Kabul International Film Festival returns to Afghanistan

14 Jul 2009

Kabul International Film Festival returns to Afghanistan

KABUL - It might not quite be in the league of Cannes or even Sundance, but Kabul's International Documentary and Short Film Festival is set to create a flutter among the city's cinema-lovers.

Starting 18 July, organizers will screen more than 50 films from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, France, Great Britain, and Iran, to name a few, in a bid to attract as many people into screening venues during the six-day-long event.

But it's not only movie-buffs who are excited. Engineer Ahmed Latif, one of Afghanistan's most respected film directors, who is also the festival director, is confident that this year's selection will win over audiences, especially the 27 Afghan films that are to be screened.

"I've watched the films. I’m proud because they are so good," he says passionately, as he gesticulates with his hands. "I am also hopeful for the future of cinema in Afghanistan. This is because the young generation (of Afghan film-makers) are looking at cinema very deeply...I have participated at different festivals in the world. When I compare our films to theirs, I find that our films are of a high level."

Beyond providing audiences good quality cinema, there is, however, a bigger goal: by inviting film-makers from Pakistan, Iran, India and Tajikistan, the organizers, through the medium of art, popular culture, and films, hope to build new bridges and break old boundaries between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

"The aim of the festival is to solve problems between boundaries. We have the ability to do this and we must build good relations with our neighbours. This is very important for us," says Mr Latif.

Planning such an event, according to organizers, is no easy task. Especially, they say, when encumbered by constrains such as small budgets. When this is compounded with the need to change perceptions and " show that our culture and heritage is rich", at a time when all the West hears about Afghanistan is security concerns, explosions and the drugs trade, there's a sense of pride and a definite purpose to this event.

"As you know, in the world, including the neighbouring countries, have their cultural programmes, which includes film festivals and so we would like to have this festival in an even better way this year," Basir Hamidi, one of the coordinator's of the Kabul film festival, told UNAMA.

Mr Latif concurs on the need to present a different, but real, picture about his country. "Through cinema we can realize all our goals, messages, and wishes. For reality, we can show the world what is going on in Afghanistan. What the film-makers are thinking right now. I’m happy that there are no blocks. Their minds are open. Film-makers are thinking independently without censorship. These images are so good for that," he adds.

The 4th Kabul International Documentary and Short Film Festival opens to the public from 18 July to 23 July 2009. Films by Jamil Jala, Shoresh Kalantari, and Yasin Haidari, among others, will be screened at select locations across Kabul.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA