Barmak Akram at Guggenheim NYC

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Fifth Avenue at 89th Kevin Street
6:30-8:30 pm, Friday, April 5 BARMAK AKRAM: THE KABULI KID
A Discussion with the Filmmaker and Screening of Wajma (An Afghan Love Story)A special one-time screening of Wajma (An Afghan Love Story), the most recent film written and directed by Barmak Akram (b. 1966, Kabul) that follows the clandestine relationship of gregarious waiter Mustafa and pretty student Wajma. Beginning as a playful and passionate affair, after Wajma discovers she is pregnant the consequences of the societal rules the pair has broken rapidly unfold. Awarded the World Cinema Dramatic Screenwriting prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Following the screening, Leeza Ahmady and Mariam Ghani join Akram in a discussion about filmmaking in Afghanistan, as well as the historic context and themes of cinema from the region. Program concludes with a reception and exhibition viewing of No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia.

Afghan films at Guggenheim NYC

History of Histories: Afghan Films, 1960 to Present

Fri, Mar 1, 15, 22, and 29, 2 pm

Organized by independent curator Leeza Ahmady and artist Mariam Ghani, this series of fiction films, newsreels, and documentaries juxtaposes contemporary work with selections from the archive of Afghanistan’s national film institute, and documents Afghanistan’s history and vibrant culture. English subtitles.

Leeza Ahmady and Mariam Ghani introduce the film program on March 1 and March 29.

Qadar Tahiri, Khan-e-Tarikh (The House of History), 1996Qadar Tahiri, Khan-e-Tarikh(The House of History), 1996. Courtesy Afghan Films
March 1, 2 pm

Selections from the Afghan Films Archive
(1967–80, 54 min.)

In these newsreels, documentary and propaganda shorts, and feature film clips drawn from the archive of Afghan Films, Afghanistan’s national film institute, the changing fashions, mores and politics of the constantly reconfigured state are reflected. With films from the end of the monarchy (the Zahir Shah period), the Daoud republic, the Afghan Communist republic, and the Soviet puppet state.

Khan-e-Tarikh
(The House of History, 1996, 20 min., dir. Qader Tahiri)

The only documentary produced by Afghan Films during the civil war years, The House of History is an intensely personal essay film directed by longtime cameramen Qader Tahiri that incorporates footage shot by six other cameramen from 1991–96 and poetic narration by Sher Mohammed Khara. The first half chronicles the destruction of Kabul during the civil war, while the second half meditates on the ruin of Kabul’s archaeological museum and the efforts to save fragments left behind after its destruction in 1991.

Fiction Shorts by the Jump Cut Film Collective
(2009–10, 10 min.)

The Jump Cut Film Collective was founded in Kabul in 2009 by a group of young, independent filmmakers who share both production duties and formal concerns. In the Name of Opium (dir. Sayed Jalal Hussaini) lies at the more experimental end of their output, with a completely nontraditional, circular or open-ended narrative structure and no dialogue. Formally, however, it is among the most completely realized of their films, with strong cinematography setting up a series of memorable images, each a small story in itself, and each a part of a larger opium-driven vicious cycle.

Feature: Akhtar Maskara
(Akhtar the Joker, 1980, 90 min., dir. Latif Ahmadi)

A stinging social critique of the gap between rich and poor, old and new Kabulis at the end of the 1970s, and the story of an unusual young man who falls into the cracks in between. Based on the novel by Aham Rahaward Zariab, and commissioned by the Parcham government, the film was shot by beloved director Latif Ahmadi in only 18 days; perhaps because of the literary source material, perhaps because of the compressed production time, it has a quality unlike anything else in Afghan cinema, with sharp cinematography, a twisting plot, and occasional breaks where our unreliable narrator (Faqir Nabi) addresses the camera directly.

Total run time 169 min.

Barmak Akram, Kabuli Kid, 2009
March 15, 2 pm

Documentary Shorts from Ateliers Varan Kabul
(2011, 47 min.)

Ateliers Varan, the documentary training program initiated by direct cinema pioneer Jean Rouch, has operated workshops in Kabul since 2006, in cooperation with Afghan Films and Radio Television Afghanistan. Shorts produced in Varan Kabul workshops have been screened in major documentary film festivals and broadcast internationally. The shorts Dusty Night and The Postman were produced during a workshop around “The Streets of Kabul,” and observe the rituals and rhythms of the city without judgment or commentary, unless offered by the participants observed. In Mohamed Ali Hazara’s Dusty Night, a group of street cleaners who fight a losing battle against the ever-present dust coating the city, and in Wahid Nazir’s The Postman, the eponymous postman Khan Agha attempts to deliver mail in a city reconstructed without a formal system of street names or house numbers.

Fiction Shorts by the Jump Cut Film Collective
(2009–10, 28 min.)

The Jump Cut Film Collective was founded in Kabul in 2009 by a group of young, independent filmmakers, who share both production duties and formal concerns. The early shorts ANT (dir. Hashem Didari) and Devious (dir. Sayed Jalal Hussaini) display Jump Cut’s preoccupation with narrative filmmaking that uses nonlinear temporal structures, as well as their interest in the illegal and informal economies, the petty and not so petty thefts, grifts, and deceits that spring from the inequities and poverty of Kabul.

