Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas to those far away from their loved ones

Merry Christmas – Buon Natale

Eid ul Addha ( The Feast of Sacrifice) one of the biggest feasts for the Muslims came and passed while I am apart from my family, home, friends and I felt how difficult it is to be far from family and miss them on such an important occasion.

When I couldn't say happy eid to my family and friends face to face, now I would like to take the chance of saying merry Christmas to those people from foreign lands who serve in my country and are far from their families at Christmas and the new year occasion.

Merry Christmas to you all, who are reading my blog right now.

And merry Christmas to you who is now far from his home, family and relatives but serving for peace, rebuilding and democracy in my country Afghanistan though missing your dearest ones back in your country in this important occasion, now being far from home, I can feel you very well.

Merry Christmas to you all, who serve in the cold, mountainous and snowy central highlands of my country to keep peace and security for my people, al though you miss your family, country and friends in this occasions that only comes once a year.

Merry Christmas to you all who serve in the windy, dusty and dangerous deserts of Helmand and other south western provinces of my country to keep peace for my people although any moment could be of death or life for you.

Merry Christmas to you all who serve and patrol in the streets of Kabul, where any moment you could expect a bomb blast and could lose your life for peace, freedom and democracy for my people.

And merry Christmas to all civilian and military who serve for peace, security, freedom and democracy in different corners of Afghanistan.

May God bless you all and you will begin the new year with hopes and full of peace, security, happiness for you and for the people of Afghanistan.

Mohammad Amin Wahidi
Exiled writer, journalist and filmmaker from Afghanistan

Saturday, December 22, 2007

An Afghan/Hazara's thoughts on "The Kite Runner"

Finally "The Kite Runner" has been released in the USA after a delay from it’s original date in November. I just feel sorry I will not to be able to watch it right away, since it will be released later in Italy, where I am now. I am not writing as a critic or to comment about the film, since I haven't watched it yet, but like millions of other readers of the novel and especially as a Hazara, like of one of the main characters, I would like to raise some points about it.

For me first as a young Afghan filmmaker who has a long way ahead to make films and then as a person who has seen all this racial and ethnic discrimination, war, oppression and ethnic conflicts with his own eyes in his country, it is very good to see how a novel can change the image of a country.

So much of what has been depicted of Afghanistan in the minds of people especially in the West, is a picture of ruins with aggressive inhabitant. When Afghanistan is considered, some people think of terror, Taliban, drugs, bombings and all harshness. Then when we explain to them more about what Afghanistan is really like, they pretend that now they have a clearer image of Afghanistan. But we know they are still doubtful because hearing something is never like seeing something with your own eyes or reading something strong. Based on this point, I believe cinema and literature can play an effective role in depicting the reality and distinguishing it from the rumors or wrong imaginings.

The “Kite Runner” a brief history of three decades of Afghanistan

Reading "The Kite Runner," I really felt very close to the characters, since I as a Hazara Afghan, know what is my country like, who are the ethnics, what are their traditions, how is the social lives of people, what happened to my country in the 1980s, and 1990s, and all that has occurred since the fall of the Taliban. Reading the Kite runner I could imagine what is happening, because it is written so well.

The ethnic discrimination visualized in this book is a part of our history, which is even worse, in reality, than any novelist can imagine.

Regarding the film:

It has been a trend to make films of best-seller novels for a long time. Usually these films have been successful. Since I haven't been able to watch the film yet, I will ask my friend Mr. Robert Maier who lives in the USA and must have watched it by now, to write his comments on the film, since he has been in the industry for years, and knows Afghanistan and Afghans well. I will then post it here.

I will write here mainly on how this film is similar to or different from others made in or about Afghanistan in recent years.

In the 1980s two filmmakers were interested in Afghanistan as themes of their films: Peter Macdonald who made “Rambo 3” in 1988, and Kevin Reynolds who made "The Beast of War” in 1988. Both are the result of interest in Afghanistan because of the cold war while John Frankenheimer made his historical film “The Horsemen” in Afghanistan in 1971.

This trend has increased two decades later, after the prohibition on films and filmmaking ended with the ouster of the Taliban in 2002.

During the Taliban time some films were made in Afghanistan and some were produced on the borders of Afghanistan with Afghan themes. "Trip to Kandahar" was made by Mohsin Makhmalbaf the Iranian filmmaker in Iran border of Afghanistan in 2001 and " In This World" was made in 2002 by Michael Winterbottom in the Afghan refuge camps in Peshawar Pakistan. The latest one out of Afghanistan but about Afghanistan is "The Kite runner" by Marc Forster. (Editor’s note: “Charlie Wilson’s War” is currently in release, and other Western-produced films with Afghan subjects will be released in 2008.)

Other foreign feature and television films that where made inside Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban government such as:

"I Love Peace" by Yutaka Osawa, the Japanese Director in 2002,
"Five In The Afternoon" by Samira Makhmalbaaf the Iranian female director in 2003,
"Earth and Ashes" by Atiq Rahimi the Afghan French novelist* and Director in 2004
"Soldier Star" by Christoph Dopamphiele the French Director in 2005 ( who then later suicide himself and was dead)
"Spring of Hope" by Hashmat khan the Afghan Indian Director/ Actor in 2006 and
"Kabul Express" by Kabir Khan the Indian Director in 2006

Of these films, some are similar to "The Kite Runner" in theme and content or composition of main crew. For instance not the content but the project of "Earth and Ashes" are similar to "The Kite Runner" because it is also adapted from a best seller Afghan Novel which was written by Atiq Rahimi in the French language and was then adapted into a screenplay by Kambuzia Partovi the Iranian director and screenwriter, and then was directed by the author and a French crew.

The form of "Spring of Hope" that is written and directed by Hashmat Khan Rahimi the Afghan Indian Director/ Actor in 2006 with an Indian crew is similar to "The Kite Runner" because it depicts the history of three decades of war and the changing of regimes. The difference is that he has focused on the lives of two lovers in Kabul University, and quarrels of the Mujahedin and then Taliban and so on. But "The Kite Runner" explores a bit more in depth the bottom layers of society and explains more about the ethnic conflicts and discrimination, and especially Pashtun oppression of the Hazaras.

The third one that is a bit similar with "The Kite Runner" according to its content and generating of controversy is "Kabul Express," made in 2006. It was very controversial in Afghanistan this year and was finally banned by the Ministry of Information and Culture of Afghanistan after there were many objections by the people against it.

This film was written and directed by the Indian Director Kabir Khan in cooperation with Afghan Films Department and another local Afghan film production company.

The plot of this film is the story of two Indian journalists who were kidnapped by Pakistani Taliban when the Taliban were escaping under attack of the American and coalition forces. But at the same time this film had some scenes un-related to the content of the film and considered to be insulting to the Hazaras of Afghanistan without a reason. Therefore many Hazaras including their leaders, whether inside or outside of Afghanistan opposed this film and showed their objections with demonstrations, gatherings and other forms of objections. These actions finally caused this film to be banned in Afghanistan by the Ministry of Information and Culture.

My words to Hazara youth

And now again there is fear that the Hazaras may “The Kite Runner” film too since they have been communicating about this issue with each other.

Although there are some Hazara youth who are preparing to oppose this film, I believe this book and this film are like an apology for the oppression of one generation to another, in the form of a story.

I believe the Hazaras are portrayed to be poor, under pressure, and the underdog, and though they were treated badly during the 1970s and then late 1990s they were actually sincere, loyal, honest and brave.

I believe one reason that made "The Kite Runner" a best seller first in the USA and then throughout the world was the way the author depicted the circumstances and characters in his novel and the way he has revealed some of the truths which have not been told or written elsewhere.

Indeed the author has entered into the souls of the characters and without bias or taking either side and created a realistic and believable environment, which may have been inspired by and mixed with some of his own childhood memories and experiences that depict at least part of three decades of history of Afghanistan very clearly.

