Articles & Notes — December 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Afghanistan: resisting with guns, and sometimes with movie camera

Afghanistan has never really been known for movie making, however this might change in the near future, according to Afghan filmmaker Siddiq Barmak.

“A powerful underground artistic movement is taking shape in a post-Taliban Afghanistan,” said critically-acclaimed and award-winning Afghan filmmaker Siddiq Barmak, according to Times of India.

“Cinema is still not considered a part of Afghan art and culture by our government. But our people love films. There’s a powerful underground artistic movement developing in Afghanistan as 75% of our society comprises young people who are looking for changes in society and creative breakthroughs after emerging from the ravages of wars,” said Kabul-based Barmak during a press interaction.

Barmak’s award-winning films, Opium War (2008) and Osama (2002) are part of the screenings itinerary at the ongoing Asian Film Festival. While Opium War depicts a tale of two American soldiers on a poppy field in Afghanistan, Osama is a hard-hitting story on difficulties of being a woman and living life in the Taliban era.

During the Taliban era, all forms of art and media were banned. But filmmaking in post-Taliban Afghanistan is still hard, barring the single advantage of freedom of speech.

“Today, we can say and make anything we want. But problems exist. Many people in the Afghan government still believe that cinema is against Islamic ideals and also may be they are afraid to see cinema as a popular art among people, because any art often goes against political and religious powers. Filmmaking is still difficult. Our government is trying to ignore cinema and put pressure on all artistic and cultural aspects. But, this is a moment of resistance for people like me. Sometimes you resist with a gun, and sometimes you have to resist with a camera,” Barmak said.

“Opium War show people surrounded by difficulties and major political mistakes. Sadly, Americans view “Opium War” as an anti-American film, which it actually isn’t. It’s an anti-war film,” he explains.

“On paper, we have a good law guaranteeing freedom of speech and mass media, but it’s due to the presence of soldiers from 42 different countries in Afghanistan. If and when they leave, my country will get back to its behaviour during the Taliban era,” Barmak said

.For a long time, Afghanistan had a government monopoly in filmmaking.

“Filmmaking received government funding in the pre-Taliban years, particularly during the Soviet invasion of our country. But after the collapse of the Taliban, cinema has suffered largely in an open market without government support. Private production houses have sprung up, but often they don’t have money to make good films. As a result, they have search for producers in other countries. Osama and Opium War had producers from Korea, Japan, France,” Barmak said.

However, a new wave of short filmmaking has emerged in Afghanistan. “We are making very good short films back home,” he added. But filmmaking is an important tool to portray reality.

“The media hasn’t always correctly depicted the ground realities of Afghanistan. A lot of people can’t reach the reality of this country or see our scars. That’s why I think it’s the responsibility of filmmakers like me to show the reality through our films,” said Barmak.

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