source: Kandahar, 2001. (Mohsen Makhmalbaf). Picture: PGL.gal

THE MISSING PIECES OF THE PUZZLE IN SEARCH OF THE OVERLOOKED CINEMAS OF TAJIKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN

by Rasha Rehman, Juhi Dhingra

Hours of research and conversations with industry veterans helped me unravel more about Tajik and Afghan cinemas than days of research across Google did. It’s astounding how underrepresented Tajik and Afghan cinema industries are and how dire the need to acknowledge their art is, especially in the light of all that they had to endure to be where they are. Particularly in the case of Afghanistan – which has braved the communist coup of 1978, followed by the Soviet invasion, succeeded by Taliban infestation – the struggle of artists, filmmakers, and auteurs becomes all the more important and worthy of being heard.

source: Radioclassique.fr / Nothingwood, 2017 ( Sonia Kronlund )

Salim Shaheen, who is regarded as the Afghan Spielberg, summed up the present situation of filmmaking in Afghanistan on his first visit to Cannes:

“Hollywood, Bollywood, Nothingwood […] Afghanistan cinema is Nothingwood. Because there is no money, no resources, no equipment: nothing.” 

In the wake of Taliban’s ban on cinema, forget filmmaking, even film viewing can get you killed. This has led to suppression of art, an immense lack of resources, and a dearth of global relevance. Afghanistan-based Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf drew attention to the otherwise obscure cinema of the country with his movie, Kandahar, which took Afghanistan to the Cannes film festival for the first time in history. However, since then, only 2 Afghan films have ever made it to the Oscars.

source: RottenTomatoes.com / Kandahar, 2001 ( Mohsen Makhmalbaf )

Tajikistan’s cinema is far more obscure – to get an idea, you need to look no further than the Wikipedia page of ‘Cinema of Tajikistan’, which has no more than 3 brief paragraphs, among the shortest Wikipedia pages ever. The page lists exactly 15 movies under the ‘List of Tajik films’, which is a ridiculously low number if you consider the vast cinematic history of any country. The lack of resources and money has pushed certain aspirants away from the country. Consequently, much of the paltry amount of cinema credited as being Tajik is not actually made in Tajikistan, which has further resulted in the cinema being labeled ‘the cinema of migrants’.

This lack of a conducive environment, adequate funds, required exposure, desired resources, and helpful connections is what FCC aims to bridge, by allowing talent based in such countries to collaborate with resources from across the world to bring this less-known art to the forefront. FCC, through its access to funds, resources, and network, can provide established and aspiring filmmakers a much-needed boost to reach the global audiences and carve out a niche.

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