Therefore I suggest that Hazara youth,not oppose the film but instead watch it and then try to make another artistic work that they think would depict a better image of the contemporary Hazara ethnic and society or at least to write a reasonable comment or critique about "The Kite Runner."

I think what is not written in the history will need people like Khaled Husseini to communicate, whether in the form of novel or in another literary form just to point out and remind people about it, because the sun is never covered with two fingers.

I think it is better to let the world know that there was a Hazara boy named Hassan and there was a Pashtoon boy named Amir once in Afghanistan and let them judge who was right and who was wrong in the game of life and what were the causes and reasons for it.

Although a Hazara woman is raped, a Hazara boy is raped in the street in front of many people, and a Hazara orphan is taken as a hostage to dance for the Taliban in this novel, on the other hand, how oppressive some of Pashtoon were, how cruel the Taliban were, and how people behaved with Hazaras were depicted with reasons and I am sure a person who had lived in Afghanistan during the 1960s and 1970s and the late 1990s must have seen have seen with their own eyes. Therefore don't you think, there were even worse things and more cruelty against the Hazaras throughout the history but no one has written them yet?!

It is very important for me when a book and or a film can draw the attention of the world towards a country.

Nowadays once again Afghanistan will be under the focus of the world after the release of the film, as it has been a forgotten country after the war of Iraq in 2003.

I believe "The Kite Runner" is a masterpiece and a tremendous achievement since this book was famous worldwide and was translated into dozens of languages around the world.

I have seen the effect it has left on the foreigners in different corners of the world. For instance, as I have experienced since then any time I met a new foreigner and the soon he or she knew that I was Afghan, the second question from me was " Are you from the ethnic background of Amir or Hassan?"

For me that is a great achievement of the author to create such characters in his novel to remain in the minds of people.

I would send my congratulations to Khaled Husseini, the author of the novel, David Benioff the screenplay writer and to Marc Forster the director of the film through this piece of writing.

I think Afghanistan still needs some time to be able to digest and absorb such films and
I am concerned about the lives of Afghan child actors who played the childhood roles of Hassan and Amir and glad they are brought to the UAE to be safer there.

My last words

Seeing the world wide achievements of "The Kite Runner" I am more committed to do my best to depict the true and real images of my country by my films on which I am working day and night, to change the unrealistic images and wrong visions of my country in the minds of people in the West.

Sometimes I just think of six years back when Mullah Omar also got world-wide fame for Afghanistan for drugs, terror, bombings, destruction and killing. Then when I hear about Khaled Hussieni and his novel, I feel more confident that a person can change the world if he wants, he can enter the hearts of people and can bring a positive name and reputation for his native country, and depict a true picture of his homeland and people.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A note about subscribing to my blog

Dear all readers of my blog,

Thank you all for reading my blog, leaving your comments and sending me emails. I see many of you are still interested in reading my blog on a frequent basis to know what a young Afghan filmmaker is going to do and what is happening in the field of media, press, and cinema in Afghanistan. Therefore I want to encourage you to subscribe to my blog which makes it easy for you to read an article as soon as it is posted.

What happens after you subscribe in my blog?

Automatically, you will be e-mailed a copy of the post. If I do not post you will not receive an e-mail. As long as I am out of my country, still my purpose is to work for freedom of expression and speech in my country so that interested readers like you from around the world will be able to get a copy of each new post to hear updates of my activity and what is happening in the arena of free media and freedom of expression in my homeland Afghanistan.

How to subscribe:

1- First type your e-mail address in the blank box that you see on the right side of the blog below the profile of the writer and click the "subscribe" button below it.

2- Then another window opens and you see another blank and some letters appear. Type the letters in the blank and click the "complete" button. Complete the subscription request and then when the next window comes close it.

3- Soon after you subscribed here, you will automatically receive an e-mail regarding activating your subscription request and you are given a link to click, just click the link and your subscription is completed, that is it! Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone.

Thank you very much for the subscription to my blog and be evergreen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Enemy at the Gates!

What I am writing below is not about “Enemy at the Gate” of Jean Jacques Annuad, which depicts the battle of Stalingrad in WWII, but is about the armed terrorist forces who are approaching very dangerously to the gates the capital of Afghanistan.

Although the Senlis Council reported its concern about the Tablian almost reaching the gates of Kabul, the evidence shows it to be even more dangerous.

Three suicide attacks in one just week in different corners of Kabul, battle fronts in different spots in the south and in the east, and taking over districts from the control of government forces in provinces near Kabul. These all show that the Tablian are still strong and powerful in a big part of Afghanistan.

Fourteen policemen joined the Taliban in the southwest province of Farah just a few days ago. Seven others were beheaded by the Taliban just days before that in Kandahar. Currently there are disputes and quarrels between parliament and the President’s Office about the investigation and trial of executive officials in Baghlan for the mysterious and deadly explosion that took place in Nov 6 in this province, which killed more than 40 people including 6 members of parliament.

The situation seems to be worse than concern of the Senlis council about approach of the Taliban to the gates of Kabul when we see the government faced with failure regarding:
• strengthening of the security sector
• eradication of corruption in its departments
• bringing administrative reform to the appointment of the provincial governors
• offering alternative crops for farmers in the southern and eastern provinces who grow poppies, which are misused by the Taliban and empower them again day by day.

It reveals that the situation is more complicated than it seems when president Karzai, instead of having a practical strategy for administrative reform, wails for his provincial officials to do something for the will of people and then days later he has to confess that he has had communication and contacts with the Taliban about sharing power with them, even though it is obvious their demands are not acceptable to the Afghan people.

It is a question to be asked by the people of Afghanistan through a referendum whether or not they want to give power again the Taliban who ruled them for five years, but not the way that Mr. President would contact them and ask them to join the government.

What will happen if the Taliban join the government again?

What will happen is clear to all people of Afghanistan since the people experienced them in the late 1990s, when they suffered through the worst time in the history of the country.

How many women were obliged to stay home? How many girls students were prohibited to go to schools, how many artists, writers, intellectuals, actors, singers, professors and doctors were forced to abandon the country? These questions and the answers are all written on the pages of history.

In addition to the destruction of many historic and artistic artifacts and museums, including the Giant Buddha of Bamyan, so much of which were trafficked overseas during this period; the arts such as singing, calligraphy, painting, photography, theatre and filmmaking were strictly prohibited and recognized to be Haram (prohibited). All these things were almost eradicated during this five years. Artists were either tortured or killed or fled the country.

Specific groups of ethnic or sectarian minorities and women and girls suffered during this period. Afghanistan was damaged and a very negative image of the Afghanistan and the Afghans spread around the world—due to the actions of the Taliban. We were seen as "a country of the middle-ages with terrifying people."

This image of Afghanistan and the Afghans, especially after the terrorist attack of 9/11, which the Taliban supported, made Afghanistan look like the worst country in the world. Fortunately, there was a chance to change this image with the help of International Community. The terrorist government of Taliban was overthrown, and the people of Afghanistan have proved to merit freedom and democracy as they welcomed the new government. Despite all problems and lack of public awareness they participated in both elections; parliamentary and presidential to make the decision of how to live by voting, and take advantage of democracy.

In democracy why can’t everyone participate?

According to the most common definition of democracy, “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and within the scope of this definition every political party is encouraged to participate in elections. It is also true, and people of Afghanistan believe in it, that any democratic country will have opposition of the government and criticize the government when it makes mistakes. Then elections are held, and the people elect their leaders.

But when the issue of Taliban or negotiation with them arises, there is a big difference between Taliban and the real meaning of opposition. First, they are not the opposition of the government but the opposition of the people and democracy in this country. Second, they are the armed terrorists who have been attacking the national interest and have been killing many many innocents. Third when they do not have the capability to offer an plan, except to make totally unacceptable demands of the government.

What will the Taliban do if they are given power?

