Frame by Frame

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan it was illegal to take photographs. This documentary, submitted by Afghanistan (English captions when necessary) to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, shows us the frustrating efforts to resurrect a free press which have been made since then. It also asks the question: What will happen after foreign forces withdraw?

Co-directors Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach, working with photographers Farzana Wahidy, Massoud Hossaini, Wakil Kohsar and Najibullah Musafer show us the challenges they have encountered.

They include:
  • Interference - When Farzana (who photographs women) asks for permission to interview patients in the Self-Immolation Ward at the hospital, permission is denied...PERIOD. The doctor explains that the local Mullah is more powerful than the government agencies who have granted her permission; the doctor fears for himself and his family.
  • Grief - The family of The Girl in Green, whose picture in the aftermath of a suicide bombing won Massoud a Pulitzer Prize, is still coping with sorrow. They lost relatives, friends and neighbors in that bombing.
  • Fear - When a photographer witnesses a public slaughter the first instinct is to run. Trying to overcome that fear is hard.
  • Tradition - A bride trying to adjust to in-laws who beat her is burned over 60% of her body. The only way they will help put out the fire is for her to give up her child. She will never see her daughter again. The pictures of her scars are devastating.
  • Death - More photojournalists have died recently than at any time in history. And there is no single enemy, they have been killed by the Mullahs, the tribes and the Taliban.
  • Lack of Education - When the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan, all schooling for girls was stopped. Young women now look at photographs of college girls in Kabul before the Taliban. They see the stylish short skirts, the cute haircuts, the makeup and shoes, and they just marvel....
Believe it or not, I have only covered a fraction of the issues discussed in this award-winning documentary (Cleveland International Film Festival 2015 ReelWomenDirect Award for Directing).