situation.
Engineer Latif says I was afraid that, any day, disaster would strike. And one day, Afghan Film was hit by a rocket. At that moment, I completely lost hope.
Black and white footage shows a winding mountain road.
Siddiq says When the Civil War began, many filmmakers fled the country. Many actresses escaped too, except Yasmin who moved to Mazar-i-Sharif. Even Latif had to give up as the head of Afghan Film, and emigrate to Moscow. And Afghan Film was left without a destiny. In September 1992, I became the head of Afghan Film. But I was worried. Most of the Mujahideen groups were against cinema. Maybe they would try to close the theatres. Some were against women appearing on TV. They said 'If one more woman appears on TV, we will destroy Kabul with rockets. If the cinemas reopen, Kabul with flow with rivers of blood.'
A montage shows snippets from different black and white, as well as colour films.
Siddiq says My priority as the new head of Afghan Film, was to protect the films in our archive, which revealed the history of Afghanistan through images. But how could we take care of it without money? Without electricity and equipment? Fortunately, we managed to buy a generator that kept the temperature of Afghan Film cool and prevented the films from being spoiled. And we kept the cinema alive despite the Civil War.
A slate in a clip reads "The Afghan Film presents... The ashes."
Siddiq says People were still going to the movies even as the rockets were falling.
Clips show destroyed buildings.
A young woman wakes up, picks up a phone and says Yes?
Affected and shaky, she says When?
Now in a montage of shaky colour footage people run, and militants fire rifles from empty apartment buildings.
(MEN SHOUTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(GUNFIRE SOUND FADING)
Smoke rises from buildings.
(SLOW CELESTIAL MUSIC)
Yussuf says I filmed Kabul a lot during the civil war. Various factions taking over the Government, fighting between the different Mujahideen groups, between the Islamic Party and the Government. Many tragic scenes.
I filmed as much as I could, to create a historical record.
Four men carry a motionless man on a stretcher. Scores of dark smoke rise from ravaged buildings.
Yussuf says Everything was destroyed. It shouldn't have happened. But war happened, and war destroys everything. We thought we would rebuild one day, and everything would be whole again. But I filmed those ruins, for hours and hours in Kabul city.
(WIND BLOWING GENTLY)
In grainy colour footage a visibly distressed man walks up to a dead body in a garden, points at it and says Do Muslims kill like this? Even the Russians didn't kill like this! This is worse than the Russians!
In a montage, people flee a city.
Aerial views show a devastated town.
Siddiq says The Civil War was at its peak. People lost all hope of having a stable Government. I wanted the crew at Afghan Film to stay busy. So I proposed that they film Kabul.
(ECHOING MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
In black and white, a panning view shows a ravaged city centre in daytime. People walk up and down streets with no traffic.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
A male announcer says Will history convey the horror of 300000 rockets raining down on the city? Of 100000 killed, 70000 amputees, and the devastation of this wounded city? Here, under every roof, mothers once struggled to nourish their children, who became the pride of this land. Thousands of teachers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, authors, poets, scientists and scholars, grew up in these houses that are now empty.
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
People stare at corpses and piles of human bones.
Mariam says THERE WAS NO GOVERNMENT REALLY COMMISSIONING THEM TO MAKE FILMS ANYMORE, BUT THEY CONTINUED TO FILM ALL THE WAY UP UNTIL '96. AND AT A CERTAIN POINT, I THINK THEIR PROJECT BECAME VERY PERSONAL. AND THAT'S WHAT THE HOUSE OF HISTORY SORT OF REPRESENTS, I THINK IT'S ONE OF THE MOST PERSONAL FILMS IN THE AFGHAN FILMS ARCHIVE. IT'S REALLY AN ESSAY FILM ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF KABUL. AND IT SORT OF SHIFTS ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH INTO A LAMENT FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE KABUL MUSEUM, THE ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, AND HOW IT REPRESENTS THE DESTRUCTION OF ALL OF THESE OTHER HISTORIES OF AFGHANISTAN, ALL OF THE NON-ISLAMIC HISTORIES.
(QUIET MUSIC, WIND BLOWING GENTLY)
Black and white clips show wrecked and apparently pillaged museum rooms containing archaeological remains, statues of Buddha and ancient artifacts.
A male announcer says Dear Viewer, remember these images, because except for this film and these piles of ashes, nothing remains. The memory of betrayal and crime leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, but it's the reality of our times. What a heavy price our freedom demands. What sacrifices. The world hides its face, silent as a swamp. Yet be aware, the dawn will not come until we raise, from our wounds, a torch to light the way.
Mujahideen dance and celebrate in open air.
A slate reads "New darknesses."
