Cinema of Afghanistan
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Cinema was introduced in Afghanistan at the beginning of the 20th century. The political changes of Afghanistan did not allow the cinema of the country to grow over the years. However, numerous Pashto and Dari films have been made both inside and outside Afghanistan throughout the 20th century. The cinema of Afghanistan entered a new phase in 2001, but has failed to recover to its popular pre-war status.
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Emir Habibullah Khan (reigned 1901–1919) introduced film to Afghanistan, but in the royal court only. In 1923-24, the first projector - "magic box" or "mageek lantan" (magic lantern) - showed the first silent film in Paghman to the public. The first Afghan film, "Love and Friendship", was produced in 1946.
In Kabul, the Behzad Cinema was the first theatre in Afghanistan, and Cinema Park was also among the earliest to have been built in the 1950s. Among the most prominent cinemas in Kabul before the 1990s were the Pamir, Ariana, Aryub, Barikot and Baharistan cinemas.
When the fledgling Afghan Film was opened in 1968 it produced documentaries and news films highlighting the official meetings and conferences of the government. All these films were shown in cinemas before feature films, which were usually from India. The first feature film made in Kabul by Afghan Film using Afghan artists was 'Like Eagles' starring Zahir Waida and a young girl named Najia. Soon after this Afghan Film made a three-part film with the collective title 'Ages', which comprised 'Smugglers', 'Suitors' and 'Friday Night'. Two other films from the same era are 'Village Tunes' and 'Difficult Days'. All of these films were shot in black and white. Film artists of this era included Khan Aqa Soroor, Rafeeq Saadiq, Azizullah Hadaf, Mashal Honaryar and Parvin Sanatgar.
The first color films produced by Afghan Film in the early 1980s were 'Run Away' (Faraar), 'Love Epic' (Hamaasa e Ishg), 'Saboor Soldier'(Saboor Sarbaaz), 'Ash' (Khakestar), 'Last Wishes' (Akharin Arezo) and 'Migrating Birds' (Paranda Mohajer). These films, although not as technically proficient as those from abroad, struck a chord with Afghans because they mirrored their life. However, cinema was still seen only in the larger centres.
During the late 1960s and 1970s Soviet aid included cultural training and scholarships were offered to students interested in studying film. However, since Afghanistan had no film academy, future filmmakers had to apprentice on the job. The civil wars of the 1990s were not conducive to creative work and many people working in the Afghan film industry escaped to Iran or Pakistan, where they were able to make videos for NGOs. The new government banned production of films in 1993.
When the Taliban took power in 1996, cinemas were attacked and many films were burnt. The Taliban forbade the viewing of television and films and cinemas were closed, either becoming tea shops or restaurants or falling into a state of disrepair. Habibullah Ali of Afghan Film hid thousands of films, buried underground or in hidden rooms, to prevent their destruction by the Taliban. Teardrops was the first post-Taliban film in 2002, and the first film since Oruj in 1995. On November 19, 2001, Bakhtar was the first cinema to re-open its doors, where thousands of people entered that day.
Afghan Film Organization
Afghan Film also known as Afghan Film Organization (AFO) is Afghanistan's state-run film company. It was established in 1968 and the current president is Sahraa Karimi, the first female head of the organisation.
Since 2001, the cinema of Afghanistan has slowly started to re-emerge from a lengthy period of silence. Before the September 11th attacks, Afghanistan-based Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf attracted world attention to Afghanistan with his celebrated movie, Kandahar. It was an attempt to tell the world about a forgotten country. The film brought the cinema of Afghanistan to the Cannes film festival for the first time in history. Later Samira Makhmalbaf, Siddiq Barmak, Razi Mohebi, Horace Shansab, Yassamin Maleknasr and Abolfazl Jalili made a significant contribution to Dari (Persian) cinema in Afghanistan.
Barmak's first Persian/Pashto film Osama (2003) won several awards at film festivals in Cannes and London. Siddiq Barmak is also director of the Afghan Children Education Movement (ACEM), an association that promotes literacy, culture and the arts, founded by Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The school trains actors and directors for the emerging cinema of Afghanistan. In 2006 Afghanistan joined the Central Asian and Southern Caucasus Film Festivals Confederation.
In the 1970s and 1980s, it was not difficult to get women to act in films. The war and the Taliban rule changed the situation. Today women are increasingly represented in the cinema of Afghanistan. Talented actors like Leena Alam, Amina Jafari, Saba Sahar (now also a director) and Marina Gulbahari have emerged over the last decade.
