Kabul through the looking glass

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A small but determined band of Afghan filmmakers is fighting the odds to tell their stories and reclaim their country, finds Sunaina Kumar

Nargis Azaryun, 19

Photos: Anders Somme Hammer

Sadaf Fetrat, 20

Sahar Fetrat16

THE CAMERA follows the three girls as they idle time in a mall, and do what girls will do. One is eating a chocolate donut and the other is lining her eyes. They are discussing a new restaurant. As they step out from the bright lights of the mall, the setting alters dramatically, but it remains familiar. The dusty streets, the buildings reduced to rubble, the mud walls, is Kabul as we know it from news bulletins across the world. The juxtaposition of the two sights, everyday civilian life, and on the other hand, the after-effects of war, makes the viewing of the documentary Kabul Cards a disjointing experience. Made by three young women, Nargis Azaryun, Sadaf Fetrat and Sahar Fetrat, the 17-minute film was screened at the recent Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). It is a work of fledgling feminism; the women interview people on the streets of Kabul with a handheld camera, film a protest march against the harassment of women and highlight the first feminist newspaper of the city.

Sahar Fetrat says in an impassioned voice, “If women in other societies can be free, then we need to affect that change in Afghanistan. We are ready to step up for the revolution and even if we have to pay for it with our lives, it will be worthwhile.” The fiery speech on women’s rights from a 16-year-old is unexpected. “As Afghani women, we have to fight for our rights from the moment we are born, which is why most women from Afghanistan seem much older than their age,” explains Nargis, 19, a law student, an activist and a filmmaker. Twenty-year-old Sadaf is a student, a drummer in a rock band, a filmmaker and a volunteer with an NGO. For young Afghans, it is not enough to do just one thing, they must do more to make up for lost time. Sahar, Sadaf and Nargis were in Mumbai for ‘Kabul Fresh’, a focus on the emerging cinema of Afghanistan at the festival.

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