Part of SFFILM Festival
What We Left Unfinished
Director Mariam Ghani is expected to attend all screenings.
From 1996-2002, the negatives of the Afghan Film Archive were bricked up behind a poster of Mullah Omar. In 2013, director Mariam Ghani gained access to this archive and found several unfinished films made between 1978 and 1991. From the literal buried treasures of the films themselves – excerpts from which whet the appetite for more – to interviews with the filmmakers, who tell stories of using real bullets and dangerous explosives, this astute, entertaining, and illuminating documentary tracks a portion of Afghan film history through the lens of the country’s complicated political history.
“It is not simple to work with an archive in a country like Afghanistan, where books, films, and monuments are all subject to burning; stupas are looted and statues shattered; and sites sacred for one reason or another are eroded by both natural and human disasters. Understandably, Afghans are wary of anyone who proposes to ‘mine’ any cultural resource they still possess.
“If you want to work with an Afghan archive, therefore, you cannot address your desires to it directly. You must sidle up to it sideways, as if approaching a horse with an uncertain temper. You must turn up your palms and turn out your pockets to demonstrate the purity of your motives. You must persuade it to yield its secrets, slowly and obliquely. Above all, you must try to understand what the archive desires of you. You cannot hope to extract anything from the archive without giving something back.” – director Mariam Ghani, Field Notes for What We Left Unfinished
Mariam Ghani majored in comparative literature at New York University and studied photography, video, and media at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has been involved in three long-term collaborations, working with Pad.ma and the Afghan Film Institute on digitizing and disseminating the Afghan films archive; partnering with choreographer Erin Ellen Kelly and composer Qasim Naqvi on Performed Places, a video and performance series, inspired by landscape archeology; and with Chitra Ganesh, she has worked on the Index of the Disappeared, an experimental archive of renditions, detentions, deportations, and redactions. A teacher since 2005, Ghani joined the faculty of Bennington College in Vermont in the Fall of 2018. Prior to making What We Left Unfinished, she directed the documentary shorts Points of Proof (2005) and A Brief History of Collapses (2012), and co-directed with Erin Ellen Kelly a video short, Fugitive Refrains (2007).
Language Afghan Persian
Premiere North American
Director Mariam Ghani
Producer Mariam Ghani
Editor Ian Olds
Cinematographer Adam S. Hogan
Music Qasim Naqvi
Cast Latif Ahmadi, Jawanshir Haidari, Asadollah Aram