Transcript: Saving Cinema from The Taliban | Jan 12, 2021

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, blue shirt, and brown tie.

A caption on screen reads "Saving cinema from the Taliban. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says WHEN THE TALIBAN CAME TO POWER IN AFGHANISTAN IN THE 1990s, SOME OF THE GREAT CULTURAL TREASURES OF THAT COUNTRY WERE DESTROYED. SOME, BUT NOT ALL. WHAT WAS WAS SAVED, THROUGH INGENUITY AND EVEN A LITTLE CLOAK AND DAGGER, WERE MOVIES, MADE AS PART OF A ONCE-BOOMING DOMESTIC FILM INDUSTRY. THAT STORY IS CAPTURED IN A NEW FEATURE-LENGTH TVO ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY THAT HAS ITS WORLD BROADCAST DEBUT TONIGHT RIGHT AFTER THIS PROGRAM. IT'S CALLED, "THE FORBIDDEN REEL." IT'S THE CREATION OF PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR ARIEL NASR. HE IS ALSO THE INTERIM QUEBEC PRODUCER FOR THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA. AND ARIEL NASR JOINS US NOW FROM MONTREAL.

Ariel is in his late thirties, with short black hair and a boxed beard. He's wearing glasses and a black sweater.
A poster of his documentary appears briefly on screen. The cover is orange, with a black and white picture of a man operating an old-fashioned filming camera.

Steve continues ARIEL, IT'S GREAT TO MEET YOU. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Ariel says IT'S GREAT. NICE TO MEET YOU TOO, STEVE.

Steve says I WILL BE HONEST WITH YOU OFF THE TOP, OKAY? WHEN I WAS TOLD WE WOULD BE DOING THIS, I WASN'T SURE THERE WAS A FASCINATING FEATURE-LENGTH DOCUMENTARY TO BE MADE ABOUT THE STATE OF THE AFGHAN FILM INDUSTRY OVER THE LAST HALF CENTURY, BUT I AM DELIGHTED TO TELL YOU AND THE REST OF THE WORLD THAT YOU HAVE PROVED US ALL WRONG. YOU HAVE TOLD A WONDERFUL STORY ABOUT MOVIE-MAKING, ABOUT COMMUNISM AND THE TALIBAN AND HEROISM. ANYWAY, LET'S PLAY A CLIP AND WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "The forbidden reel. 2019."
In the clip, music plays as grainy black and white footage shows women belly dancing, people working at a press, and a man painting a woman.

A female voice says THE VIEW OF AFGHANISTAN OUTSIDE OF AFGHANISTAN IS SO MONOLITHIC, AND I THINK THE EARLIER AFGHANISTAN 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.

The clip ends.

Steve says IT SURE DOES. OKAY. TAKE US BACK TO THE MOMENT WHEN SOME TALIBAN OFFICIAL GAVE THE SORT OF OFF-THE-BOOKS ORDER THAT ALL AFGHAN FILMS KEPT IN THE ARCHIVE NEEDED TO BE DESTROYED. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

The caption changes to "Ariel Nasr. Filmmaker, 'The forbidden reel.'"
Then, it changes again to "A treasure trove of film."

