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Research

What We Left Unfinished

Mariam Ghani (b. 1978, New York), an artist of Afghan descent, conducted research that focused on collecting cinematic material in order to explore how the Afghan war was constructed cinematically for the Soviet people—and how it was framed for the Afghan people—through cinematic methods influenced by Soviet filmmakers.

For over five years, the artist has been working at the Afghan National Film Archive to uncover and reconstruct five film projects that were never completed due to the political and social upheaval in the country. Raw footage, fragments of films, forgotten pictures, and other archival materials gathered by Ghani shed light on the dramatic events surrounding Afghanistan’s Communist Party (later the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan), which came to power after the Saur Revolution of 1978. The reforms that followed the revolution led to radical changes in the country’s policies and influenced Afghanistan’s development for many years to come. Ghani sees this period as unfinished and unreflected, and therefore still haunting.

Juxtaposing footage discovered in the archives with documentation of the filming process and filmmakers’ interviews, the artist highlights the rift between fiction and reality, between the dream and the failure of the Afghan communist project. Ghani also presents a large collage of archival photographs and stills from Afghan films, mapping an alternative national history of this period through the history of the country’s only film archive, where most of the photographs and films were discovered. During the research, missing fragments of the unfinished film The April Revolution (1978) were discovered at the Russian State Archive of Film and Photographic Documents, having been incorporated into the documentary Afghanistan: The Revolution Continues (1980). Excerpts from the film are shown here, placed for the first time in their original context. The link between Afghan and Soviet Central Asian cinema from the 1960s to the 1990s was an equally important area to explore, as many Afghan films were produced with the assistance of Soviet specialists, Soviet support, or at Soviet film studios, due to the close ties between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. Afghanistan: The Revolution Continues is no exception. It was produced by Uzbekistan’s Studio of Scientific and Documentary Film, in collaboration with Afghan Film.

Initiated in 2016.

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