When the Taliban are out of power, they arrest people, jail them, hang them, torture them and kill them. When they are in power, they will do what they did during their five years of power, but this time legally with Legitimacy and under the title of the elected government.

And if the government asks this question through a referendum of the people this fact will be obvious to all: that the people never want them again.

Instead of this, the current government can strengthen the defense, interior and intelligence services to defeat the terrorists rather than compromising and giving them again the power. Otherwise first let the soldiers of the international community go safely home, and then the government itself can make a deal with the Talibs.

If the Taliban really want to take part in the reconstruction of the country and join with the government, what is their plan? Do they want to do as they did six years back? If they don’t want the foreign peace-keeping soldiers, do they themselves want to keep the peace?

If they don’t want foreign experts and professionals, who do they have to replace with them? There are many more questions to be asked before this referendum can take place about giving the power to the Taliban.

It seems a little bit confusing to the international community that the Afghan government wants again to bring fundamentalism into its machinery after several years of fighting against it.

Will the international community accept the Taliban's presence in the government while it has been five years for five years against against terror and fundamentalism spending billions of dollars for this purpose in Afghanistan? Will they support a government where there is no chance for women, girls,ethnic and religious minorities, and there is no space and value for
democracy and freedom of expression?

This new government plan does not seem to be practical. Instead it is a kind of political game based on ethnicity, nothing else.

First, there was the freeing of the Taliban's active force from the jails through a program that was waste of money and re-empowerment of terror. Then another phase of this project began when there was a kind of interest of the government towards Hezb e Islami members. It was a bit obvious that something must be going on when more chances and opportunities were given to Hezb e Islami members in governmental positions within just the past two to three years. Now we see the results of how they are overtaking the government from inside and their fellows challenge the government from outside.

A Dari proverb says: " the yellow dog is brother of jackal" and same is the case with the relation of Hezb e Islami ( The Islamic Party) with the Taliban since the Commander Gulbudin Hekmatyar has announced his support for the Taliban. Still the government of president Karzai knowing all this kept opportunities open for the members of this party to work in governmental positions. Now we reap what the administration of president Karzai has sown.

Ministries like information and culture, defense, ministry of finance, and office of the attorney general are the clear examples of influence of "Hezb e Islami" in the government’s machinery. We will see how they are going to facilitate the Taliban's entry back in the government.

The parliament too has a remarkable number of Hezb e Islami members who can influence decisions and help the other Hezb e Islami members in other branches of the government to achieve their goals and set the stage for the Taliban.

The people of Afghanistan have become experienced enough by now to distinguish bad from good and say no to wrong decisions by the government considering their passed experiences. I hope they are well-prepared because of the enemy at the gate!

--Mohammad Amin Wahidi

Friday, November 30, 2007

Just a few words of appreciation to all the readers of my blog

I would like to give my appreciation to all readers who have read my blog and sent me sympathetic emails these days.

I didn't know at all that my story would be published in a very popular website, and people will read what I write.

Since I have received many emails and some comments, thanks for your offer of support and your concern, sympathy and interest about a young Afghan filmmaker. It encourages me to be stronger standing against difficulties of life and still be committed to my goals to achieve freedom of expression and democracy in my country.

I believe each of your emails and comments supports freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

Among hundreds of emails I received, the main question was what I am going to do now when I decided to be in Italy and my answer for this question is;

It is very difficult though to be far from home, family, friends, colleagues and my ordinary life but I have no way. I must have all friends, family members, colleagues and the people of my country in my heart, even if I am physically far from Afghanistan.

I can feel my dear Afghanistan with my sense and my spirit, even though I am in Italy, I will do my best to work for freedom of expression in my country because I don't want to waste but utilize the talent and energy that I have by bringing positive changes in the world.

As you know it is my dream to be able to return home when there is a free space and safety for me and I hope it comes true soon. I will return with hands full of knowledge and experience of my stay here, to be able to play major roles for democracy and freedom of expression in my homeland. Therefore I will explore, study, and make films, if I can, as long as I am here.

My immediate plans are to make "The Keys to Paradise" as soon as I can. I also want to tell my own story, and the problems I faced recently. I hope to have the facilities and equipment, and that there will be producers interested in helping to make these stories.

Keep reading my blog, because as long as I breathe and am alive I will be working and reflecting on my work and activities in my blog.

Be ever green and successful!

See the article in Il Corierre.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Freedom of speech: In between democracy and fundamentalism in Afghanistan

While Tolo TV continues its dispute with the Ministry of Information and Culture over the broadcast of Shakira’s concert during the Eid days, the government has arrested another journalist, this time for reprinting a Dari translation of the Holy Quran.

Dr. Ahmad Ghaus Zalmai, a famous Afghan journalist in the 1990s, and currently director of the National Union Journalists of Afghanistan, has been arrested for reprinting “Quran e Paak,” a version of the Holy Quran translated entirely from Arabic into Dari.

This Dari version was first published in the USA by a person called Bakhtiar. Before reprinting it in Afghanistan, Dr. Ghaus Zalmai discussed the project with credible religious scholars.

Since the publication “Quran e Paak” in Afghanistan this year, there have been demonstrations and objections against its publisher and editor by religious societies, mainly in Kabul. The religious scholars who have demonstrated against the publication of this book claim that it contains mistakes and misinterpretations of the Holy Quran.

Dr.Ghaus Zalmai was arrested and imprisoned after attempting to flee the country through its border with Pakistan, reports Abdul Jabbar Sabet. The arrest, carried out on the orders of the Attorney General of Afghanistan, occurred after those opposed to the book’s publication pressured the government to punish those responsible.

The question that arises here is: why is the government not at least this keen to arrest those guilty of the bombings, corruption, and human and drug trafficking that put the nation in danger? They place more pressure on the press and media activists than on those who commit such acts. Publishing the Holy Quran in Dari is not a crime. It is an excellent step toward an ideal Islamic society.

The people opposed to the Dari translation of the Holy Quran claim that the verses (Ayaat) of the Holy Quran, which are spoken by God, must be in the original language, the way they came to the world. However, the majority of Afghans who want to read the Koran are unable to read Arabic. This is why, day by day, people are becoming distant from the real Islam as written in the Holy Quran. Thus there is need for such translated versions, not only in Dari but in Pashto, Uzbeki, Balochi and all other languages so that every Afghan can use its messages in their daily lives.

About a month ago Tolo TV, which is a private television channel in Afghanistan, broadcast Shakira’s concert during Eid. Soon after the Ministry of Information and Culture put out a press release warning Tolo and all other television channels not to broadcast such shows in the future, as they are forbidden in Islam and are considered un-Islamic.

Seeing all this, we are concerned that fundamentalism is taking root again in the bureaucracy of the Afghan government, after five years of struggle against it. We are afraid as we wonder which direction our government will move: toward democracy or fundamentalism.

by Amin Wahidi

editorial assistance by Nathan Hartle

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hanif Elham another targeted media activist in Afghanistan

Hanif Elham,

• Editor, writer producer for ATN ( Ariana Television Network)
• Producer/ director for the show Booye Maah ( literary and cultural program on ATN)
• Broadcast Journalist for Ariana FM 93.5 MHZ (Kabul)
• Writer, researcher and adviser for Deedenow Cinema Production Afghansitan
• Editor in chief for the website of and a member of board of Directors of Academy of Art and Cinematic Education

Since the number of battles and suicide attacks have been increasing day by day as a result of the Taliban’s re-empowerment, life is getting more difficult for the Afghans, especially the intellectuals and the media activists.

Reports show the year 2007 has been the worst year for the security situation since the establishment of the interim government of Afghanistan.

Recently, while I have been in exile I heard that Hanif Elham a colleague of mine in ATN, Deedenow Cinema , and the Academy of Art has been threatened to death by the Taliban. Mr. Elham is a broadcast journalists who has been working day and night in Afghanistan for freedom of speech, human rights, and democracy.