Ariel says WELL, THIS IS A MOMENT IN AFGHAN HISTORY WHEN YOU'RE OF COURSE SEEING A LOT OF CULTURAL DESTRUCTION BY THE TALIBAN AND BY THEIR ALLIES IN THE COUNTRY. THERE WAS THIS KIND OF ROVING BAND OF EXTREMISTS, THE MOST EXTREME FACTION PERHAPS OF THE TALIBAN, WHO WERE GOING AROUND THE COUNTRY AND DESTROYING CULTURAL ARTEFACTS. AND VERY FAMOUSLY THEY DESTROYED THE GIANT BUDDHIST STATUE IN BANJA, AND THEIR NEXT MOVE WAS TO COME TO THE FILM ARCHIVE AND ACTUALLY TRY TO BURN ALL OF AFGHANISTAN'S CINEMA HISTORY. AND SO YOU HAVE THIS VERY SMALL GROUP OF ARCHIVISTS AND FILMMAKERS WHO REMAIN IN THE COUNTRY AFTER MOST OF THEM HAD LEFT AND GONE INTO EXILE AND THEY WERE ALERTED AHEAD OF TIME, ACTUALLY, BY A TALIBAN OFFICIAL WHO WAS SYMPATHETIC AND WHO, DESPITE BEING A MEMBER OF THE TALIBAN, DIDN'T FEEL THAT ALL OF THESE FILMS SHOULD BE BURNED, AND HE TIPPED OFF THESE ARCHIVISTS AND THEY WERE LEFT WITH THIS PROBLEM OF WHAT TO DO. AND SO WHAT THEY CAME UP WITH WAS A PLAN TO HIDE THE ARCHIVE, AT THE RISK OF THEIR LIVES, AND INSTEAD OF HANDING OVER AFGHANISTAN'S FILM HERITAGE, WHAT THEY DID WAS THEY HANDED OVER A BUNCH OF HOLLYWOOD, BOLLYWOOD, AND RUSSIAN FILM PRINTS, AND THAT'S WHAT THE TALIBAN BURNT, AND FORTUNATELY THE REST WAS SAVED.

The caption changes to "'The forbidden reel' tonight 9 PM. Also streaming at tvo.org/documentaries."

Steve says I AM JUST TRYING TO IMAGINE THE HEROISM THAT IT MUST HAVE TAKEN FOR THESE PEOPLE TO PUT... YOU KNOW, THE RISK OF TORTURE AND THEIR LIVES AT STAKE IN ORDER TO PRESERVE A HALF CENTURY OLD INDUSTRY. HOW DO YOU THINK THEY FOUND THE STRENGTH TO DO THAT?

The caption changes to "Ariel Nasr, @ajnasr."

Ariel says YOU KNOW, IT'S A REALLY GREAT QUESTION. AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I FOUND THROUGH MAKING THIS FILM IS THAT FILM MAKING, FOR A LOT OF THESE FOLKS, A LOT OF THE ARCHIVISTS, THE FILMMAKERS, THE PRODUCERS, IT WAS MORE THAN JUST AN ART FORM TO THEM. IT WAS ALMOST ELEVATED TO AN IDEOLOGY. AT ONE POINT IN THE FILM, ONE OF THE FILMMAKERS SAYS, YOU KNOW, WHEN I STUDIED IN MOSCOW, MY ROOMMATE TRIED TO CONVINCE ME, YOU KNOW, YOU'RE YOUNG AND FULL OF ENERGY. WHY NOT JOIN THE COMMUNIST PARTY? BUT I ALWAYS TOLD HIM I'M A MEMBER OF THE FILM-MAKING PARTY, BASICALLY. SO THEY REALLY SAW FILM-MAKING AS SOMETHING THAT COULD CHANGE THE WORLD AND SOMETHING THAT CAME ALONG WITH AN IDEOLOGY, A KIND OF MODERNISM, A KIND OF REFORMISM, A WAY TO TALK ABOUT WOMEN'S RIGHTS, A WAY TO TALK ABOUT REFORM AND OPENNESS IN A COUNTRY THAT WAS QUITE ISOLATED AND IN SOME WAYS JUST EMERGING INTO MODERNITY.

Steve says ARIEL, LET ME PICK UP ON THAT FIRST CLIP THAT WE PLAYED OFF THE TOP BECAUSE THE NOTION... WELL, LET ME PUT IT THIS WAY. WHEN PEOPLE THINK OF AFGHANISTAN TODAY, I SUSPECT THE FIRST THING THAT MIGHT COME TO MIND IS WAR AND THE SECOND ISLAMIC TERRORISM. AND PROBABLY WHAT DOESN'T COME TO MIND IS THE RICHNESS OF THE HISTORY THAT IS DISPLAYED IN ALL OF THESE FILMS, AND MAYBE... I THINK WE'RE GOING TO SHOW JUST SOME WHAT YOU GUYS IN THE TRADE CALL B-ROLL HERE. WHAT DO THE FILMS SHOW ABOUT THE RICHNESS OF AFGHAN HISTORY AS MANIFESTED IN THESE FILMS?

As Ariel speaks, clips show a kite flying in the sky, people dancing, other people going about their normal business in a city and scenes from different movies including romance, war, and wrestling.

