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This is Film! #4: The Afghan Film Archive

Under the overarching theme of recycling, re-using and remixing archival film fragments, the 6th edition of Eye’s annual public lecture series This is Film! Film Heritage in Practice will showcase a broad range of creatively reused archival footage, varying from the colorization of black-and-white WWI footage, to the use of archival content in compilation and documentary films, VR or VJ performances.

Each session will cover a different approach to the theme of ‘re-use’ and will feature an introduction by Giovanna Fossati (Chief Curator at Eye and Professor of Film Heritage at the University of Amsterdam), followed by a talk by or interview and Q&A with an international expert and a screening or performance. 

The lectures are in English and can be attended as a series or on a one-off basis.

Guest: Ariel Nasr (Filmmaker)

Screening: The Forbidden Reel (CA, 2019, 2K DCP)

The fourth session of This is Film! will zoom in on Afghan film history with material saved by the Afghan Film Archive and interviews with filmmakers who gravitated around the film institute Afghan Film, established in 1968. Through the screening of ‘The Forbidden Reel’ (CA, 2019) and in discussion with its maker, Ariel Nasdr, this session will offer a rare view of the once hidden and forbidden treasures of Afghan film heritage.

The Forbidden Reel (2019)

For nearly five years, our guest filmmaker Ariel Nasr had unprecedented access to Afghanistan's national film archive while creating The Forbidden Reel. He combined interviews with key figures from the Afghan film industry with film excerpts. Through the archive - and interweaving recreations using original filming equipment – Nasr shows an Afghanistan most of us have never seen before.  

It can be called a true miracle that Nasr could use this archival footage as the Taliban regime (from 1996 to 2001) destroyed many artworks in this period, including films. When Afghan Film was “tipped off” that the Taliban would come after the film archive the next day, the archivists were risking their life to safeguard the most important prints of their national film history and hide them behind fake walls. When the Taliban police arrived to burn the films, the staff handed over only the foreign and less important prints. 

Nasr and his producers actually played a role in preserving highlights from the Afghan archive as they devoted part of their film budget to digitize these films at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) in Montreal. The NFB wanted also a deeper relationship with its Afghan counterpart, and invited the then-president to come to Montreal to showcase their digitalization workflow. The president brought that expertise back to Afghanistan. 


In conversation with Eye’s Chief Curator Giovanna Fossati, Ariel Nasr will address questions relating to the realization of the documentary project, and his further involvement in trying to digitize, restore, and disseminate films from Afghanistan’s endangered film archive.


Ariel Nasr is an award-winning, Oscar-nominated Afghan-Canadian director and writer, known for ‘Good Morning Kandahar’ (2008), ‘The Boxing Girls of Kabul’ (2012) and ‘Buzkashi Boys’ (2012). Nasr co-founded two partner NGOs to help develop capacity in Afghanistan’s film industry: Afghan Film Project (US) and AFEO (Afghanistan).