Mr. Elham has been threatened and intimidated because of his popular radio program on Ariana Radio, “Imroz dar Tarikh” or in “Today in History” that presents news stories of what had occurred on the same date in previous years.

As a result of more than two years’ hard work and research, Mr. Elham has been able to collect reports that detail the destruction and killings perpetrated by the Taliban during the five years of their rule. They describe their cruelty, massacres, and hidden relationships with the other countries like Pakistan.

Mr. Elham interviewed eye-witnesses, and collected personal diaries, and newspaper clippings. He has been able to write what the Taliban did on every single day of their reign.

This remarkable effort for democracy and justice made his program unique and popular.
After a few months, in almost every house where Radio Ariana had coverage, people listened to this program each morning from 6:30 to 7:00.

As a voice for victims of human rights violations, Mr. Elham received many thoughtful and appreciative letters and calls. The program’s popularity alarmed the Taliban. They did not tolerate a voice revealing the truth about them, so they called him and threaten him with death. Mr. Elham continued, so they sent him warning letters. Mr. Elham has ignored the threats and continues his work for an unknown period of time, even though he knows it is not safe for him and his family.

Hanif Elham is sure that there is always need of sacrifice, to nourish the tree of democracy and justice in a post-conflict country like Afghanistan. Now it is our responsibility as media activists to become a voice for him and support his continuing work, which is the will of the majority.

Let us all become a strong voice that speaks about his situation to the people of the world. Let us all once again take an oath not only for Hanif Elham but everyone who stands for democracy, and does the brave work of bringing the rule of law to a country where there has been none for decades.

Undoubtedly, one of the ways to stop this intimidation, which has become a new strategy for the Taliban and the extremists of Afghanistan, is to form a strong network worldwide. It is important to reach out to the world and ask the International Community to find ways for safety and protection of journalists and media workers not only in Afghanistan but all over the world.

Let us all become one voice, condemn these threats and intimidation. Let us pray for the safety of Hanif Elham. Let us reveal the work of the Taliban and extremists around the world.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Misuse of the death penalty in Afghanistan

Misuse of the death penalty in Afghanistan
by Amin Wahidi

Recently Afghans witnessed that fifteen human beings were executed after being tried by the judicial authorities of Afghanistan. Among those fifteen, some were accused to be murderers, some drug traffickers and some kidnappers who all faced the extreme penalty, death by hanging. This was shocking news for a young Afghanistan that practices democracy as a herald for peace, fairness and justice and for which it has the support of international community.

Since the collapse of the pro-communist government and empowerment of the Mujahedeen in 1991 there has been chaos throughout Afghanistan. The government became an Islamic state and the courts had to operate based on Sharia (the Islamic law), but there was not an appropriate court where a person could address his legal problem and find justice. Like in the jungle, the wealthiest and most powerful were the law.

As a result, when people face a serious legal problem, they do not know where to turn. They do not see that a court can solve their problem through a fair legal process.

In the chaos of the civil war, every Jihadi commander had his private court (which was his commandant station) and his guns and soldiers were the executive force and tool to enforce his decisions. Many people were jailed, tried, tortured, and even killed but there was nowhere to complain about it and no one could dare to discuss or object to it. For several years it was like this and a generation grew up with no rule of law and no justice in the country.

The point here is whether the sentence for the recently executed people was fair. Many people believe that our judicial branch, from primary to the Supreme Court are corrupt with bribery, bias, and influence by warlords.

People believe that if the government really wants to bring justice to Afghanistan, it must start the huge process of investigating and prosecuting those whose hands are contaminated by innocent people’s blood. Many people are still suspected of committing serious crimes against humanity, or of betraying the national interest. They need to face justice, but that does not happen because of their relationships with senior government officials, cabinet members, or former Jihadi leaders.

Many Taliban have committed crimes such as beating and stoning innocent or raped women. Innocent people including women were massacred, and many more crimes were committed when they were in power. But they are still free, enjoying their life as if they have done nothing wrong at all, only because they are from a particular area or particular province.

This essay is not to defend criminals who have committed serious crimes and faced the death penalty. I only ask for general for transparency in the trials of accused persons, so that in punishment there will not be discrimination.

I am concerned that there is not clarity and transparency in the trials of the criminals or people accused of a crime. When the government, acting officially or not, misuses the death penalty as a tool against political opposition, free media activists and whoever observes and criticizes misdeeds of the administration, this is a problem.

Iran and China are famous worldwide for using the death penalty of hanging for opposition or anti- government political activists in their country. Afghanistan must not join them in this.

War criminals and present and former Taliban commanders are forgiven or exempted from any kind of prosecution. They are welcomed to get their share of power in the government, but poor, petty criminals who have broken the law for reasons of poverty, hunger, unemployment or mental disorder face the extreme penalty.

The USA, the biggest supporter for Afghanistan, still has the death penalty in some States. Even there, the fairness of the death penalty is questioned by many. Most countries supporting Afghanistan (primarily European) have completely removed the death penalty.

Afghanistan should remove the death penalty and join the progressive international community, because it is so unfairly handed out as a political tool, not as punishment for crimes. But it doesn’t seem this will occur soon, since the president’s spokesperson recently announced that executions will continue in our country.

editorial assistance from Robert Maier

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Flight of thought from Afghanistan!

After hearing about the latest security situation in my country, I wanted to write some paragraphs under this title. Two suicide bomb attacks have occurred in the same week in Kabul. A fifteen year-old boy (who was accused of being a spy for the Americans) was executed by the Taliban in Himland. Kamran Meerhazar, the outstanding and controversial young Afghan journalist, has fled the country. The government has failed to take action about the influence of the Taliban and other extremist groups within the government.

I am not sure where to begin my analysis of this situation, which forces many people (especially Afghans who work for the media, cinema, and with foreign agencies and organizations) to flee the country and live, homesick, in exile.

Sometimes it really bothers us, watching day by day as Afghanistan loses the people who really want to work for development and democracy in the country. It is one of the most dangerous sicknesses, especially for a developing country, when the flight of thoughts, or in other words the flight of intellectuals, professionals, cultural activists, artists, musicians, theoreticians, scientists, writers, and journalists, begins.

The human resources of this young generation are the most valuable form of wealth for countries like Afghanistan. They are important factors in the transition from a post-conflict society towards further development. Afghanistan needs a young work force for reconstruction in all arenas.

The present generation of Afghans, working in offices in various fields, are the result of study and work opportunities in other countries, near and far. It has taken at least a decade to build them, but so far the universities, and as a whole the higher education system of Afghanistan, have not been standardized and have not been able to train and graduate well-qualified and professional people to meet the demands of human resources in the country. There is still no modern and standard higher education curriculum available in all the universities.

The chapters being taught are at least 25 years old and there is rarely access to updated information on science and technology. The government did not have a specific plan for training the new generation of cadres to start work in the near future. Statistics show that Afghanistan has a very young generation, full of work potential, that even some European countries, like Italy, cannot equal.

If the government fails to normalize the situation by strengthening different sectors of defense and interior affairs, and stopping the threats and intimidation faced by people working in the media and foreign agencies, the flight of thoughts which has already begun will be accelerated. Not only will the government itself suffer a lack of professionals in its departments, but it will cause a lack of confidence from the international community in the Afghan government, and the flight of national and international investments from the country.

The passage of time has shown that President Karzai's administration has failed in the security sector and in building confidence.

President Karzai's administration is faced with challenges on many fronts nowadays. First, the internal governmental machinery is corrupted. Bribery is an ordinary thing in different levels of the government; the appointment of provincial governors and the chief of security police are still based on the sharing of power with former Jihadists; and the narcotics industry which feeds the Taliban has survived—it has even been increased in certain parts of the country (like Hilmand, Kandahar and Zabul) where the Taliban still have power.