Ariel says WELL, THEY SHOW A LOT OF THINGS. ONE OF THE THINGS I THINK THAT THEY SHOW IS THE COMPLEXITY OF AFGHAN HISTORY. AND A LOT OF THE TIME I THINK WHEN WE THINK ABOUT THESE DIFFERENT ERAS OF AFGHAN HISTORY, SO YOU HAD A COMMUNIST ERA, FOR EXAMPLE, YOU HAD A MONARCHY ERA BEFORE THAT, AND THEN AFTERWARDS YOU HAD THE... THEY CALL IT THE RESISTANCE ERA IN WHICH THE MUJAHEDIN RULED AND FOLLOWED BY THE TALIBAN ERA, IS THAT IN EVERY ONE OF THESE REGIMES AND EVERY ONE OF THESE PERIODS, THERE WAS A LOT OF COMPLEXITY. AND SO WHAT YOU'LL SEE IN THE FILM IS THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, DURING THE COMMUNIST PERIOD, WE HAVE A COMMUNIST FILMMAKER AND A MUJAHEDIN FILMMAKER TRADING LETTERS ACROSS ENEMY LINES AND EVEN EXCHANGING FILMS. DURING THE TALIBAN PERIOD, WE HAVE THIS TALIBAN OFFICIAL WHO SAVED THE FILMS, REALLY, WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN SAVING THE FILMS. AND SO AT EVERY STAGE YOU KIND OF SEE THIS GREAT COMPLEXITY AND YOU SEE HOW, YOU KNOW, PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, HOW PASSION FOR ART AND A SHARED... YOU KNOW, A SHARED VALUE FOR AFGHAN HISTORY REALLY TRANSCENDS SOME OF THE OTHER IDEOLOGIES.

Steve says THERE IS A BIZARRE STORY IN YOUR DOCUMENTARY, AND I WANT TO TAKE YOU BACK TO THE TIME... I GUESS THIS IS THE LATE 1970s... WHEN COMMUNISM TAKES OVER AFGHANISTAN, AND A FILMMAKER WANTS TO SORT OF DEPICT THIS, AND IN DOING SO, TAKES THE NEW COMMUNIST FLAG DOWN FROM AN IMPORTANT BUILDING AND PUTS THE OLD FLAG UP, AND THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO THINK, "OH, MY GOODNESS, THE REVOLUTION HAS FAILED. WE'RE GOING BACK TO THE OLD WAYS." PICK UP THE STORY. WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

The caption changes to "Afghanistan's dark days."

Ariel says IT'S TRUE. THIS IS A DOCUDRAMA THAT WAS ACTUALLY BEING DIRECTED AND STARRED IN BY, AT THE TIME, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNTRY. AND BASICALLY THEY WANTED TO SHOW THE WHOLE REGIME FLAG COMING DOWN AND THE COMMUNIST FLAG GOING UP AS A KIND OF DRAMATIC SEQUENCE IN THIS FILM ABOUT THE REVOLUTION. BUT OF COURSE, IN ORDER TO DO THAT, THEY HAD TO REPEAT IT SEVERAL TIMES. AND WHEN PEOPLE SAW THE COMMUNIST FLAG COMING DOWN IN ORDER TO PREPARE FOR THIS SCENE AND THE OLD REGIME FLAG GOING BACK UP, PEOPLE STARTED TO TALK IN THE MARKETPLACE AND TELL EACH OTHER THAT WORD GOT AROUND THAT THE REVOLUTION HAD FAILED, AND IN FACT THE OLD REGIME WAS BACK. AND SO YOU HAD MEMBERS OF THE HAUK PARTY, WHICH WAS KIND OF THE HARD-LINE COMMUNIST PARTY THAT WAS IN POWER, ACTUALLY SHAVING OFF THEIR MOUSTACHES IN THE RIVER IN ORDER TO KIND OF REPUDIATE THEIR CONNECTION WITH COMMUNISM AND WITH THIS HARDLINE PARTY. AND IT'S ONE OF THE WAYS TO BRING SOME HUMOUR AND ALSO SOME TRAGIC NOTES AS WELL BECAUSE MANY OF THESE PEOPLE WERE SUBSEQUENTLY EXECUTED FOR THEIR LACK OF LOYALTY. BUT IT KIND OF GOES TO THE SURREAL NATURE OF SOME OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THE CAPITAL WHILE THESE FILMMAKERS WERE WORKING.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says NOW, THOSE OF US WHO WERE AROUND AT THE TIME, AND I'M GOING BACK TO 1980 NOW, WELL REMEMBER THE SOVIET UNION OSTENSIBLY AT THE INVITATION OF THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT OF AFGHANISTAN INVADING TO HELP SUPPORT... THIS WAS THE EXPLANATION... INVADING TO HELP SUPPORT THE REVOLUTION AND KEEP THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT IN PLACE. WHAT DID THAT DO TO FILM-MAKING IN AFGHANISTAN?

