This blog aims to highlight issues and information that don't always make it into the mainstream media. Recognising that comment is cheap, wherever possible it will link you directly to documents and sources that are mentioned in the text.
I realised some time ago that it was impossible to write about Afghanistan without writing about Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. With that in mind, the reader will come across articles that, while not specifically about Afghanistan, in some way shed light on the conflict.
The Afghanistan Times Daily website reports on the fact that the continuing survival of the Afghan National Film Archive, consisting of around 2,000 canisters containing the only known copies of some Afghan films and documentaries, remains precarious. It has almost burnt down twice in the past decade. First it was the Taliban government that tried to burn the films and turn the building into a weapons museum. The archivists risked their lives hiding the precious films in ceilings, airducts and hidden cupboards. I saw examples of the same bravery myself early in 2002 when I visited Kabul. Staff at the National Art Gallery had hidden paintings or, in some cases, painted over human figures in some works and turned them into landscapes, in order not to offend the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islam and to preserve valued artworks for a future generation. The second attack on the Afghan National Film Archive happened recently when Taliban insurgents came within an ace of blowing up the entire building after setting off a car bomb targetting NATO troops at a nearby military base. In recent years things have improved at the Archives. The archivists' initial attempts to make digital copies of the films were hampered by the lack of an editing table.The French offered to house the collection, but that proved impossible because of Afghan worries about the chance of the archive getting lost in transit. Eventually the Spanish national archive provided a film editing machine and the staff now hope all the film will be digitized in about two years time. The article goes on to mention a lot of films made by Afghan directors, mostly outside the country. They include: the Shirin Gul-o-Shir Agha trilogy made in Russia, Foreign Land, Sheraghai Daghalbaaz, In The Wrong Hands,Shade of Fire, Three Friends, Shekast-e-Ishq (made in Pakistan), Aftaab-e-Bighroob (made in Tajikistan) and Kidnapping (made in Germany). Also mentioned are Academy-Award submission Fire Dancer and the French film Khakestar-o-Khak. Anyone seen any of these? You can read a brief history of the Afghan film industry and brief reviews of many of these films here.