Afghan film body gets its first female boss

The focus of Sahraa Karimi’s work has mostly been Afghan women. (AN photo)
Updated 16 May 2019

Afghan film body gets its first female boss

  • Sahraa Karimi was only woman to apply for top job

KABUL: Sahraa Karimi made headlines with her critically acclaimed documentary “Women Behind the Wheel.” She is back in the driving seat — as the first female boss of a state-run film body that has been led by men since its establishment in 1968.

Karimi, 36, was the only woman to apply for the director-general role at Afghan Film and was competing against four men. She said she wanted to rebuild cinemas in Kabul and nurture local filmmaking.

“We need to make films inside Afghanistan, we need to tell our own stories. Many from outside came and still come to Afghanistan and make (films) about our stories,” she told Arab News. “But Afghan filmmakers do not have the facilities to make films about our own country, so it is my first priority.”

She grew up in Iran and migrated to Slovakia, where she spent more than a decade studying film. The focus of her work has mostly been Afghan women, who have enjoyed greater freedoms and opportunities since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.

Her appointment was welcomed by Afghans from the film and media industries.

“I think it is a great woman who is going to lead Afghan Film. I hope she can protect and support actresses from the terrible culture of disrespect they face,” Fereshta Kazemi, an Afghan actress who has also worked as an anti-corruption adviser, told Arab News.

Journalist Mujahid Andarabi described her as “sunrise in the darkness of night” in a misogynistic society.

Jawan Sher Haidari, who has been involved in the Afghan cinema industry for decades, called Karimi an “active and prominent figure.”

“We do not have proper equipment, even cameras,” he told Arab News. “Once we asked the government for $150,000 for three short films. The answer from the then finance minister was: ‘We do not have the budget for fancy things.’ She (Karimi) will need to start from zero. What government leaders do in terms of culture and the appointment of women are just symbolic moves. They have not done anything fundamentally for the promotion of culture and cinema,” he added.

There is no specific funding for Afghan Film. There is not even a home for it anymore as its offices were allocated to the UK for it to use as part of a new embassy. Items from Afghan Film’s archive that survived Taliban rule — and the plunder before that — are in the presidential palace.

The crumbling state of Afghan Film has even been dubbed “Nothing Wood” by local journalist Tahir Qadery.

Karimi knows about the hurdles but did not know that Afghan Film’s offices had been handed over to the British. She said she hoped to raise money through advocacy. She is even unphased by the Taliban, which has yet to retreat from the public sphere.

“I am not anti-peace. I am pro-peace, because we are tired of this war, but I am not afraid of the Taliban. I belong to a generation of women that fights for every achievement. If they (the Taliban) want peace, we welcome them,” Karimi replied when asked to comment about peace talks between the US and the militant group.

Nabi Tanhar, a veteran director at Afghan Film, outlined some of the other challenges facing Karimi. “The political and security situation has overshadowed all of the cultural affairs, including cinema in Afghanistan,” he told Arab News. “It takes one week to order clothes for an actor. There is too much bureaucracy. The entire country is a challenge and she will face tough times because our films are not digitized. We do not have a building for Afghan Film and no budget.”

He suggested that Karimi could use her network outside Afghanistan to create interest in the local movie industry, advising her to “exercise patience” when she formally took up her role.

An official at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture said the Afghan Film building had been taken over by the British because it was next door to the US embassy and opposite NATO headquarters in Kabul’s most secure site.


Regional designers wow the front row at LFW

Omani label Atelier Zuhra found new ways to update denimwear. (Getty Images)
Updated 30 sec ago

Regional designers wow the front row at LFW

DUBAI: Emirati designer Ahmed Khyeli showed off his ethereal new collection at London Fashion Week on Sunday, just before British-Afghani designer Osman Yousefzada and Omani label Atelier Zuhra showcased their latest lines on Monday.

Yousefzada’s eponymous label OSMAN staged a showcase of the designer’s dreamy Spring/Summer 2020 collection, complete with frothy tulle, vibrant jungle prints and more structured, belted two-piece outfits in bright pastel shades.

Atelier Zuhra — the brainchild of designer Rayan Al-Sulaimani and entrepreneur Mousa Al-Awfi — put on a show of denim creations. Splattered with what looked like cracked white paint and underlain with delicate white tulle, the Omani fashion house found new ways to update denimwear.

Emirati designer Ahmed Khyeli showed off his ethereal new collection at London Fashion Week. (Getty Images)

For his part, London-based Khyeli wowed the front row with a sneak peak of his Spring/Summer 2020 line, full of dramatic silhouettes in a much lighter color palette that the rich dark shades the designer has become known for.

Although the collection still featured a smattering of midnight blacks, hot salmon pinks, milky pea greens and nude shades were out in full force.

A feathered white ballgown and matching jacket was the main event at the show, with its decadent cascading feathers and sweetheart neckline. Peek-a-boo cutouts, tiny sequins and tightly rouched material also made appearances in the collection.

Khyeli is no stranger to spotlight and his designs have been worn by some of the entertainment industry’s leading ladies.

In March, makeup mogul Kylie Jenner sported a daring ensemble by the designer for a photoshoot.

 Ahmed Khyeli presented a sneak peak of his Spring/Summer 2020 line. (Getty Images)

The 21-year-old, who was recently named the youngest ever self-made billionaire by Forbes, wore a custom-made gown by Khyeli.

The dramatic black minidress featured a frilled train running up the side along with an oversized, ruffled collar.

Lady Gaga took to the Jimmy Kimmel Live TV show in early March to talk about her 2019 Oscar win while wearing a gown by Khyeli.

The beaded tulle gown, with a swimsuit-style bodice and strappy shoulders, hailed from the label’s Spring 2019 collection and, according to the fashion house, took more than 200 hours to embroider by hand.