Ariel says WELL, IT IS ACTUALLY VERY INTERESTING BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE THIS INCREDIBLY DAMAGING WAR, THE SOVIET-AFGHAN WAR, MASSIVE INTERNECINE, LEFT MANY DEAD AND DROVE OTHERS OUT OF THE COUNTRY. IT REALLY CHANGED AFGHANISTAN IN TERMS OF WHAT IT WAS AND WOULD BE IN THE FUTURE AND... BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE HAVE THIS VERY FASCINATING AND RICH DOCUMENTATION OF THAT PERIOD IN THE ARCHIVES, AND THIS IS NOT WHAT WE'RE USED TO SEEING, AS PERSONALLY I GREW UP HERE IN CANADA. MY FATHER IS AFGHAN. BUT MY MAIN VISUAL KIND OF EXPOSURE TO THE COUNTRY WAS THROUGH THE TV. WE WOULD WATCH THE NEWS ABOUT AFGHANISTAN, AND YOU WOULD SEE THAT THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS AS THEY CALLED THEM BACK THEN, THE MUJAHEDIN, FIGHTING AGAINST THE SOVIET UNION, THE RED ARMY, THESE ARE THE IMAGES YOU SAW. YOU VERY, VERY, RARELY GOT TO GLIMPSE WHAT WAS HAPPENING INSIDE COMMUNIST AFGHANISTAN. SO WHAT I DISCOVERED DURING THE MAKING OF THIS FILM, ONE OF THE THINGS I FOUND IN THE ARCHIVE, IS THIS INCREDIBLE WEALTH OF MATERIAL THAT SHOWS WHAT LIFE WAS ACTUALLY LIKE UNDER COMMUNIST... UNDER THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT OF AFGHANISTAN BETWEEN 1978 AND ABOUT 1992. AND A BIG PART OF THE REASON FOR THAT IS THAT THERE WAS AN INFLUX OF AID FOR FILM MAKING. AS MOST FILM BUFFS KNOW, THE SOVIET UNION SUPPORTED FILM-MAKING AS A KIND OF NATIONALIST ENTERPRISE. SO AFGHANISTAN WAS THE BENEFICIARY OF THIS HUGE AMOUNT OF AID RELATIVE TO WHAT IT HAD HAD IN THE PAST. SO ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU HAD THIS REVITALIZATION OF THE FEATURE FILM INDUSTRY IN AFGHANISTAN AND YOU HAVE FILMMAKERS WHO ARE MAKING COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA, FILMMAKERS WHO ARE TRYING TO MAKE FILMS THAT ACTUALLY SPEAK AGAINST WHAT THE COMMUNISTS ARE DOING AND THE SOVIET PRESENCE AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. AND SO THAT'S PART OF WHAT I'VE DONE WITH THIS FILM, IS JUST TO TRY TO ACCESS THAT AND BRING IT TO LIFE.

Steve says I'VE GOT TO ASK A FOLLOW-UP QUESTION THEN. OF COURSE THE RUSSIANS SPENT MORE THAN A DECADE THERE AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE THE SOVIET UNION'S VIETNAM IN A REAL WAY. ONCE THE SOVIET'S WERE DRIVEN OUT IN 1992, WHAT HAPPENED TO FILM AFTER THAT?

Ariel says IN 1992 YOU HAVE THE END OF THIS WAR. THE SOVIETS HAD ACTUALLY LEFT IN '89, CLAIMING VICTORY. THEY LEFT THE COUNTRY TO THE AFGHAN COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT TO TRY AND SURVIVE AS LONG AS THEY COULD. AND THEY LASTED UNTIL ABOUT '92 WHEN... THE SOVIET MILITARY AID DRIED UP AND IT COULD NO LONGER HOLD OUT AGAINST THIS GROWING COALITION OF PROXY WARRIORS OF MUJAHEDIN. SO WHAT ENDS UP HAPPENING IS THAT MUJAHEDIN COME TO POWER AND THEY CREATE A KIND OF INTERIM GOVERNMENT, BUT UNFORTUNATELY THERE'S SO MUCH DISSENT AMONG THE VARIOUS FACTIONS OF THE MUJAHEDIN THAT THEY CAUSE A GREAT DEAL OF DESTRUCTION. SO THE WAR ACTUALLY DIDN'T END. A NEW WAR BEGAN, THE CIVIL WAR, AND KABUL IN PARTICULAR WAS JUST COMPLETELY TORN TO PIECES. AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU WILL SEE IN THIS FILM IS THESE MUJAHEDIN FILMMAKERS WHO HAD REALLY BELIEVED IN THE CAUSE OF FIGHTING NOT ONLY THE SOVIETS BUT COMMUNISM IN GENERAL AND TAKING AFGHANISTAN BACK. YOU SEE THEIR SORROW AS THEY DOCUMENT THE DESTRUCTION OF THEIR BELOVED CITY, OF KABUL, YOU KNOW, AT THE HANDS OF THESE VARIOUS FACTIONS OF MUJAHEDIN WHO ARE NOW ENGAGED IN A DEADLY POWER STRUGGLE.

Steve says MUCH OF COURSE OF YOUR DOCUMENTARY WAS SHOT IN PRESENT DAY, AND I WANT TO KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS FOR YOU TO TRY TO GET THE STORY OUT. HOW MUCH TROUBLE DID YOU HAVE SHOOTING IN AFGHANISTAN TODAY?

The caption changes to "Setting the story."

Ariel says WELL, STEVE, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT MY FIRST TIME MAKING A FILM IN AFGHANISTAN. SO I'VE BEEN WORKING THERE OFF AND ON FOR ABOUT 15 YEARS. I STARTED MAKING FILMS IN AFGHANISTAN IN 2005, MY VERY FIRST EFFORT. AND SO OVER THAT PERIOD OF TIME, I'VE BEEN PRIVILEGED TO BE ABLE TO SEE A LOT OF THE CHANGES IN AFGHAN INDUSTRY. UNFORTUNATELY, IT HASN'T... THINGS HAVE NOT GOTTEN BETTER. SINCE THAT TIME, ALTHOUGH THERE HAS BEEN PROGRESS ON SOME FRONTS, THE VIOLENCE HAS WORSENED, IN FACT PROGRESSIVELY. SO TODAY KABUL IS FAR FROM BEING A SAFE PLACE. NOW, THAT SAID, IT IS POSSIBLE TO GO THERE AND FILM IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING, IF YOU'RE CAREFUL, IF YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE YOU TRUST, AND THAT'S HOW I APPROACHED THE THING. I MEAN, THESE GUYS ARE FRIENDS OF MINE WHOM I HAVE GOTTEN TO KNOW, I WAS VERY LUCKY TO GET TO KNOW THEM DURING THE PERIOD I WAS LIVING IN AFGHANISTAN FROM ABOUT 2009 UNTIL 2012 AND OF COURSE I WANTED TO KNOW THESE FILMMAKERS WHO HAD BEEN WORKING IN AFGHANISTAN DOCUMENTING THE COUNTRY'S HISTORY. I FOUND MYSELF BEING CONNECTED WITH THEM. THEY WERE THE ONES WHO WERE MAKING THE DOCUMENTARIES IN THE OLD DAYS. SO THROUGH MY FRIENDSHIPS WITH THEM AND MY CONNECTION WITH OTHERS LIKE THEM, YOU KNOW, EVERYTHING WAS KIND OF POSSIBLE.

