A powerful panel to discuss the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and the role the artistic community can play in increasing awareness was held at the Venice Film Festival this afternoon. It was notably attended by Afghan filmmakers Sahraa Karimi and Sahra Mani. The former is the first woman president of the Afghan Film Organisation and author of the recent appeal for support from cinema communities around the world as her country falls to the Taliban insurgency. Mani (A Thousand Girls Like Me) is a documentary filmmaker who is presenting her latest project at the CoProduction Market in here on the Lido.
Both women described the situation leading up to the Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan in August and made impassioned pleas to the film community to help their voices to be heard.
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Said Karimi, “Imagine, Sunday August 15 you start your normal day, but a few hours later you decide the most difficult decision of your life — stay or leave — you see the collapse of your dream, you country. It’s not just about me or other filmmakers, it’s about the younger generation of filmmakers.”
She added, “Now Kabul and other big cities are dead cities. Within two weeks, the most promising young people, they just left. The most talented, educated, bright minds…
Imagine a country without artists, without filmmakers. How can it defend its identity?”
The Taliban, said Karimi, “is trying to show the soft face of themselves, but now they are as cruel as before, but they are more smart than before using modern communication technology. They will use cinema or audio-visual product for propaganda.”
The filmmaker asked the international film community “to be our voices. All of you, don’t forget about Afghanistan. We have talent, we are hardworking, we have stories to tell to the world. We can be part of the world community… we tried so much, we shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Karimi didn’t come to Venice with solutions or seeking financial support. Instead, she said she was asking for “intellectual support, something that gives us hope that we don’t feel that we are going to die. Support for the Afghan people because we deserve to live in peace, in calm society and we deserve to fulfill our dreams.”
Mani recounted that the Taliban “arrested a musician and shot him to death because he played a musical instrument. We are not 100 years ago. It’s shameful for us in any corner of the world if someone got killed for playing a musical instrument.”
Today, she said, “it is my misery, my people lose everything. Who knows if tomorrow they come to the rest of the world or not? This is an important question for all of us to ask.”