Apart from cinema in Persian, Pashto cinema is also flourishing in Afghanistan. Several Pashto language films have been made since the fall of the Taliban. Several Pashto films have been made by foreigners like Good Morning Afghanistan (2003) by Camilla Nielsson.
Kabullywood (2017) is a comedy-drama directed by Louis Meunier that was shot entirely in Kabul. As part of the movie, Meunier crowdfunded the renovation of the once-prosperous Aryub Cinema in the city, but without it opening as planned.
The public cinema industry has not managed to recover, with many cinemas in Kabul either falling into disrepair or attracting low numbers of customers. The issue reached national attention at the end of 2020 when the municipality decided to demolish the neglected but historic Cinema Park, sparking protests by activists.
There are a number of films produced both inside and outside Afghanistan that are considered B-movies due to the low production quality and audience reach. These films are targeted mainly at an Afghan audience and rarely make it to the non-Afghan audiences or the international film festivals.
Since many filmmakers escaped the country due to the wars, they began to make films outside Afghanistan. Some notable films made outside Afghanistan include "Shirin Gul-o-Shir Agha" trilogy made in Russia, Foreign Land, Loori, "Sheraghai Daghalbaaz", "In The Wrong Hands", "Shade of Fire", (Asheyana) London (khana Badosh) London (Do Atash) Holland (Waris) Holland 3 Friends, "Al Qarem" in United States, "Shekast" in Pakistan, "Aftaab e Bighroob" in Tajikistan Kidnapping in Germany and in Italy "Gridami" by Razi Mohebi.
Some films made in or relating to Afghanistan have been made including; Rambo III, Kabul Express, Escape From Taliban and the British film In This World. The Hollywood-produced The Kite Runner (2007) earned a nomination in the 80th Academy Awards for "Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score".
- Tarique Qayumi
- Roya Sadat
- Sahraa Karimi
- Saeed Orokzai
- Atiq Rahimi
- Abdul Wahid Nazari
- Siddiq Barmak
- Saba Sahar (Afghanistan's first female film director)
- Barmak Akram, Kabuli Kid - Wajma
- Salim Shaheen - Nominated for Cannes Film Festival
- Salim Shaheen
- Haji Kamran
- Mamnoon Maqsoodi
- Marina Golbahari - Osama
- Leena Alam - A Letter to the President - Kabuli Kid - Black Kite - Soil and Coral - Loori
- Salam Sangi
- Hadji Gul
- Ali Orokzai
These films have had either theatrical distribution or won awards at prestigious film festivals. They also appear on IMBD's Most popular list.
- Kandahar (2001) - 20+ Film festivals
- Osama (2003) Winner of Golden Globes
- Earth and Ashes (2004)
- Zolykha's Secret (2006)
- Kabuli Kid (2008)
- Opium War (2008)
- Buzkashi Boys (2012)- Oscar nominee
- The Black Tulip (2010)
- The Patience Stone (2012)
- Madrasa (2013)
- Wajma (2013), an Afghan Love Story
- A Few Cubic Meters of Love (2014)
- Mina Walking (2015)
- A Letter to the President (2017)
- Black Kite (2017)
- Why? (2019)
Zolykha's Secret (2007), (Rahze Zolykha in Persian) is also among the first feature films from post-Taliban Afghanistan. Lyrical and tragic, the film has played to full houses at major film festivals. The film's director, Horace Ahmad Shansab, trained young Afghan filmmakers and made the film entirely on location in Afghanistan.
Emaan (2010), After a long wait, EMAAN film was finally screened at Reading Cinemas in Australia. This is the first time an Afghan Film to be screened at a Cinema. It was the winner of 2011 South Asian Film Festival (Canberra Australia) for Best Story and Best Film.
Documentaries have been made in Afghanistan since the Taliban, most notably 16 Days in Afghanistan by Mithaq Kazimi and Postcards from Tora Bora by Wazhmah Osman. The Boy who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan a documentary shot by award-winning British director Phil Grabsky was released in 2001 and went on to win awards worldwide. There is also a monthly magazine, Theme, that is published by Afghan Cinema Club that focuses on Afghan and international cinema.
The highest grossing Afghan film is Osama earning $3,800,000 worldwide from a budget of only $46,000. The film was very well received by the Western cinematic world. It gathered a rating of 96% based on 100 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes.
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