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Film preservation is a challenge all over the world, but on this scale of crisis Afghanistan ranks near the very top.
The mini boom in film production that followed the establishment of the state Afghan Film organization in 1965 came to an end with the ascension of the Taliban, which viewed cinema as Western culture that needed to be expunged.
The country’s film history might well have been lost forever, if not for the brave custodians who risked their lives to conceal films from the regime.
In A Flickering Truth, we meet the dedicated cinephiles who are now excavating, preserving, and restoring thousands of hours of film footage, both drama and documentary, from Afghanistan’s cinematic past.
The effort is led by Ibrahim Arify, who had been jailed for filmmaking under the Mujahedeen and fled the country to start a new life in Germany.
Now, he has returned to rebuild Afghan Film and help bring a sense of order to a country where resources are scarce and needs are great.
The heart of the organization is the elderly Uncle Isaaq Yousif, who was orphaned at age thirteen and has lived on the archive’s premises for thirty-one years. Isaaq considers the archives to be his family, and now bears witness as ever more cinematic treasures are unearthed.
Director Pietra Brettkelly follows the archivists as they continue to struggle during the post-Taliban era, where suicide bombers continue to target anything with Western associations.
As the caretakers thread old projectors with film from unmarked reels, the country’s history comes alive with images of former leaders, beloved actresses, and landmarks that have since been destroyed.
A Flickering Truth is a testament to the urgency and necessity of film preservation.
Festivals – A FLICKERING TRUTH
Venice Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Luxembourg City Film Festival
Cinema du Reel, Paris
Vancouver International Film Festival
Hong Kong International Film Festival
Golden Dragon Film Festival Taipei, Taiwan
Warsaw Film Festival, Poland
Gothenburg Film Festival, Sweden
Tempo Dokumentari Festival, Sweden
Reykjavik International Film Festival, Iceland
Melbourne International Film Festival
Sydney International Film Festival
New Zealand International Film Festival
Margaret Mead Film Festival – American Museum of Natural History, New York
Bergen International Film Festival, Norway
Best Documentary, Warsaw Film Festival, Poland
Best Documentary, Women in Film, United States
Best Feature Documentary, Karama Human Rights Film Festival, Jordan