The Movie Archive of Afghanistan digitizes 7,000 films that were thought to be lost forever, in midst of violence that shakes country
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Mageek lantan [magic lantern] it is like afghans dubbed miracle visual imagery in motion, when in 1923 first film lit up a dark room in province of Paghman to show public a silent film and in black-and-white. The film had come to Afghanistan a decade before hand of Emir Habibullah Khan, but until n only royal family and upper classes had had access to this wonder of modern world that would soon transform tissue of TWENTIETH century.
despite fact that first movie afghan, 'Love and Friendship', was not produced until 1946, cinematic history of Afghanistan is one of oldest in world. In 20's, king Amanullah Khan and led third anglo-afghan war and drive out last vestiges of british colonialism - decided to modernize country. The film was one of his obsessions since, in 10 years that supported power, ordered to film development of same, by that time one of most modern in Asia with oil wells, roads asfaltas and a pipe for agriculture legacy of Persian Empire with that, not even united States, could rival.
Since n, cameras have been a part of life in Afghanistan where, with passing of time and conflicts -in which Film Archive in Kabul has been burned on several occasions - destroyed a large part of negative showing living history of one of cultures oldest in world. The worst threat came in 1996 when taliban conquered Kabul. is The jihadists for a long time, had banned music and cinema, so file was one of ir primary objectives. Serendipity in story, one of his archivists with same name as king who introduced film to popular classes of country, Habibullah Ali, risked his life to save thousands of movies escondiéndolas in building, which was soon razed to ground by taliban.
"The day that y arrived in file, none of us thought that would come out of re alive. If y had realized that we had hidden movies of our history, we would have killed all of m," he explained to AFP last Friday after announcement by Ministry of Culture that file has digitized 7,000 films saved from fire of taliban by Habibullah and his companions. A piece of history, of incalculable value, which will now be available for experts, researchers and general public.
The archivist remember that during taliban regime "we spend a lot of fear, but thank God we were able to save many films that are a fundamental part of our culture and history".
The vision of a country in peace
The project of digitization of negatives that show life in Afghanistan through ir customs and cultural festivals, day-to-day in capital and provinces, development of industry and agriculture, has lasted about three years and aims to "teach Afghanistan of love and not of war, thus showing young people vision of a country at peace that you have never known", according to Habibullah that, at 60 years of age and with 36 in back working on file, has witnessed war against Soviet Union, civil war, taliban regime and conflict after attacks of 11 September in New York.
director of The film archive, Mohammad Ibrahim Arify, who has led digitization project, praised heroism of archivists, in hands of a good screenwriter, it could be a perfect argument for a production hollywood. "The negatives were deposited in a few cans sealed and marked as foreign films and indies that, in turn, were hidden in several barrels that employees of file was buried in gardens of building," explained Arify.
"Many of negatives were also hidden in walls and ceilings false built for occasion. They used all kinds of tricks to lure taliban", added director, file in that, now, you can see "a part of visual history of country thanks to 32,000 hours of film shot on 16mm, and 8,000 hours of movies on 35mm". But that is only tip of iceberg.
"We have a great catalog and most of m are not digitized. Perhaps up to 100,000 hours of footage. But this is a very slow and costly process. Typically, to scan a film of an hour and a half out to about four days," he told AFP Fayaz Lutfi, one of archivists most young people, 27 years old, who feels "proud because we are bringing back to life a part of history of Afghanistan that was believed to be dead."
A resurrection which, according to Arify, director of archive, not going to stay in Kabul because "it has to be seen by all afghans". In this way, and despite fact that it is "a great risk", referring to fact that taliban control nearly 50% of country, "we will bring se films to all corners of Afghanistan for our children to learn about how y lived ir ancestors", and for new generations who have only known decades of conflict can admire wealth and beauty of a country in peace.