Through Afghan Eyes
Lights, Cameras, Action! Kabul threw security barriers and cultural differences aside as the city’s glitterati and literati gathered to experience a magical night of film during ‘Afghan Visions’.
This first-time nighttime event featured 14 short films of 12 minutes each all created by Afghan filmmakers. Held outdoors under a starry sky in Kabul’s famous Mogul-era Babur Gardens, guests thronged to watch creative and poignant films produced to give voice and vision to the over-riding theme: “countering extremist voices.”
Hosted by Cetena Group, a leading media, marketing and design company, and funded by the US Department of State, ‘Afghan Visions’, through film, sought to decrease the influence of insurgent and extremist communications whilst highlighting how reform, unity, and partnership among the Afghan people will lead to a better Afghanistan. What we, the audience, saw on the night, was only the very tip of the iceberg. ‘Afghan Visions’ has been a long time in the making, and involved the efforts of hundreds of creative, visionary, and dedicated filmmakers, writers, technicians, actors, and teachers.
Late last year, Cetena Group released a solicitation for the production of short films via Peace Divided Trust’s business portal and others, and received approximately 30 short film proposals and budgets. After a discerning shortlist process, 11 film projection companies were awarded contracts for the production of the 14 films screened at the event.
Event organisers decided on the use of short films as a means of communication, as they best target the younger Afghan generation who already watch a lot of TV, and are more readily influenced by messaging – both positive and negative. The production brief was for the films to focus on positive achievements and the clever promotion of Afghan identity and how this contributes to a sense of national unity and pride. The films depicted everyday Afghan life, in an entertaining, heart-felt, and sometimes humourous manner.
Cetena Group greatly helped build the capacity of the fledgling film production entities, most of whom were young and inexperienced organisations. In addition to actual production, subtitling, and editing technical assistance, Cetena staff assisted the filmmakers in building timelines, setting production budgets, and maintaining thorough job accounts.
Whereas making a film about and in Afghanistan was an impossibility no that long ago, the support of Cetena Group, and dedicted film -mentoring organisations such as Afghan Voices and Community Supported Film, are helping make film a real and viable occupation in today’s Afghanistan.
These important short films gave an insight to Afghan life, every day issues, and relationships that those of us living and working here rarely get a chance to see. As the sun set behind the mountains that adorn Kabul’s rustic old quarter, and as the credits rolled, those of us lucky enough to attend ‘Afghan Visions’ were given the rare opportunity to see Afghanistan through Afghan eyes.