Seeing all this, President Karzai's administration opens offices of amnesty and forgiveness for the Taliban. It releases the Taliban who have been captured on the battle fronts or have been arrested while perpetrating terrorist attacks, doing so based only on some ethnic relation, and giving money to them as a reward.

And now, after all the exaggeration about the Taliban by media (which I think has been a free advertisement for them by the national and local television and radio stations), they are taking advantage through several tactics and measures. They are kidnapping foreigners, kidnapping journalists, torturing and killing the people working with the foreign organizations and agencies, trying to influence journalists through intimidation, and increasing the numbers of suicide attacks in cities.

The green lights that President Karzai's administration has given to the Taliban have increased the Taliban's courage. The portrayal of these events in the national and international media shows the failure of this administration.

The Taliban are now courageous enough to challenge the government by repeating their unacceptable demand to President Karzai’s administration and the international community, which is to pull out all the foreign peacekeeping troops immediately from Afghanistan.

As a result they have shown a red light to answer the green light of the government, and have demonstrated that they are still powerful and can challenge the government at any time.

The two recent suicide bomb attacks that took place in Kabul, and execution of the fifteen year-old boy by the Taliban in Hilmand, are evidence of the fact that President Karzai's administration needs to shake a leg and take the situation seriously. They should stop missing chances and act to strengthen the defense and interior affairs sectors. Otherwise, without social or personal security, the country will soon be out of national and international professionals and the human resources which make the government stable.

Yours Sincerely,

Amin Wahidi

editorial assitance from Nathan Hartle

To the victims of the latest suicide attacks in Kabul

Booooom! The horrible and terrifying sound of explosion bangs you, your ears jingle and you don’t know if you are okay or not. You see crowds rushing away and there is dust and smoke going upwards into the sky. You hear ambulance sirens followed by the vehicles of police and intelligence forces. Your own mouth hangs open; you know nothing about what is happening. You once again check your body and ask yourself, am I really completely fine?

While your ears continue to jingle and you smell smoke, dust and human blood, other people run away or wail and cry. The policemen shout to the crowd to leave and spread out, and you thank God that you were safe this time. You make your way home with uncertain steps. If there is another explosion what will happen to you, will you still be safe and alive? Who knows except God?

The images still bother you, even when you are in your bed, which should be your most comfortable and safe place. You remember the innocent women and children who had no fault and no sin, no mistake and no enmity with anyone, who were killed before your eyes just a few meters away from you. Where you could have been killed too!

You start thinking, and you think and think until the next morning arrives, but you never find a reason why these innocent people were killed or who could be responsible for this cruelty. You begin the next day with no guarantee or assurance of your safety for even a moment. How long will you live? Will another explosion hit you today? Will it hurt or kill you? God knows. This kind of life is like a house in water; at any time the flood can come and take it away and destroy it.

It is one side of the coin to be an ordinary person living in Afghanistan, but when you are an artist, a writer, a journalist, a VJ or a filmmaker you are more at risk than an ordinary person. You feel more responsibility than the ordinary men of your society. Your passion is to take your weapon, which is a pen, and use it for the welfare of the other living beings in your society. Instead of thinking only about who is responsible for these crimes, you go further and find solutions—maybe some ways to prevent and stop all this bloodshed. You come to the point of writing about it, making a play about it, or making a film about it, creating your own depiction of the cruelty of suicide attacks.

Then you have to begin building a story about it. Day and night you write, and finally you complete your story and adapt it into a screenplay, a screenplay ready to shoot! But then you need funds and support to film your written screenplay. You look for different sources to get your film funding. You think it might be better to look for it further from home, so you decide to go oversees, to another land. You travel to a land that you have never seen before, hoping to meet some people who can help you realize your thoughts and your vision, and deliver your message to your nation.

This still would not be enough. You have to advertise your film wherever possible: in your blog, on your website, in the newspapers, with your friends, on television when you have an interview, and wherever else you can reach. Then you return to your homeland with full hands, but what you receive are curses instead of rewards!

You are faced with terror, with intimidation, with the threat of death! This is the end, you think. You have lost everything: your family, your home, your people, your comfort, your wealth, your life...But in the dark, when everyone else is asleep and you are still thinking about it, you hear a voice saying: No! Never give up! This is not the end; indeed this is the beginning of a new stage of life, a new way of living. Just keep going and going, you will obtain what you want and achieve your goals.

You are confused. Who could have told you all this? Maybe God? No! You are not a prophet, that God tells you things. Maybe it was an angel, or maybe it was your heart. But it doesn’t matter at all, because you will begin your next day full of hopes and you will take your steps more firmly. Tomorrow is brighter than today, because by then the blind-minded suicide bombers will be regretful of the wrong way they have followed and will feel the fire of hell.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

"Treasure in the Ruins" screening at Milano Film Festival

"Treasure in the Ruins" was screened in the 12th edition of the Milano Film Festival, held from Sept. 14 to 23, 2007 in Milan, Italy. After attending the EIUC summer school and Venice International Film Festival, Amin Wahidi traveled around Italy to meet with different people involved in arts and cinema.

When arrived at the Milano Film Festival on Sept. 14, the festival had already set its screening schedule weeks beforehand.

Fortunately, being a hopeful young filmmaker Wahidi was well received by the director of the festival, Mr. Beniamino Saibene, and his staff. He spent two days in the festival directors' house. Finally, his film was picked for an Aug. 16 screening in the Stranglehold Room of Milan’s Parco Sempione.

Called the Salon des Refuses, this screening area is set aside for the festival’s non-competition and late-arriving films. This part of the festival is an important platform, being within reach of unknown and underground directors.

Screening both short and feature films, the Milano Film Festival is smaller than the Venice International Film Festival in size, but is much more interesting and useful for young, lesser-known filmmakers. This year the festival was accompanied by musical performances.

Another interesting thing about the Milano Film Festival is the participation of many volunteers from different countries as helpers and facilitators. This distinguishes the Milano festival from the other ones in Italy.

Deedenow Cinema is keen to take part in future editions of this film festival by volunteering in some of the activities and sending their films (on time) to the festival.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

From Italy Back to Kabul with Enthusiasm or With Fear?

Soon I will be going back home. I think life is hard and harsh sometimes. When we face censorship, difficult sometimes. When we cannot work as we want, being threatened; sometimes when not sleeping at all the whole night because of threats and intimidation, but still very lovely and very sweet with all the harshness and difficulties in my lovely Afghanistan. And I am happy to carry new experiences to my hometown for the other young Afghan filmmakers.

The first day I arrived in Venice, Italy I was really impressed, seeing a whole city in water with ancient buildings existing from centuries back, in the same brownish color with many ships and boats and tourists in this city.

Seeing many tourists I thought it may have been nice not only for me, but maybe every new visitor would have the same feeling as me.

But after one week when I got used to the beauty of the city, I was very busy with lessons, the Venice Film Festival and did not have time for real enjoyment of the city. I still enjoyed the workshop itself, meetings with famous and well-known filmmakers of the world and the film screenings at the festival.

Later on, when I received the comment from the horrible “almujahid” on my blog and his email in my mailbox it was really a bang for me which shocked me with fear.

And thereafter I did not enjoy anything at all in Venice, except talking with my parents and family members on the phone about their safety and security.

This became a real trouble I felt, which made me a bit sad among the other participants of the workshop and led me towards loneliness and thinking in the bathroom under the shower for the rest of the days.

And now when getting ready to leave Italy back to Kabul, I break my heart into two halves, keep one half in Italy, and take the other with me back to my homeland. The one remaining in Italy will contain memories of EIUC Summer School professors, students, the directors I met in Venice Film Festival and friends I made especially there. The other part will be in my hometown, with my family, with my friends back at home in the middle of dust, fire and hardships.

Now on I have started imagining the moment when my plane will be landing in Kabul, what will exactly happen to me? Will I really be killed as soon as I arrive there? Or will I have some time more to survive and live? Well, God knows better, but I still believe that will definitely happen and nobody can escape or stop it when something is already written in my fate and predestination! May be for me it is written, death at 25 caused by writing something about the Taliban and making a film about them?!

