Hamas-e Eshq by Latif Ahmadi
Filmmakers Bring Lost Fragments of Afghan Cinema to Berlinale
The Uncovering of a Legacy – Part 1
by Mariam Habib, Kaveh Daneshmand
Filmmakers are bringing Afghan cinematic history to Berlinale this year. In a parallel effort to recover and preserve old film footage from pre-civil war Afghanistan, filmmakers are recreating old footage, uncovering a brilliant, once-lost history and retelling the story of Afghan cinema in a new light. FCC advocates work that proudly showcases Farsi art and culture through film, especially from regions such as Afghanistan, whose films remain largely unseen and unrepresented in international markets.
This year’s Berlin International Film Festival featured three films from Afghanistan that converge on this common theme of rediscovery. Mariam Ghani’s documentary What We Left Unfinished is the story of five Afghan films from the late 70s to the early 90s that were left incomplete in the dawn of war and carnage. The film takes us through the experiences of each of the filmmakers: how they confronted censorship and internalized the real dangers of their creative pursuits.
What We Left Unfinished: banner for the facade of Secession, Vienna, for Salon-e-Girdbad in fall 2014
Khan-e Tarikh is a short film by Qader Tahiti. Made from unedited news footage from 1993-1995, the film both reveals the tragic impact of civil war on Kabul’s archeological treasures and instills hope in their return as symbols of a deeply buried and beautiful history.
Khan-e Tarikh by Qader Tahiri with Sher Mohammad Khara
Hamas-e Eshq, written and directed by Latif Ahmadi, is a historical epic about two young lovers and their quarreling families. The film is described as an “Afghan Romeo and Juliet,” only the rivalry takes place not in the noble rankings of Verona, but on the buzkashi field. Originally released in 1989, Hamas-e Eshq is one of the most popular Afghan films of all time and continues to air on Afghan television year after year. Hamas-e Eshq is one of 6 films that have been successfully digitized by the National Film Board of Canada, in an effort to expand digitization and cultural preservation worldwide.
Hamas-e Eshq by Latif Ahmadi
Why preserve cinematic history?
While the restoration of important films from European and American cinemas has been in place for many years now, the restoration of Farsi cinema legacy is a young initiative that has taken off less than five years ago. FCC strives to strengthen this process so that some of the hidden gems of Farsi cinema that have not been properly noticed on a global scale can see the light of the silver screen throughout the world.
A tangible timeline of films which can be accessed, revisited, analyzed and interpreted is important to building a foundation for academic literature and for creating a cultural identity. These pieces of footage serve as primary resources in the study of Farsi films. Scholarship is impertinent to contextualizing film and understanding the interplay between filmmaking and politics, society and culture.
Additionally, when both audiences and new generations of filmmakers have access to historic works, the industry is able to naturally progress, passing on traditions, themes and styles which become symbols of a larger cohesive identity. We see this in contemporary Iranian films which reflect the realist style of storytelling of the earlier, post-revolution era films. Expanding educational opportunities and sharing knowledge is key to maintaining a high standard for Farsi content and technique. FCC aims to facilitate this process through workshops and masterclasses for emerging Farsi film professionals. We are committed to working with institutions, organizations and industry leaders to expand educational opportunities in Farsi filmmaking.
FCC supports efforts to preserve Afghan cinema so that international audiences and filmmakers alike are able to watch the few films which tell a nation’s story through its own voice. Simultaneously, this initiative helps us boost collaboration and co-production opportunities with Afghan filmmakers. By increasing access to these stories for producers, filmmakers and talent abroad, we can introduce them to a rich history they may be inspired to be a part of.
To read more about the crucial need for increased representation of Afghan and other Farsi-speaking cinemas as independent, identifiable film markets, read our blog post: The search for the overlooked cinemas of Tajikistan and Afghanistan.