Feature: Kabuli Kid
(2009, 94 min., dir. Barmak Akram)

In writer-director Barmak Akram’s debut feature, the life of cab driver Khaled (Hadji Gul) is thrown for a loop when he discovers that his last passenger left an infant boy in the backseat. Determined to do the right thing, Khaled embarks upon a chaotic adventure from one end of war-torn Kabul to the other to find the mother, all the while finding himself increasingly attached to the young life that fate has placed in his hands.

Total run time 169 min.

Latif Ahmadi, Akhtar Maskara (Akhtar the Joker), 1980Latif Ahmadi, Akhtar Maskara(Akhtar the Joker), 1980. Courtesy of Afghan Films
March 22, 2 pm

Selections from the Afghan Films Archive
(1967–80, 54 min.)

In these newsreels, documentary and propaganda shorts, and feature film clips drawn from the archive of Afghan Films, Afghanistan’s national film institute, the changing fashions, mores, and politics of the constantly reconfigured state are reflected. With films from the end of the monarchy (the Zahir Shah period), the Daoud republic, the Afghan Communist republic, and the Soviet puppet state.

Khan-e-Tarikh
(The House of History, 1996, 20 min., dir. Qader Tahiri)

The only documentary produced by Afghan Films during the civil war years, The House of History is an intensely personal essay film directed by longtime cameramen Qader Tahiri that incorporates footage shot by six other cameramen from 1991–96, and poetic narration by Sher Mohammed Khara. The first half chronicles the destruction of Kabul during the civil war, while the second half meditates on the ruin of Kabul’s archaeological museum and the efforts to save fragments left behind after its destruction in 1991.

Fiction Shorts by the Jump Cut Film Collective
(2009–10, 10 min.)

The Jump Cut Film Collective was founded in Kabul in 2009 by a group of young, independent filmmakers, who share both production duties and formal concerns. In the Name of Opium (dir. Sayed Jalal Hussaini) lies at the more experimental end of their output, with a completely nontraditional, circular or open-ended narrative structure and no dialogue. Formally, however, it is among the most completely realized of their films, with strong cinematography setting up a series of memorable images, each a small story in itself, and each a part of a larger opium-driven vicious cycle.

Feature: Akhtar Maskara
(Akhtar the Joker, 1980, 90 min., dir. Latif Ahmadi)

A stinging social critique of the gap between rich and poor, old and new Kabulis at the end of the 1970s, and the story of an unusual young man who falls into the cracks in between. Based on the novel by Aham Rahaward Zariab, and commissioned by the Parcham government, the film was shot by beloved director Latif Ahmadi in only eighteen days; perhaps because of the literary source material, perhaps because of the compressed production time, it has a quality unlike anything else in Afghan cinema, with sharp cinematography, a twisting plot, and occasional breaks where our unreliable narrator (Faqir Nabi) addresses the camera directly.

Total running time 174 min

Toryalai Shafaq, Mujasemaha Mekhandan (The Sculptures Are Laughing), 1976Toryalai Shafaq, Mujasemaha Mekhandan (The Sculptures Are Laughing), 1976. Courtesy of Afghan Films
March 29, 2 pm

Documentary Shorts from Ateliers Varan Kabul
(2011, 47 min.)

Ateliers Varan, the documentary training program initiated by direct cinema pioneer Jean Rouch, has operated workshops in Kabul since 2006, in cooperation with Afghan Films and Radio Television Afghanistan. Shorts produced in Varan Kabul workshops have been screened in major documentary film festivals and broadcast internationally. The shorts Dusty Night and The Postman were produced during a workshop around “The Streets of Kabul,” and observe the rituals and rhythms of the city without judgment or commentary, unless offered by the participants observed. In Mohamed Ali Hazara’s Dusty Night, a group of street cleaners who fight a losing battle against the ever-present dust coating the city, and in Wahid Nazir’s The Postman, the eponymous postman Khan Agha attempts to deliver mail in a city reconstructed without a formal system of street names or house numbers.

Fiction Shorts by the Jump Cut Film Collective
(2009–10, 28 min.)

The Jump Cut Film Collective was founded in Kabul in 2009 by a group of young, independent filmmakers, who share both production duties and formal concerns. The early shorts ANT (dir. Hashem Didari) and Devious (dir. Sayed Jalal Hussaini) display Jump Cut’s preoccupation with narrative filmmaking that uses nonlinear temporal structures, as well as their interest in the illegal and informal economies, the petty and not so petty thefts, grifts, and deceits that spring from the inequities and poverty of Kabul.

Feature: Mujasemaha Mekhandan
(The Sculptures Are Laughing, 1976, 81 min., dir. Toryalai Shafaq)

The deliriously paced story of an artist who falls in love with a spoiled rich girl, who marries a gangster that then draws both her and her former love into his wacky schemes. A window into life in Daoud’s republic, from art school and fashion shows to house parties and weddings.

Total run time 156 min.