"The function of the film is the same as that of a mirror - it shows everything. That is why the Taliban have made us targets"

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Sahraa Karimi - the first female head of the Afghan Film Organization – fled Kabul in connection with the Taliban's takeover. Stockholm Film Festival is proud to welcome Karimi as this year's jury chairman in the Stockholm XXXII Competition.

You needed to leave Afghanistan very quickly, what kind of project did you leave behind?
– I was in the middle of the post-production of a handful of films and had recently started my second feature film project – a comedy. We had also started preparing for the national film festival that my organization started. So there was a lot of hope and faith in the future in Afghanistan, hope which now unfortunately now partly has faded.

What are your thoughts on the future of Afghan film?
– In recent years, we have done our best to launch Afghan film to an international audience – and we have largely succeeded. Although the situation inside Afghanistan is very gloomy, I have hopes that Afghan directors will continue their work in exile. Film is an incredible way of conveying national identity and history, therefore we cannot let Afghan film die.

The future might not look so bright right now but we should not be silent and we can provide resistance. I can not imagine a society without culture and art. Culture is always the core of a country's identity.

What role has film as an art form played in your own life?
– Film is my everything. If I had been an ordinary person, if I had been an architect or engineer, my life would have looked very different right now. I lost most of my life and my existence when I left Kabul a month ago – and this only because I am a filmmaker. But film is my destiny and it is my devotion.

Why do you think cultural workers and artists stand out so much in the eyes of the Taliban?
– It has to do with their narrow minds. The function of film is the same as that of a mirror – it shows everything, both the ugly and the beautiful. That is why the Taliban have made us targets. Because we show the world as it is.

Is there anything in particular you would urge us not to forget in reports and discussions about the situation in Afghanistan?
– That the world community must not recognize the Taliban. That is the most important thing. Do not give them the recognition they need and want!

During the 2021 Stockholm Film Festival, Sahraa Karimi will participate in a panel discussion on the vulnerability of female cultural workers.

Interview: Jacob Hallerström

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