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Monday, 1 April, 2002, 19:59 GMT 20:59 UK
Afghan cinema returns home
Poster advertising Afghan film
The return of cinema reflects national renewal
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Catherine Davies
BBC correspondent in Mazar-e-Sharif

The first Afghan-made films to be shown in northern Afghanistan since the Taleban regime fell have been screened in the town of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Editor of Afghan women's magazine discusses page layout with colleague
Films are a part of a wider cultural freedom

Their director, Siddiq Obadi, has just returned to the country after leaving in 1998 when the Taleban took Mazar.

The two films shown, "Chopandaz" and "Grobat", were shot in neighbouring Uzbekistan.

At a ceremony before the films, the head of the culture department in Mazar appealed to the interim government not to forget the film industry.

He even urged the authorities to use it for the country's reconstruction.

Cultural restoration

The galloping horses and turbaned riders, camel fighting and bustling bazaars are quite different to the war-torn version of Afghanistan usually presented.

"These films show the culture and tradition of the Afghan people," explained the director, Siddiq Obadi.

Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai
The industry wants the interim leader's help
"Not everything here is about fighting. Before life came to be dominated by the gun," he said. "Afghans had a particular culture and history - that's what I hope can now be restored."

The showing of these two films was quite an event.

A make-shift screen was set up in a spartan auditorium at the university.

There were cheers for the director and clapping to the music.

Reactions at the end were mixed, but what everyone enjoyed was that the films reflected Afghan life.

Reviving markets

The camel-fighting and traditional horseback game, buzkashi, were easily the most popular scenes.

Indian films are found here in abundance; so are Hollywood action movies.

The head of Mazar-e-Sharif's culture department expressed regret that so many foreign films were on sale.

He said they had filled the gap left by Afghan films, which disappeared because of years of fighting.

Mr Obadi is determined to revive the market for Afghan films.

He hopes his work will stimulate interest in Afghan culture again, and plans to discuss the film industry with the country's interim leader, Hamid Karzai.

See also:

29 Jan 02 | South Asia
Return of the Afghan cinema
30 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kandahar film's murder mystery
28 Dec 01 | Film
Bollywood plans Afghan movie
19 Nov 01 | Reviews
Kandahar: The movie
27 Jun 01 | South Asia
Inside Afghanistan: Behind the veil
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