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Kabul/Teheran: 1979 ff: A festival with films from Afghanistan and Iran

A festival with films from Afghanistan and Iran, with discussions on strained cities, migration and film landscape

5th to 19th of December, 2003

The event 'Kabul/Teheran: 1979 ff' consists of a ten day film series that is accompanied by a lecture programme. It is taking place within the framework of the ErsatzStadt/SubstituteCity project that deals with urban everyday life on a global scale. Venues are the Berlin Volksbuehne and the Filmkunsthaus/Film Art House Babylon.

The year 1979 - with the Islamic revolution in Iran as well as the escalation of the civil war in Afghanistan with the Soviet invasion - marks a deep cut for both of the neighbouring countries. Three topics are the focal points that are of central importance: the relevant daily life and the urban developments in Teheran and Kabul, cities with several million people, when viewed from an Iranian and Afghani perspective as well as the massive migration of Afghani refugees, especially to Iran.


Afghanistan so far only reached a wide public as the backdrop for action films such as Rambo III or as a reflection of what western media wanted to use it for. With the help of selections from the archive of Afghan Film it becomes clear as to what urban life looked like in Kabul before the civil war and how it changed over the decades. A series of current film projects such as the Mobile Cinema will give an insight into the momentary cinematic landscape within Kabul. This has been devised by the French aid organization aina, the Afghani-Iranian artists' group Kabulfilm, the two production companies Ariana and Afghan Film as well as the filmmaker Siddiq Barmak. For the by now nearly 3 million inhabitants of Kabul it is extremely difficult to find work nowadays, the supply situation is desolate and the infrastructure is overtaxed. Nevertheless, the number of inhabitants will increase to five million over the next ten years. After over twenty years of civil war half of the city is destroyed and 80% consists of informal settlements. The architects Zahra and Abdullah Breshna, who have returned from Germany, are currently designing a master plan wherein the problems of a "Third World city" are confronted with the demands of reconstruction after twenty years of urban warfare and destruction.


Afghanistan is the country with the highest number of migrants, not just within Afghanistan itself but also outside of the country. 2.5 million Afghani refugees officially live in the neighbouring country of Iran, most of them in Teheran. Institutions such as the UNHCR are participating in the so-called repatriation programmes that are supposed to ease the return of Afghani refugees to Afghanistan. The longer the refugees stay in Iran, though, the more necessary it is to have these refugees officially recognized as migrants. The migration researcher Helmut Dietrich criticizes the current politics of the 'regulation' of refugee movements. Iranian filmmakers such as Majid Majidi, Samira Makhmalbaf or Fariba Jamali Nemati, on the other hand, reflect the lives of the Afghani refugees in the city of Teheran and within the Afghani refugee camps in their films.


Teheran is a metropolis that officially has over 12 million inhabitants living in it. Ninety percent of the city has evolved within the last fifty years. The city is divided into a booming northern part and a poorer southern part, even though numerous projects are supposed to bridge the gulf. Regional traditions and modernization overlap with a post-modern Iranian Style. Sociologists and architects, in their contributions, discuss the urban developments taking place in Teheran and the social changes as well. Examples of the Iranian Film that use urban everyday life in Teheran as a theme are supplemented by small, independent feature and documentary film productions. Film contributions from the National Film Archive as well as the socially critical documentalist Kamran Shirdel place the discussion within an historical context. Film in Iran represents modernism and is a central part of Iranian culture since its inception.


One of the most important figures of the Iranian film is the filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. In 2001 he shot the feature film Journey to Kandahar in order to draw attention to the almost forgotten Afghanistan at that point in time. "In addition to all of this came the destruction of the biggest known statue of Buddha that not long ago aroused the concern of the whole world and mobilized all art and culture experts in the defence of the statues that were threatened with destruction. But why did no one, except for the UN high commissioner Ogata, express their sorrow for the millions of Afghanis that were and still are threatened by hunger and starvation?" Nowadays one cannot view this film without considering the political events that took place after September 2001. In November 2002 Makhmalbaf supported the director Siddiq Barmak during work on the film Osama. The prelude of our presentation will be the preview of this first Afghani feature film after the Taliban rule on the 5th of December. The movie was awarded a special mention by the jury in the Camera d'Or section in Cannes this year.

Programme Schedule

Kabul / Teheran 1979 ff is supported by the Goethe Forum.

... Payvand News - 12/2/03 ... --

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