What We Left Unfinished
Latif Ahmadi, Jawanshir Haidari, Asadollah Aram,
From 1996 to 2002, the negatives of the Afghan Film Archive were bricked up behind a poster of Mullah Omar. In 2013, director Mariam Ghani gained access to this archive and found several unfinished films made between 1978 and 1991. From the literal buried treasures of the films themselves—excerpts from which whet the appetite for more—to interviews with the filmmakers, who tell stories of using real bullets and dangerous explosives, this astute, entertaining, and illuminating documentary tracks a portion of Afghan film history through the lens of the country’s complicated political history.
“It is not simple to work with an archive in a country like Afghanistan, where books, films, and monuments are all subject to burning; stupas are looted and statues shattered; and sites sacred for one reason or another are eroded by both natural and human disasters. Understandably, Afghans are wary of anyone who proposes to ‘mine’ any cultural resource they still possess. If you want to work with an Afghan archive, therefore, you cannot address your desires to it directly. You must sidle up to it sideways, as if approaching a horse with an uncertain temper. You must turn up your palms and turn out your pockets to demonstrate the purity of your motives. You must persuade it to yield its secrets, slowly and obliquely. Above all, you must try to understand what the archive desires of you. You cannot hope to extract anything from the archive without giving something back.”—Mariam Ghani