Mohammad N Ehsani-Kabul Film
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Telephone: 93 (0) 70 275341
Born in Waras, Bamyan Province, Ehsani fled with his family to Iran at the age of seven. It was in Teheran that he and a group of other artists gathered together and, thinking about the future, made a plan for the time when peace would be restored in Afghanistan. ‘For an artist, the Taliban era was a time when the film field was empty, even in Kabul, and because of the years of war the arts community was like the walking dead. The ideas of the Taliban should be documented for future generations.’
So Ehsani and his friends decided that cinema would be the vehicle for telling the story. By luck 20 Afghans were able to study for two years with Iranian filmmakers. Their first series of 26 short films was aimed at alleviating the conflicts between the Iranian hosts and the thousands of Afghan refugees and promoting good relations. Thirteen of these were broadcast on Iranian television and spoke of the problems faced by the refugees, especially the women and children, in a new country. Specialists in their field wrote 13 others, which were about culture and the arts in Afghanistan.
After September 11, not knowing would happen, they decided to return to Kabul and film history in the making. ‘It was the same as Paris or Rome after the end of World War ll. Everyone in the world knew Kabul and the fighting, killing and bleeding there. But we wanted to show the world progress, to make films on the development of the country and the good features of Afghanistan, in order to encourage visitors. It is not necessary to speak. It is better to do something. You work, something happens and then you can’t stop the train from moving.’
It was easy to get a licence and Kabul Film was the first film company to be set up. The difficult part was the resistance from the people. With few cinemas and a history that said that only illiterate voyeurs go to watch films, the culture of film-going was non-existent among the vast majority of Afghan people. Rozi Mohebee, filmmaker with Kabul Film says, ‘If great directors come to Afghanistan and make high-quality films the people will think differently about cinema. There are millions of untold stories in the hearts of the young of Afghanistan and they need to tell them. If these directors tell the stories of the Afghans my people will watch the films and become aware of their history. The world will know about us.’ The landscapes of Afghanistan, from deserts to mountains, are indeed stunning. Here Hollywood or Bollywood can find any type of scenery they need, except for the modern city.
With the recommendation of Iranian filmmaker Makmalbaf, three films went into production in Summer 2003, helmed by Kabul-_base_d directors Uzra Jafari, Mohebee and Abdul Malik Shafa e respectively. One will tell the story of women’s strength during the war. Says Shafa e, ‘We live in a small world and all people are connected. In order to make this small world beautiful we need to make films about the hope for our people. We can make films about the disaster of Afghanistan later.’
‘There are so many things that need to be done in the world of Afghan films, and we want to help the youth of Afghanistan to learn this art so they can heal the country’, adds 29-year-old Mohebee.