Afghan film-maker turns camera on her own escape from Kabul

She joined other directors to plead for safe passage from Afghanistan for people fleeing the Taliban

Prize-winning director Sahraa Karimi plans to make a film about her flight from Afghanistan.

She said the Taliban’s return to power had sparked fear among the country’s creative sector of a return to a ban on television.

“I was in the middle of production on my second film. It was a normal, ordinary day. Everything was normal. And then, within a few hours, everything collapsed,” she said.

“I’m a filmmaker. The only way, at least for a while, to forget this trauma that I experienced is to write [about] it and to make it into a film.”

Karimi joined other Afghan film-makers to plead for safe passage for people fleeing the Taliban.

“People only saw the bigger story, of the crowds. But there were many individual stories in those crowds, stories I saw myself, that I experienced.

“The response of the American army, which was very bad, the desperation of people who grabbed the wheels of planes as they tried to lift off. I will tell their stories. My film will look at what happened from different sides.”

Karimi is president of the Afghan Film Organisation, the first woman to hold the role.

Her 2009 film Afghan Women behind the Wheel won awards at major international film festivals, including those of Slovakia and Dhaka, in 2009.

She also directed the film Hava, Maryam, Ayesha, which had its premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

In a return to Venice this year, she played footage she of her escape, running through Kabul to the family home where she was able to gather relatives and head to the airport.

Karimi holds Afghan and Slovakian citizenship. Turkey, Ukraine and Slovakia all helped her escape, but many film-makers were left behind.

Karimi joined Afghan documentary filmmaker Sahra Mani in calling for help from the international film community.

They want cultural groups such as the European Film Academy to push governments to help artists leave Afghanistan as refugees.

“The international film community doesn’t realise the power they have. People love actors and actresses and filmmakers. People love cinema,” Karimi said.

“They can be very strong voices for solidarity with Afghan filmmakers and Afghanistan. If they decide to be the voice for Afghanistan and to protect Afghanistan – Afghan women, Afghan filmmakers – it will work.”

Updated: September 8th 2021, 2:46 PM
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