Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat, who recently managed to escape her home country, gave a masterclass at the San Sebastian Film Festival where she talked about the history of cinema in her country; revealed her guilt about being evacuated and debated the issues facing women filmmakers from the country.
She also feels that the situation in Afghanistan could eventually see filmmakers take the opportunity to tell their own stories and not feel dictated to by governments or ruling bodies. But this is clearly some way off, she stressed.
She also admits to feeling conflicted about having managed to be evacuated, and wishes to an extent she was back in Kabul protesting alongside other women about the Taliban.
She said that during the Russian control of the Afghanistan and during the years of the last Taliban rule the only films made were pure propaganda, but also feels that when the international community pushed out the Taliban and started spending in the country through cultural platform the films being made were probably still ‘propaganda’ of a different kind. She said: ”They (filmmakers) had to make movies about women’s rights…about elections and drugs and these kind of subjects.”
She added that she was dreaming of a time – hopefully sooner rather than later – when “filmmakers can feel confident with their stories - with our stories - and just make films that are relevant to the culture, to the audience, and that really carry the values of Afghan society and which Afghan people can feel proud watching them.”
She talked loosely about her plans to make a romantic comedy titled Kabul Jam set against the backdrop of the Afghan middle-class and a woman who falls in love with a married man twice her age, but admits that her story was set in the pre-Taliban regime. “So this means it would not be set in the present time,” she admits, but adds that she is “questioning if I am more useful making the film, or if I'm more useful going back to Kabul.”
She added: “I think the situation in Afghanistan at the moment is really, really, hopeless. But I also believe that Taliban cannot keep hold for a very long time because people have changed, and women have changed -you can see footage from demonstrations in Kabul and women are on the frontline and it made me really proud.”
Shahrbanoo Sadat's debut film, Wolf and Sheep (2016),was selected and awarded at the Cannes Directors' Fortnight, as was her second film, the sequel The Orphanage (2019. She was the youngest director to have been selected for the Cannes Cinéfondation script residency, and her films have also been programmed at festivals around the world, includingRotterdam, Locarno, Busan, Chicago and London.