Mariam Ghani: WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED
7 Nov 2019
5:00PM - 7:00PM
260 W 23rd St
New York, NY
NYC PREMIERE In this artfully constructed project, a set of unfinished films commissioned by the state during communist-era Afghanistan revisits a nation that only existed in celluloid. Recovered reels, accompanied by the reflections of filmmakers, actors and critics, reveal genre films whose stories of love, war and history offer great insight into the heartbeat of a film industry that tried to persevere from one coup to another, and under the ever-watchful eye of government censors.
WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED tells the incredible and mostly true story of five unfinished feature films from the Communist era in Afghanistan (1978-1991) – when films were weapons, filmmakers became targets, and the dreams of constantly shifting political regimes merged with the stories told onscreen. It is also a story about a tight-knit group of Afghan filmmakers who loved cinema enough to risk their lives for art. Despite government interference, censorship boards, scarce resources, armed opposition, and near-constant threats of arrest and even death, they made films that were subversive and, in the filmmakers’ opinions, always “true” to life. All five films – THE APRIL REVOLUTION (1978), DOWNFALL (1987), THE BLACK DIAMOND (1989), WRONG WAY (1990), and AGENT (1991) – completed principal photography before being canceled by the state or abandoned by the filmmakers. Never edited, they escaped the final censors’ cut. And while all five films are fictional, they each record some aspect of the period.
WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED brings together the newly rediscovered and restored footage from these lost films with present-day interviews that reveal the behind-the-scenes stories of the filmmakers (including directors, actors, and crew members who often swapped roles), and new footage shot in the same locations by some of the same directors and cinematographers. Just as the original filmmakers did when they shot action scenes with real bullets, hired ex-agents to play spies, or restaged the Communist coup d’état with the army, air force, and an awful lot of tanks and missiles, WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED interweaves histories and fictions. We call on the filmmakers to explain how their fictions were constructed, how much truth was in these fictions and how true they sometimes became in their making. And ultimately, we come to understand both the price paid by Afghan filmmakers for the benefits they gained under Communism and the reasons they persisted despite the risks they faced –and why they still believe that film could save Afghanistan from the divisions tearing it apart today.
Directed + produced by Mariam Ghani.
Image courtesy of the event organizer.
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