As black and white clips show scenes of combat, men firing and a helicopter in the sky, Siddiq says I sensed the atmosphere in Kabul was changing, because the Taliban had already taken Jalalabad and Surobi. But I hoped Kabul would resist the Taliban. Then Massoud had to retreat, and I began to fear the worst. I decided to stay in Kabul, no matter what. I remember, the city had a dramatic atmosphere. I was thinking: What is my place in history? Maybe I was lucky to see different historical periods. I saw the reign of King Zaher, then Daoud Khan, then Taraki, then Babrak Karma and President Najib, then Mojaddedi and President Rabbani... But where will it end? Would something even worse happen in Afghanistan? The next morning, the Taliban had taken over the national radio station. They were playing the Quran and Taliban statements repeatedly. They explained the Islamic dress code, that men must wear a beard, and that women could not go out alone. They repeated these things constantly. Then they announced the execution of ex-President Najib.
A clip shows President Najib looking forlorn.
Siddiq says I asked our cameraman, Sayed Hosseini, to take his 35 millimetre camera, and film the Taliban's first crime in Kabul.
Grainy black and white footage shows crowds swarming around a structure from which two dead men hang. One of them is President Najib.
A caption reads "September 1996."
Siddiq says I went with him. Both Najib and his brother were hanged. It was horrible to see. I had disagreed with Najib's politics, but I couldn't accept that the ex-President of a country was treated like that. After this event, the rest of my family wanted to escape because the situation had become so bad. Honestly, I had a strange feeling. What would happen? Based on what I new about extremists, and their hatred of cinema, I was afraid they would destroy Afghan Film.
A clip shows piles of film reel cans.
(MAN IN FILM CHUCKLING)
A man says So, there's nobody in your life?
A woman says What do you mean?
A man says I want to be like that eagle, fly very high and see everything. Only God knows where its nest is.
(OVERLAPPING CHATTERING ON TELEVISION)
A voice says Ahmad is a sensitive person.
(OVERLAPPING CHATTERING ON TELEVISION)
(UPBEAT MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
A clip shows girls dancing.
Yasmin says The Taliban era was a very dark period. Every single family suffered. When the Taliban came to Mazar-i-Sharif, I had to hide my identity. If they knew an artist lived there, my life would become impossible. I didn't introduce myself to anybody. Close friends knew me, but I never introduced myself to strangers. If the Taliban found me, they might have killed me. That's why I changed my name. My new name was Saleha. And everyone knew me as Saleha.
Fast clips show shut doors and windows.
Siddiq says One day, I went to Afghan Film. One of the employees told me: 'The Taliban are here and want to talk to you.' I knew they wanted to arrest me. They interrogated me: Are you the head of Afghan Film? Yes. Are you from Panjshir? Yes. Do you have a weapon? I might be the only Panjshiri without a weapon. Are you a filmmaker? Yes, I am a filmmaker. Then you're an infidel!
Siddiq says We arrived at my home. My mother was alone there. She fainted as soon as she saw the Taliban. She knew that something might happen. The Taliban started searching. I had an 8 millimetre film projector, an 8 millimetre camera, a moviola... They broke everything. When they finished searching, one of the guys wanted to send me to Kandahar. But, for some reason, the other one said: 'Leave Siddiq Barmak alone.' And finally, they left me. I told my mother that we should escape. There was a way from Kabul to Pakistan. I was there for a couple of months, and after, I decided to return home to Panjshir.
(SOFT PIANO MUSIC)
Aerial views show a town surrounded by agricultural terraces.
Another clip shows a huge explosion on a mountainside.
Siddiq says In early March 2001, I heard the Taliban had started destroying the Buddha statues. And finally on March 11th, they exploded all of them. A few days later, I got a letter from a friend who worked in the laboratory at Afghan Film. It was written: 'Dear Barmak, these are dark days. A group of Taliban from the Ministry of Information is coming to destroy the Afghan Film archives.' I was so worried. I just prayed to God that it wouldn't happen.
A clip shows an empty kitchen.
(TELEVISION PLAYING IN BACKGROUND)
Engineer Latif says For the 10 years that I lived in Moscow, I never stopped missing my homeland. I missed it every minute of every day. But when I heard, through BBC radio, that our Afghan Film archive was burned, I felt I had seen my children die without being able to bury them. It broke my heart. All my hopes were shattered.
At night, fire rages.
Siddiq says What happened after was full of misery. On September 9, 2001, Massoud was killed in a suicide attack. Then, September 11th happened in New York. And suddenly, the world paid attention to the Taliban and the crimes they had committed.
In daytime, a car drives up to a gate and a guard opens it.
The car drives up to a building and stops. A bearded man who wears a brown coat and turban steps out of the car and is greeted by a balding man with a mustache.
Siddiq says Later, I heard that a Taliban official with compassion and love for Afghanistan, secretly warned the employees of Afghan Film: 'You should hide the films. I came to let you know. The rest is up to you.'