The worst things trickle in my mind are the questions; what will happen to the rest of my plans that I already made if I die this soon? Who will take care of my family? What will happen to education of my younger brothers? Who will represent the Academy of Art of Afghanistan?

Who will manage the international coordination of young Afghan filmmakers? Of course there will be someone to do all these things instead of me one day, but how long will it take?

How many more years will be spent that all these things would shape from the beginning which already took me at least four years to reach this level?!

About my family I do not care if I die, they may less suffer because of me and my activities and my second brother will take care of the family after me. But I worry about my bigger tasks, the responsibilities that I undertook for my society for the young Afghan filmmakers, Academy of Arts, Radio television programs and many other bigger tasks.

Sometimes I go thinking, I am walking in the streets of Karte Sey right in Pol e Sorkh cross road where I get off the bus and go to my work in NDI every morning. I imagine I am in the ground floor of Maiwand Restaurant where I and Mehdi (my friend who nowadays works on a documentary about Afghan journalists in danger) sometimes went there for tea or juice drinks and discussed our film works.

Sometimes I imagine that I am in Pohanzaye Honarhaye Zeba with my friends and classmates (The Fine Arts Faculty of Kabul University) where I study cinema and theatre night shift there. But you know all imaginings are not more than blinking pictures in one’s mind, nothing else I can do except repeat them in my mind.

And now when I remember the time when I was departing from Kabul to Italy, I posted the information about our trip titled “from Kabul to Venice with message of brotherhood” and now when I am moving back towards Afghanistan I am carrying good memories of Italy but with fear of being killed.

Now let’s go back to Kabul. I am sure if I live longer when I go back, soon I will start working on my numerous projects including the important one “The Keys to paradise” for which I was already seriously threatened to death; but still no worries.

So sorry to take your time, but want to tell you what I will be doing within one to two next years;

The project proposals that I submitted to the EIUC Summer School I attended recently are short documentaries about freedom of expression titled “ Afghan Diaries.” I have a short and a feature fiction film about the suicide attacks of the Taliban for which I am still looking for co-producers.

Want to remind again that the purpose of this writing is not to talk about my self but just to let you know how difficult it is to work for freedom of expression in Afghanistan.

Although up to this moment, some questions are still unresolved for me for instance; when I know that I am threatened to death, is it not foolish to go into the fire on my own feet?

Or if I stay here in Italy will I be able to do all what I did in Kabul? Or at least will I be able to pursue my higher education here in Italy?

Therefore I want your comments and your suggestions and I again invite you to my blog. Please read it frequently and leave your comments on my writings. This, for the purpose of supporting freedom of expression in the emerging democracy of Afghanistan.

God bless you all.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Experiences at EIUC Summer School and Venice Film Festival

The EIUC Summer School on Cinema and Human Rights, held simultaneously with the Venice International Film Festival, is one of the best programs on cinema and human rights. It brings the two fields of study together for a better purpose.

Through this program people from both fields—the film industry and human rights activism—shared their ideas on how to use cinema as a tool for humanitarian purposes.

In addition to the modules taught in this summer school, participants got the chance to meet with different filmmakers, including famous ones such as Ken Loach and Penny Woolcock. It was useful to get to know in-depth their thoughts and very personal experiences in the industry.

Overall the summer school and the festival were very good experiences, especially for the young filmmakers and human rights activists of the countries participating.

Representing Afghanistan’s Deedenow Cinema, Amin Wahidi has learned so much from his summer school and has made many contacts with filmmakers attending the festival.

Deedenow Cinema is thankful to those devoted individuals and organizations that have facilitated Amin Wahidi's participation in the program, namely Robert and Kathryn Maier, George Eimemermann, and the Bayat Foundation.

The summer school was held from August 23 to September 12. The program included participants from Afghanistan, America, Bahrain, Bangladesh, France, Italy, Libera, Nepal, Sweden, Turkey, and Zambia.

At the end of the summer school the participants were given certificates.

Yours sincerely,

M. Amin Wahidi

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

These may be my last words before I die! (Amin Wahidi's will)

The Taliban are the real symbol of terror without a doubt!

First let me tell you the whole story:

When we talk of terror and intimidation, normally the images of the 9/11 attacks flash in our minds. When we hear the word “Taliban” in our daily terminology, we imagine a bearded, turbaned man beating a poor Borqa-wearing woman with a black cable while holding an AK47 on his shoulder, don’t we? Or maybe many other images of bearded, armed Taliban come to our minds.

What about the use of threats as terrorism? Have you ever heard of this? Have you ever been threatened by an unknown stranger who you have never seen, but who follows you like your shadow?

Well, I have been threatened by unknown emails and phone calls, and I don’t know why.

The latest message that I have received, from an unknown person who I think follows my activities, tells me “to dig my grave when I come back to Afghanistan.”

I do not know why. This unknown person even knows that I am outside of Afghanistan, in Italy. In his mind I became a Christian by traveling to a European country.

Why me as a target?

I think a lot, day and night, about what I have done so wrong that they threaten me. I really cannot find a point or a reason! What have I done wrong? And why me?

There are many big figures that work against the Taliban and terrorists, but I am targeted instead! Who am I? A person who wants to make a film about a Taliban suicide bomber! I am threatened just for this? Oh, I get the answer. It’s very simple! They don’t want me to make the film about the Taliban! They don’t want me to say the Taliban are bad. Indeed, they don’t want me to reveal the black face of Taliban to the world.

I found these answers for the question of why I was threatened. But what do you think I am going to do? Do you think I am going to be afraid of them? No, never! I will do my work and hopefully I will accomplish my goal. Then whatever happens, let it happen.

Because I already believe that being a filmmaker is itself a big risk!

They probably think that if they kill me, there will be no one to make a film about the Taliban, but they are wrong! There are and there will be filmmakers who want to reveal the truth.

Let me tell you more:

It began in early July this year when I received an email entitled, “it is now time to Jihad” from the address I ignored it, but later when I posted a new entry in my blog about the murders of journalists in Afghanistan, I again received a threatening comment and email. Then, when posting an entry entitled “Who Dares?”—the entry that introduced my next film, which is about a Taliban suicide bomber—I again received a comment from the same person, “Almujahid,” who was inviting me to join “real” Islam. But I again ignored it.

Once or twice I replied to him through a comment in my blog, but the latest reply I received was a bit shocking for me. It was threatening me and my family, telling me to dig my grave when I come back to Afghanistan. This stone-minded man even knew that I was outside of Afghanistan. I wonder how he knew that I am outside of Afghanistan in Italy.

To read the first message that have I received as a comment in my blog, please click the link below:

To read the second and third messages that I have received as comments in my blog, please click the link below:

I have also received emails with the same content.

I am almost lost!

Sometimes I think about my home, in my homeland where I do not feel secure. Then where in the world will I be secure? I think I am totally lost. Where I am from? From the land of violence, the land of killings and threats? Sometimes it confuses me. Most of the characters I create in my screenplays dream about their lives and try to find their desired places in their dreams. Sometimes in the past, while outside of Afghanistan, I myself used to dream of home, where I belonged. But these days, I have no idea where and what to dream about. My dreams are nightmares and frightening images of violence and intimidation come into my mind and I visualize them.

Where is my home?

I am really trying to find out the meaning of home. What is a home? Does it not mean a place where a person or a family can share all their pains and sorrows? Is it not a place where a person should feel safe? Then am I really safe when I am at my home?

As if it has been my lifestyle

Sometimes I feel it must be my lifestyle not to live in my own home, since I was advised to change my sleeping place from night to night when I didn’t feel secure.

It seems as if it is my lifestyle to stay one night in my grandparents' home per week, two nights in academy of arts per week, two nights in my uncle’s home per week and two nights in my home. Or it may be written in my fate, who knows?

Some of my colleagues who did not know about my safety problems and obstacles thought I was miser who didn’t want to spend a lot of money when I always used to come by public buses to my office. I hardly used the taxi to travel from my home to my office since I was advised to travel by public transportation, because of kidnappings and threats that we received.

Bathroom has become my thinking place these days

The only place for me to think about my unclear future is under the shower in the bathroom. I named it Andeshagah, which in Dari means "a place to think in." The only thing I can do in this situation is imprison myself under the shower in the bathroom, to get into the depths of my thoughts. What will I do next week, in two days, tomorrow, or even in two hours?

Afterwards I see I have passed hours there going over my life in-depth.

Now I want your support!

And now, I want the attention of the journalistic and free media associations of the world. I want you to reflect through the media of the world the issue of threats and intimidation against the journalists of Afghanistan. I want you to condemn the threats and intimidation made by the fundamentalists against the journalists and filmmakers of Afghanistan.

I want you to subscribe to my blog by entering your emails in the subscription box, so that you will receive each of the new articles automatically as we post them.

Visit our blog on a frequent basis. I want you all to read my articles and free media reports and leave your comments on them. I want you to give the address of my blog to everyone else interested in the media and cinema of Afghanistan.

I want you to hear our voices and reflect them to the world.

I am strongly committed to my goals

What is going to happen I do not now know, but I am still committed to accomplishing my goals. In any case I am going to do my work, make my films and deliver my message to the people of the world. As it says in Dari, "We are not the willows that tremble by these winds." I am not shocked by these threats into stopping my work, my responsibilities.

I now know why everyone tries to abandon Afghanistan

When I saw people leaving Afghanistan for other countries, I wondered why no one was patriotic and optimistic about Afghanistan. But now I can understand it.

I can feel very clearly why they are abandoning Afghanistan. I can now understand why people leave their lovely homeland to emigrate to other countries.

Where to run and for how long?

But for me, it seems very difficult to run and run my whole life to find a safer place to live in. I am confused about how much longer I am going to be in immigration or exile. I have spent about nine years of my life in immigration. How many more years am I going to be far from home? Where will I find my home? Will it be safer than my own original home? Will it accommodate me as a home? These are the questions that sometimes tinkle in my mind.

I will first accomplish my goals and then die!

But of one thing I am very sure, that first I have to consider my safety as much as possible—as said by God—and then do the things that I have set as the goals of my life. My goals are leave a trace of myself when I die, and to die only after expressing myself to others, when I have transferred my feelings and understanding of the world to others through the lens of cinema.

I want to make the films and to write the stories that I have kept for years and years in my heart, and then I may die.

When I am done with the responsibilities that I have undertaken, then I will have no fear of intimidation and threats! Thus I strictly follow my goals and try to accomplish them.

Therefore, while I am still alive and struggling for freedom of expression in Afghanistan, I will use my second blog, by the title of “Still Alive!” There you can read about my and other journalists’ obstacles as a diary.

--with editorial assistance from Nathan Hartle

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

“Treasure in the Ruins” screened for critics in Kabul

Amin Wahidi’s new film “Treasure in the Ruins” was screened for critics at the Academy of Art and Cinematic Education on Thursday, August 2, 2007.

Filmmakers and producers also attended the screening, with some guests giving speaches about the film. Attendees included Razi Mohebi, Ali Mohammadi, Soheila Mohebi, Reza Intezar, Ali Haqjo, Ali Hazara Lal, Mohammad Ali Zada, Ali Karimi, Hanif Elham and Abdul Rahim Danish, among others.

Most participants praised the film, calling it one of the best films made by a first-time filmmaker after the fall of the Taliban, and one of the best to deal with the effects of that conflict on children.

The twenty-six minute film tells the story of Homa, a seven-year-old Afghan girl who lives with her brother Homayoon and their ailing, widowed mother in the ruins of post-war Kabul. Inspired by her mother’s stories of a poor young boy’s treasure hunt, Homa goes on her own search through the wreckage for mythical riches. She finds only objects left over from the conflict. As her mother succumbs to tuberculosis from her years as a weaver, Homa burns and buries these remnants of war and destruction.

Aqela Rezayee, a leading Afghan actress who has played in films by the Makhmalbaf Film House, plays Homa’s mother. Glittering in the roles of the children are Asifa Abdul Hussaini, Azizullah Jafari and Metra Wahidi, the director’s younger sister.

Representing the cinema of Afghanistan to an international audience, the film is scheduled for screenings at the EIUC Summer School on Cinema and Human Rights and the 64th Venice International Film Festival. The Festival will be held on the Venice Lido August 29 to September 8, 2007.

Amin Wahidi plans to direct and produce two films in Afghanistan in 2008. One is a short film entitled “The Great Desire,” and the other is a 60-minute drama entitled “The Keys of Paradise.”

In addition, Wahidi’s organization Deedenow Cinema Filmmaking Production plans to produce 25 short films in 2008-2009, each running between 7 and 15 minutes, dealing with various themes and subjects.

Deedenow presents this as an opportunity for young Afghan filmmakers to get their first (or second) pictures made, and has distributed a call for screenplays. The organization also seeks international co-producers for these films.

editorial assistance- Nathan Hartle

Afghan Film officials skip “Treasure in the Ruins” premiere, threaten censorship

Officials from Afghan Films, a department of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Culture overseeing the film industry, refused an invitation to the Kabul premiere of my film “Treasure in the Ruins.”

This followed a private screening after which these officials noted several objections to the film’s portrayals of Afghan government, religion and culture, and pressured Deedenow to make cuts to certain scenes from the film. The parts objected to include sections of dialogue, as well as scenes of symbolism that I feel gives the film its strength.

Deedenow stands against misunderstanding and baseless censorship. We refuse to cut the film without logical reasons to do so. We have repeatedly extended offers of support and compromise to Afghan Films, including the organization’s president Latif Ahmadi, but Ahmadi is only interested in spreading propaganda and keeping his job.

We regret that Afghan Films, which should be operating in the service of the nation’s film industry, instead acts to discourage young filmmakers and create obstacles to their projects.

Objections to the film included our omission of the spoken name of Allah at the beginning of the film, which the Afghan Films board of review states should precede all films. Instead of Allah’s name, the film opens with the barking of a dog. The board unofficially accused us of insulting Islam with this replacement, but has not yet taken official action.

Afghan Films also objected to a scene in which a soldier guarding the Darull Amaan Palace considers allowing the film’s young female protagonist inside to search for treasure. The board stated that the scene portrays weakness in the Afghan police and military, and therefore should be cut.

A third scene, in which the same young girl buries a number of military badges and metals and burns a picture of former kings, was thought to be insulting to Afghanistan’s national pride and symbols. This is not the case.

Attendance at the film’s premiere numbered more than a hundred, and included filmmakers, critics, artists and media activists, as well as journalists from various publications and television stations. Deedenow is seeking more exposure for the film, sending it to international film festivals as well as screening it within Afghanistan. We will continue to screen the film and stand up for our freedom of speech.

I will write about the corruption within the Afghan film industry in my next article. In this lies the real struggle.

-with editoral assistance from Nathan Hartle

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who Dares?!!

Poster for "The Keys to Paradise" which will be produced by Deedenow Cinema in 2008

Who dares to invest on a controversial but necessary film in Afghanistan?

Following the production of “Treasure in the ruins” Deedenow Cinema Filmmaking Production is announcing its second film project for the investors and producers who are interested to invest on it.

The screenplay is written by M. Amin Wahidi and tends to depict the ideology and thoughts which are beyond the moral of suicide bombing of the young religious scholars in Afghanistan and the young religious students of Pakistan being convinced to be sent to Afghanistan for suicide attacks.

