What We Left Unfinished
Directed by Mariam Ghani
Streaming Monday, November 2 – Sunday, November 15
CINEMA+ On Friday, November 13 at 6 pm, director Mariam Ghani will be joined by Speed Film Curator Dean Otto for a discussion of the film via Zoom. Register for the event to watch the film for free.
“What We Left Unfinished is a soaring testament to what movies can mean to a people.”
When the Taliban held power in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the archive of the nation’s film was at risk of being destroyed and the creation of new works was forbidden.
In What We Left Unfinished, director Mariam Ghani interweaves histories and fiction to celebrate a tight-knight group of Afghan filmmakers who loved cinema to risk their lives for art. Despite government interference, censorship boards, scarce resources, armed opposition, and near-constant threats of arrest and even death, they made films that were subversive and, in the filmmakers’ opinions, constructed narratives that were always true to life.
The documentary brings together newly rediscovered and restored footage from five lost Afghan Communists feature films with present-day interviews that reveal the astounding stores of their creation from the view of directors, actors, and crew members who often swapped roles along with new footage shot in the same locations by the original directors and cinematographers. Many are tearful as they recount films that they were forced to abandon and reveal tales of action scenes with real bullets, ex-agents hired to play spies, or the Communist coup d’état with the army, air force, tanks, and missiles provided to by the government for authenticity. 2019, U.S./Afghanistan, in Dari with English subtitles, 71 minutes.
Ghani, along with Erin Ellen Kelly, created the installation When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved currently on view at the Speed through March 14.