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