08 July 2004

Film Documentary Captures Optimistic Spirit of Afghanistan

"Afghanistan, the Lost Truth" directed by Iranian Yassamin Maleknasr

By Erin Block
Washington File Writer

Washington -- Yassamin Maleknasr, an Iranian filmmaker who traveled across Afghanistan in the spring of 2002, has produced a documentary that shows an Afghanistan that is much more than war, poverty and dislocation.

The opening of Afghanistan, The Lost Truth shows Afghans celebrating with music and dance. The documentary reveals that theater groups, music, dance, poetry and bookstores have found their way back into the Afghan culture.

"I wanted for the first time to give my microphone to the people of Afghanistan," she said at a screening of the documentary in Washington July 8.

"It's about the Afghan people you will never see," she said. "I wanted them to talk instead of others telling their story for them."

She said the resurgence of art in Afghanistan is a characteristic of a self-propelled society.

Maleknasr shot the film in the spring of 2002 when Afghans were first realizing their freedom after the toppling of the Taliban regime.

Despite years of oppression, the movie shows Afghans optimistic for a peaceful future.

Maleknasr interviewed a diverse group of men and women, including students, teachers, doctors and artists.

The legacy of the last 23 years of war is understood through images of the wounded, vivid reminders that Afghanistan continues to be the most heavily mined country in the world.

The film also shows the beneficial effects on education, particularly for women. One woman, age 20, was restarting seventh grade. This was the level at which she was studying when the Taliban stopped women from obtaining an education. Others like her might not finish school until their late 20s because of the lost time.

Maleknasr continuously asked Afghan women, young and old, what they would like to be.

The replies varied, with doctor, lawyer, journalist, engineer and teacher among the most common. One Afghan woman said that she would probably be a teacher or doctor, but that was only because she could not be a pilot.

Another younger woman said that during Taliban rule she was ashamed to say that she was Afghan, but now she would like to serve her country however possible.

The film also asked Afghans what they would like for their country. One woman, a teacher, expressed the hope that her country would be "free and peaceful. No wars."

The movie has been shown in Afghan schools and the Afghan foreign ministry and before Afghan-American audiences in the United States.

"In Los Angeles, I received a 10-minute standing ovation, which for me is bigger than anything anyone could have given me," said Maleknasr.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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