Steve says WELL, I DON'T WANT TO LET TOO MANY CATS OUT OF THE BAG HERE, BUT ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU DO INTERVIEW IN THIS DOCUMENTARY IS THE DAUGHTER OF THE CURRENT PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN, AND I WONDER IF YOU COULD GIVE US A HINT AS TO HOW... WHAT'S HER ROLE IN THIS STORY?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Ariel says YES, OF COURSE. MARYAM IS A VERY INTERESTING PERSON. SHE HAS BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE FILM ARCHIVES OF AFGHANISTAN, ACTUALLY GOING BACK TO 2004. SO MY INTENT IN INTERVIEWING HER AND BRINGING HER INTO THE STORY WASN'T... WASN'T ACTUALLY SO MUCH ABOUT HER BEING THE FIRST DAUGHTER OF AFGHANISTAN, IT WAS REALLY THE FACT THAT, YOU KNOW, THERE REALLY AREN'T VERY MANY PEOPLE WHO SPEAK WITH ANY EXPERTISE ON AFGHAN FILMS, ESPECIALLY NOT IN ENGLISH. AND I ALSO THOUGHT THAT THERE WAS THIS GREAT JUXTAPOSITION HAPPENING WITH HER. SHE'S A YOUNG WOMAN, AN ARTIST, A PROFESSOR. SHE LIVES IN BROOKLYN. AND YET SHE HAS FORMED THIS VERY CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH THESE ELDERLY, MOSTLY MALE FILMMAKERS IN AFGHANISTAN, AND I THOUGHT THAT RELATIONSHIP WAS INTERESTING TO DOCUMENT. AS WELL AS JUST GETTING HER INSIGHT. YOU KNOW, SHE HAS BEEN HELPING TRY PRESERVE THE ARCHIVE FOR OVER A DECADE. SO HER INSIGHT... IT'S VERY INTERESTING. SHE KIND OF HAS A LITTLE BIT MORE OF A MIXED EASTERN-WESTERN PERSPECTIVE, AND I FOUND SHE WAS VERY ON POINT WHEN IT CAME TO TALKING ABOUT THESE ARCHIVES.

Steve says THERE IS A TRULY EXTRAORDINARY MOMENT IN THIS DOCUMENTARY WHEN YOU ACTUALLY MANAGE TO FIND THE TALIBAN OFFICIAL WHO WARNED AFGHAN FILMS ALL THOSE YEARS AGO THAT THEY WERE ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED. LET'S PLAY A CLIP OF THAT AND THEN WE'LL COME BACK AND CHAT. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

Another clip from the documentary plays on screen.
In the clip, a bearded man in a brown suit and turban walks up to a building and is greeted by another man who wears no turban and has a short mustache.

Subtitles read
I am known as Mullah Mohammad Isaac Nezami.
I was the Taliban Head of Radio and Television.

The men hug. Then the man in the turban hugs another man inside a building.

Subtitles read
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.

The clip ends.

Steve says THIS GENTLEMAN IS ONE OF THE HEROES OF THE PIECE WHO OBVIOUSLY RISKED HIS LIFE IN ORDER TO SAVE A TREASURE TROVE OF MATERIAL. I GUESS A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS HERE: HOW DID YOU FIND HIM AND HOW DID YOU CONVINCE HIM TO SPEAK TO YOU?

