The Forbidden Reel tells how the Afghan cinematic archive was rescued from destruction by the Taliban. And what an archive it is: it reveals a rich auteur cinema reflecting a long forgotten Afghanistan.
Under threat of execution by the Taliban, who were destroying countless aspects of Afghanistan’s culture, Afghan Film workers hid hundreds of film reels behind a secret wall. The rescued archive, which still lies in a vulnerable state in their office in Kabul, reveals an incredibly rich cinematic history. It shows facets of a modernist, left leaning Afghanistan, long crowded out by news images of violence and extremism.
In The Forbidden Reel, director Ariel Nasr interviews key players, including director Latif Ahmadi and actress Yasmin Yarmal, telling how Afghan auteur cinema flourished throughout the 1970s and 1980s, even amidst dramatic national upheaval. Through the archive itself – and interweaving recreations using original filming equipment – Nasr pens a moving love letter to an Afghanistan most of us have never seen before.