Film Title: The Keys to Paradise
Subject: Depicting the last 24 hours of life of A Taliban Suicide Bomber Mullah who in the last minute decides no to suicide himself.
Screenplay writer: Mohammad Amin Wahidi
Director: Mohammad Amin Wahidi
Production name: Deedenow Cinema Filmmaking Production ® - Afghanistan
Screenplay length: 45 pages
Film runtime: 60 minutes
Format: HD Digital
Screenplay language: Dari (Farsi)
Film language: Dari and Pashto
Status: The project has not begin yet (not funded yet)
Estimated budget: XXXXXX USD
Shooting locations: Kabul and its suburb, Maidan Wardak and Logar province
Cast and crew:
Screenplay writer & Director: Mohammad Amin Wahidi

The Keys to Paradise

(Depicting the last minutes of live of a Taliban Suicide Bomber)

Taufeq is a twenty five year old mullah who has studied in a religious Madrasa in Pakistan and now after he has returned to Afghanistan, lives with his mother and runs a small Madrasa teaching the children and teens religious studies, in his village.
His father has been killed in an air attack of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and so he is the only supporter for his mother. Taufeq is to suicide himself attacking the foreign troops; as per invitation of his master from Pakistan and for the purpose of going to the paradise. There are other certain reasons for this decision; when the governmental civilian schools are build in the village, less people refer to his Madrasa, and in these days he got only a few children referring to his Madrasa, he has some keys from his Master Mullah that are the keys to the Paradise in his belief and with which he can enter the paradise. The revenge of his father, this year’s drought and agricultural damages, and diseases their livestock dies because of, all are surrounding Taufeq very badly. He lives with his memories about his Madrasa in Pakistan. He has two important things in his daily life, an old radio with which he listens to the news about the Taliban and his father’s grave which he talks at nights with on daily basis. Hearing the news about killing of the Taliban, his angers increase day by day. At night he has nightmares seeing the foreign troops deriding, and annoying him or dreaming the scene when his father was killed.

A selected scene for "The Keys to Paradise"
Finally Taufeq is to select a way to release from all these disasters.
He accepts the invitation of his Master Mullah and takes a two days hidden training how to suicide himself. He tells nothing about it to his mother. The day comes when he is ready to go, without telling his mother where he is going but his mother already realized where he is going.

His mother wails, losing the only supporter, but for Taufeq the paradise and the promises of his master are more important. He is well- determined to accomplish the mission but he has no idea where to suicide himself, in a hospital? In a school, in a bazaar, or with the foreign forces? All his way from home to the main bazaar thinking about the paradise suddenly he sees some real scenes of the innocent people of the village; people being treated in the hospitals of the town, children going to school happily and an old woman as his mother, in this time he hears a bomb blast far away from him, soon after that the news comes that a best friend of his childhood who was returning from Europe to Afghanistan is being killed in that suicide bomb blast. Hearing this news and imaging his mother’s loneliness losing his power to move towards blasting himself, throwing away his ammunitions and the keys that he assumed to be the keys to paradise, saying this sentence “my homeland is my paradise” Taufeq goes back to embrace his mother while has lost his best friend for ever. It is sad to lose the best friend of childhood for ever but it is still pleasant when changing mind for a nicer and better decision!

Background; why this subject?!!

Lately a fourteen year old Pakistani boy was caught by the Afghan Security forces in Khost province that was going to blast himself in a suicide attack on Khost governor and then was forgiven and released by President Karzai for his was just a child and was misled and misused by the Terrorists. In the last three years in Afghanistan, the idea of suicide attacks on the foreigners has a rapidly growth among the young religious students who blindly follow this path believing this action as a mean for them towards paradise and long prosperity. Al though this idea is not a product of Afghanistan itself and is an imported strategy from the extremists and fundamentalists of Pakistan, but has been very vastly prevalent basically among the youth who suffer from poverty and is misled in their lessons in the southern regions of Afghanistan.
Basically for the fundamentalists and extremists misled religious groups and leaders, ideological war has become the most successful mean to reach their goals. This ideological war which means; taking advantages and benefits from the emotions, thoughts and believes of others has been very successful to grow by conquering the hearts, thoughts and beliefs of the young inexperienced blind religious students in Madrasas. Besides, they teach the youth in Madrasas about Jihad (The Holy war) they give them keys saying that they are the keys to paradise thus these keys are found with the suicide bombers. Showing them colorful dreams and imaginations the fundamentalists promise and encourage the unexercised youth for a better real life.

The reason beyond these suicide attack are not yet been analyzed that why suicide?! The cinema and film production can d epict the scope of this action and its consequences.
As the reports say: there have been more than 150 suicide attackers in different provinces of Afghanistan, only in the year 2006 but except some short TV spots there have been no movies and films produced depicting this important reality of Afghanistan in a fiction / feature structure.

Therefore this subject is a very new and fresh idea about the current situation of Afghanistan while the focus of international community and the UN is to know what exactly is going on here in Afghanistan. Here are the filmmakers who can play role of bridge between Afghanistan and the International Community that didn’t really happened yet.
Wish success for the interested productions / individuals who want to invest on this project in Afghanistan.

To invest on this Afghan controversial film please contact us as below and we welcome you to Deedenow Cinema:

Postal address:
P.O.Box number: 1477, Kabul Central Post Office, Kabul Afghanistan

Treasure in the ruins on screen!

FA special screening of “Treasure in the ruins” for the film critics in Kabul

“Treasure in the ruins” a short film lately made by Amin Wahidi was screened in a special and friendly session for film critics in Academy of Art and Cinematic Education on Thursday August 02 2007.

In this session famous Afghan filmmakers like; Razi Mohebi, Ali Mohammadi, Soheila Mohebi, Reza Intezar, Ali Haqjo, Ali Hazara Lal Mohammad Ali Zada, famous Afghan film critic; Ali Karimi, television producers like; Hanif Elham, Abdul Rahim Danish and other guests were present in this session some of whom talked on the film.

Most of the participants praised this film as one of the best Afghan films made after the Taliban with the subject of post conflict children and one of the best first films of young filmmakers.

This short film depicts the story of a seven years old curious little Afghan girl who looks for treasure in the ruins of Kabul.
Homa goes to school in the morning and weaves carpet in the evening together with his brother Homayoon.
Her sick mother tells her different legends and stories including one about a poor boy and the treasure in the ruins. Hearing the legend of the poor boy and treasures Homa looks for treasure in the ruin buildings of Kabul and what she finds are all the items of war and destruction. At the end Homa’s mother dies of Tuberculoses for weaving carpet for years and years and Homa burns and buries the items she has found from the ruins.

Aqeela Rezayee actress of Makhmalbaf Film House

Playing roles in some of Makhmalbaf Film House films Aqela Rezayee a leading Afghan actress has the role of Homa’s sick mother in this film. Asifa Abdul Hussaini, Metra Wahidi (director’s youngest sister) and Azizullah Jafari are the three child actors who have glittered very well in this film.

Azizullaha Jafari as Homayoon and Asifa as Homa

Meetra Wahidi ( director's sister) as Azada and Saima Jafari as Fatima
Representing Afghanistan this short film is to be screened in the EIUC Summer School on Cinema and Human Rights and the 64th Venice International Film Festival of Italy held in August- Sep 2007 among the filmmakers of the world.

It is to say that Amin Wahidi plans to direct and produce two films in the year 2008; a short fiction and a feature film. The short one is a fiction titled; “The great desire” and the second one is a feature film titled “Keys to the paradise” both of which will be produced in Afghanistan in the coming year.

A selected scene for "The Keys to Paradise"

In addition to these two films; Deedenow Cinema Filmmaking Production has planned to produce 25 short fiction films (with 7 – 15 minutes runtime) with different themes and subjects in 2008- 2009.

This would be a great opportunity for the young Afghan filmmakers who are going to shoot their first or second films.

The call for screenplay is already written and distributed.

Amin Wahidi is looking for international co-producers for these projects of the short Afghan films to be produced in 2008- 2009.