Ariel says GOOD QUESTION. YOU KNOW, I HAD BEEN AWARE OF THIS STORY OF THE NEAR DESTRUCTION OF AFGHAN FILMS FOR A LONG TIME BECAUSE I HAD KNOWN, FOR EXAMPLE, LATIF WHO AT THE TIME WAS THE PRESIDENT OF AFGHAN FILMS, VERY WELL, AND I HAD HEARD THIS STORY. BUT THERE WERE ALWAYS THESE KIND OF GAPS, YOU KNOW, THERE WERE THESE LITTLE DETAILS THAT DIDN'T QUITE MAKE SENSE. THERE WAS SOMETHING MISSING. AND THE MORE I INVESTIGATED THIS STORY, THE MORE I REALIZED THAT THERE WAS THE INVOLVEMENT OF A TALIBAN OFFICIAL, AND FINALLY I WAS ABLE TO IDENTIFY HIM JUST BY ASKING ENOUGH QUESTIONS, ENOUGH PEOPLE ENOUGH QUESTIONS, AND I WORKED WITH AN ASSOCIATE PRODUCER I OFTEN WORK WITH IN KABUL TO ACTUALLY TRACK HIM DOWN AND FIND HIM, AND IT TURNED OUT HE WAS WORKING AT A RADIO STATION LEADING A VERY HUMBLE LIFE, BUT HE HAD, YOU KNOW, RE-ENTERED CIVIL LIFE AFTER THE FALL OF THE TALIBAN. HE WAS LIVING IN KABUL. AND SO WE WERE ABLE TO INVITE HIM. AND I JUST THOUGHT IT WOULD BE THE PERFECT THING TO HAVE HIM COME TO THE ARCHIVE AND SEE HOW THE ARCHIVISTS AND FILMMAKERS WOULD WELCOME HIM, AND WHEN HE CAME, I MEAN, YOU REALLY COULDN'T GET TWO MORE DIFFERENT GROUPS OF PEOPLE, THE TALIBAN AND THE FOLKS WHO WORK AT AFGHAN FILMS, BUT THEY REALLY GAVE HIM A HERO'S WELCOME AND HE WAS EMBRACED AND AS HE WALKED AROUND LOOKING AT THE FILMS, YOU COULD HEAR HOW SINCERE HE WAS ABOUT CARING ABOUT AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY. SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S NOT... THERE AREN'T A LOT OF POINTS OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN HIM AND THE FOLKS THAT HE EMBRACES IN THAT SCENE, BUT THEIR LOVE OF FILM IS ENOUGH TO BRING THEM TOGETHER.

Steve says ARIEL, LET'S FINISH UP ON THIS: WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE ATTEMPTS TO SAVE AFGHANISTAN'S FILM ARCHIVES TODAY?

Ariel says WELL, THERE HAS BEEN SOME CHANGE RECENTLY SINCE THE END OF PRODUCTION ON THIS FILM, ACTUALLY, THE FILMS OF THE ARCHIVES WERE MOVED INTO A MUCH MORE SECURE LOCATION. THEY'RE NOW WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE COMPOUND, WHICH ACTUALLY IS NOT VERY FAR FROM AFGHAN FILMS. BUT IT MAKES ACCESS VERY DIFFICULT. SO ACCESSING THESE FILMS HAS BECOME EXTREMELY HARD. BUT THE EFFORT TO DIGITIZE THEM IS ONGOING. ONE OF THE THINGS WE WANTED TO HELP WITH OVER THE MAKING OF THIS FILM WAS DIGITALIZATION, AND SO WE DONATED EQUIPMENT TO AFGHAN FILM THAT WOULD HELP THEM DIGITIZE THE FILMS, AND WE ALSO BROUGHT ABOUT 19 FILMS HERE TO CANADA, TO MONTREAL, WHERE WE DIGITIZED THEM ON STATE-OF-THE-ART EQUIPMENT AT THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA. SO THAT WAS A HUGE BOON BOTH FOR THE FILM AND IT WAS A NICE THING TO BE ABLE TO GIVE BACK TO THE ARCHIVE. SO I WOULD SAY THAT THE EFFORT TO PRESERVE AND DIGITIZE AND DISTRIBUTE THESE FILMS IS WELL UNDERWAY, AND HOPEFULLY WE'LL BE SEEING SOME OF THESE FILMS BECOME AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE AT SOME POINT.

Steve says GOOD STUFF. WELL, CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU FOR GETTING THIS DOCUMENTARY MADE. IT'S CALLED "THE FORBIDDEN REEL." IT'S ON IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS PROGRAM, AND WE HEARTILY RECOMMEND IT TO ANYBODY, NOT JUST FILM BUFFS BUT ALSO PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE WHOLE GEOPOLITICAL DYNAMIC OF AFGHANISTAN OVER THE LAST HALF CENTURY AND ITS CULTURE. SO CONGRATS, ARIEL, AND THANKS FOR JOINING US ON TVO TONIGHT.

Ariel says THANKS, STEVE. MY PLEASURE.

Watch: Saving Cinema from The Taliban