‘Taliban Are as Cruel as Before but They Are More Smart Now’: Afghanistan Filmmakers Make Emotional Plea for Support at Venice

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Women filmmakers from Afghanistan made a powerful and emotional plea for international intellectual support at a panel at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.

Fighting back tears, Sahraa Karimi, who wrote a hard-hitting open letter about the impact of her country being taken over again by the Taliban, did not mince her words about the current situation in the country.

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“The Taliban is trying to show the soft face of themselves – they are as cruel as before, but they are more smart now, because they are using modern communication technology. They will even use the cinema or or any kind of audio-visual products for propaganda,” Karimi said.

“I thought that the world should know about us, especially artists, because artists they can feel, what does it mean to live in dictatorship,” Karimi added. “In the 21st century there is a group of people coming to your country from nowhere and telling you that music is forbidden, cinema is forbidden, artistic work is forbidden, and female artists are just someone who should go to a corner and be isolated.”

“We don’t want it my generation. So for that, we ask for help for support to be our voices.” Karimi said.

Karimi said that there are a thousand promising young filmmakers in Afghanistan who are in hiding and have deleted their Facebook and other social media accounts because they are in danger from the Taliban-controlled communications ministry.

“I didn’t come here to give a solution, I ask for support,” added Karimi. “It is not any financial support. It is intellectual support – something that gives us hope that you don’t feel that we are going to die.”

Karimi’s fellow Afghan filmmaker Sahra Mani, whose music-themed project “Kabul Melody” is at the Venice gap financing market, spoke about the systematic eradication of music that has already begun under the Taliban, with a musician being executed for playing an instrument. She said that a generation of youth were educated in the arts, but that is not the case now.

“I’m thinking that that the next few generations, maybe the Taliban will educate them to become terrorists – and it’s a warning sign for the rest of the world,” Mani said. “Please raise our voice. And please talk about this situation in Afghanistan.”

Elsewhere, the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), which was launched a year ago at Venice, reiterated support for the cause of filmmakers from Afghanistan. The ICFR’s Vanja Kaludjercic, who is also the director of the International Film Festival, Rotterdam, said that the organization is helping through advocacy and emergency financial grants.

European Film Academy chair Mike Downey revealed that some 270 Afghan filmmakers, from a list of 800 made by the organization, who had managed to escape the country, have found shelter in France, with the French government prepared to accept the rest, should they manage to get out.

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