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Film Industry Returns to Afghanistan

  • Ira Mellman

A scene from the Afghan movie, Black Tulip, released on 23 Sept 2010 (Dave McFarland)

A scene from the Afghan movie, Black Tulip, released on 23 Sept 2010 (Dave McFarland)

Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul was the scene Thursday of something that hasn’t happened there in quite some time.

It was the premiere of a motion picture about Afghanistan, filmed in Afghanistan

Just a few months ago the busy street outside of Kabul’s Ariana Cinema was the scene of a pitched battle when suicide bombers blew themselves up in a coordinated attack on the center of the Afghani capital.

Thursday, people flocked to the Ariana to attend the premier of 'Black Tulip,' a movie conceived and directed by Afghanistan native Sonia Nassery Cole.

The movie explores the struggles of a Kabul family that sets up an open mirophone poetry corner in the city after the ouster of the Taliban government in 2001.

'Black Tulip' was partially filmed in Afghanistan amid the war waging around it.

Cole knew it would be dangerous, and it was. Reports detail that two weeks before filming was scheduled to begin, militants located her leading actress and cut off both of her feet. Not able to find a replacement, Cole decided to fill the role herself. She is not an actress. In fact, she is the chairman and founder of the Afghanistan World Foundation, a charity dealing with the plight of refugees along with women’s rights.

Now, her film has been submitted by Afghanistan as a possible Academy Award winner for best foreign film in the Oscar competition.

Cole says she has already been rewarded.

"Oh my God, I want an Oscar. I came here in the middle of the war, shot a movie and nobody got hurt. I made it back home alive and brought it back here and here everybody is watching it tonight. That is my Oscar. If the Oscars would be gracious enough to nominate this film and win something it will be a win for my country, for Afghanistan."

Cole says in making the film, she didn’t want to focus on just the war. She said “I wanted to tell a real story about the people who dream and who hope the way we do."

How was the film received?

Afghan film maker Mahmood Hashimi was in the audience. He said “"The movie is incredible in general, it is a great production and interesting and it keeps you interested."

At one time, Afghanistan had a thriving film industry, but the Taliban banned motion pictures and closed and destroyed the country’s theaters.