Afghan cinema travels on the bumpy road that has been damaged by the ongoing spooky tsunami of the so-called war.
Cinema that is known to reflect cultural attitudes, trends, and events of a country, the Afghan cinema so far has done fairly a good job in doing that. You can sincerely see the reflection of war and the political and social conflicts that have generated from it in different eras and the one we are living now by today’s storytellers. Being it if it is mostly about war and its side effects, perhaps it is proper to talk about the number one topic of interest in our films.
Except digitalization, overall pretty simple and basic not much different from the 70s and 80s in terms of making that is claim to be somewhat the productive decades, films originates its content from the heart of today’s society which has made it appealing to the audience to some extent, at least to the foreign audience. Clearly because of the political situation that was alerted post 9/11, world is keen to know more about Afghanistan.
The common people watch TV and rely on the media’s news projection, where the sensitive and intellectuals go to festivals, cinemas and galleries to get to know the Afghan culture trough the lenses of the filmmakers and the artist.
This of course generated a great opportunity and opened doors for the Afghan filmmakers to reach farther and find true audience.
With no attachment to the government financially nor morally, free of censorship the low budget and ultra-low budget independent films and the few that had been funded by international organizations can travel anywhere in the world where they can reach audience. Where in the past, films were mostly shown in government friendly countries.
Forming capitalism, freedom of speech, obviously would carry free market along. What this means is that you have full control of your film. You can showcase it as much as you want using different screening platforms, or simply sit it on a shelf and archive it. This may sound all very good in culture-oriented society that actually do watch films. But in a very religious and conservative society where the Clerics send out fatwa against TV, music, films and artists, you cannot expect its simple mined people who think war, corruption, poverty and overall misery that they are experiencing is the work of destiny, to care less about cinema or any form of art for that matter.
Despite to have had introduced to Popular Culture in the pas 17 years, with dozens of TV stations without prejudice, computers, Internet, cellular phones, television sets are still stoned and called the devil in some parts of the country.
Lack of security, funding and overall support of the government and the closed minded society has been brutal to the Afghan cinema. Resulting discouragement which has forced many filmmakers and artists to flee the country in hope of seeking better opportunities elsewhere.
It also may have extremely slowed productions, but has not blocked the path of filmmakers from filming as of yet. Many filmmakers are known to have used their personal and borrowed money from friends and family to finance their films.
Keeping a low-key production, mostly writing indoor scenes, choosing random days and not following an orderly schedule to avoid life threatening situations especially with female actor on the scene.
Despite difficulties and obstacles, filmmakers of the new generation have been trying their best to clean the dusty camera lenses and film a colorful motion picture somewhat presentable to world cinema.
Leena Alam is an award-winning Afghan film, TV and theater actress who has appeared in films such as Kabuli Kid, Loori, A Letter to the President and “Hassan”. She has also been known as Shereen of Afghanistan after playing in the taboo-smashing feminist TV drama, Shereen, the first of its kind to have been made in Afghanistan.