Several men greet the bearded man warmly.
(GREETINGS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
He says I am known as Mullah Mohammad Isaaq Nezami. I was the Taliban Head of Radio and Television. There was no official order to burn the films, but a group of friends wanted them destroyed. Their ideology had absolute power. They didn't care what anyone thought. I felt sadness. I felt despair that we had fallen so low. I was not supportive of them being burned, whether they were good or bad.
(MEN CONVERSING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
The bearded man seen at the beginning of the film says Isaaq Nezami came and said: 'You know best which films are important. Hide them. You have my permission.' And then he left.
Ibrahim leads Isaaq into the film archive and says These are the films we saved, thanks to you.
Isaaq says Oh yes, these are very important films.
Ibrahim says Before, the titles were written on the cans but we replaced them with numbers, so no one knows what's inside.
During an interview, Ibrahim says I'm not a friend of the Taliban. But, even among the Taliban, there were those who cherished the history of their homeland. And they were the ones who saved this archive. Probably more than those who worked here. The staff physically did the job. But they had support in higher places.
In a clip, Engineer Latif greets a man in a wheelchair.
Siddiq says It was in May or June 2002, that Engineer Latif came back from Moscow. I picked him up from the airport, and the next day, we went to Afghan Film, and I finally told Latif: 'You won't believe it, but all our films have been saved.'
(SOFT FLUTE MUSIC)
Black and white clips show men racing on horseback.
Siddiq says Outside the Afghan Film archive there was a storage space, where Russian, Indian, and American films were kept. Those were the films that the Taliban destroyed. And Engineer Latif couldn't believe that our original Afghan films had been saved.
(MIDDLE EASTERN MUSIC)
Clips show children playing, a kite flying, a man riding a horse, and other scenes from films.
Engineer Latif says When I came back to Afghan Film, it gave me an amazing sensation to review all my films again. Every shot I watched refreshed my memories of the scene. Its tragedy, joy, sorrow, and the unexpected things that happened on that day. I remembered the actors in their youth, how beautiful they were, the places we went, the memories we created, all of these came alive in my memory.
In a clip, a man looks up to the treetops.
(CHILDREN'S VOICES ECHOING)
Siddiq walks down a modern city sidewalk.
He says I loved my country, even during hard times. But I left to save my life and the lives of my family. Maybe from here, in France, I can spread the voice of Afghan cinema to the world. Many young filmmakers also left Afghanistan to work in other countries. The important thing is to keep telling your own stories.
(CAR HONKING, BICYCLE BELL RINGING)
Fast clips show the bearded man riding a bicycle down a city street.
Mariam says WELL I THINK AFGHANISTAN IS AT A STAGE NOW WHERE PIECES OF ITS HISTORY ARE STARTING TO RESURFACE INTO THE SAYABLE FROM THE UNSPEAKABLE. WHEN YOU'RE COMING OUT OF A PERIOD OF INTENSE CONFLICT THERE ARE PARTS OF THE PAST THAT ARE UNTOUCHABLE. AND THEN GRADUALLY, GRADUALLY, GRADUALLY, THEY BECOME THINGS THAT YOU CAN LOOK AT AND SPEAK ABOUT AGAIN. SO I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE'RE EMERGING INTO A PERIOD IN AFGHANISTAN WHERE IT'S NOT BECOMING POSSIBLE AGAIN TO TALK ABOUT THE COMMUNIST PERIOD WITH SOME KIND OF... SOME KIND OF HONESTY AND COMPLETENESS THAT WAS NOT POSSIBLE EVEN FIVE YEARS AGO. AND CERTAINLY NOT TEN YEARS AGO. BUT, FOR EXAMPLE, WE STILL CAN'T TALK ABOUT THE MUJAHIDEEN... PERIOD THAT WAY. WE CERTAINLY CAN'T TALK ABOUT THE TALIBAN YEARS THAT WAY YET. THEY'RE TOO CLOSE STILL. BUT I THINK... ARCHIVES ARE INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT FOR THAT REASON BECAUSE IN AN ARCHIVE, YOU SORT OF CONCEAL OFF THESE HISTORIES. AND KEEP THEM UNTIL THE MOMENT WHEN IT'S SAFE TO LOOK AT THEM AGAIN.
In a clip, people walk in the desert as strong gusts of wind blow sand everyhwere.
(WOMAN SINGING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SINGING CONTINUES as the end credits roll.
Featuring, alphabetical. Engineer Latif Ahmadi. Habib. Ibrahim Arify. Isaaq Nezami. Mahmood. Mariam Ghani. Siddiq Barmak. Yasmin Yarmal. Yusuf Jannesar.
Writer and Director, Ariel Nasr. Editor, Anne Jean, CCE. Music Composer, Oliver Alary.