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Home Reviews, opinions Asian Film Culture Award at the 10th Asian Film Festival Mumbai (22-29.12.11) given a new Direction to Afghan Cinema – Siddiq Barmak
Sunday, 12 February 2012 00:00

Asian Film Culture Award at the 10th Asian Film Festival Mumbai (22-29.12.11) given a new Direction to Afghan Cinema – Siddiq Barmak
This award is conferred every year on a master of Asian Cinema. Alternately, it is given one year to an Indian director and the next year to an Asian director.
It is indeed an honour to present the Third Eye Asian Film Festival's annual Asian Film Culture Award to Siddiq Barmak, who has been making films in Afghanistan despite facing many odds.
Siddiq Barmak, undoubtedly, has given Afghan film industry a new face, but it has not been a smooth sailing. 


In 1987, when he stepped into the film industry, Afghanistan was passing through a phase of simmering political discontent over the intervention in its political affairs by the then undivided Soviet Union. Its art world was getting stifled and was getting into a rut. With the cultural metamorphosis the film world was witnessing occasioned by the political turmoil in the country, it was not easy for Barmak to get things done his way when armed with an M.A.degree in film direction from the Soviet Film Academy (VGIK) and still in his twenties, he started to make short films.


Unfortunately for the country in general and Barmak in particular, no sooner had the Soviet Army been pulled back from Afghanistan than came to regressive rule of the Talibans to make matter further worse for its people. The Talibans turned everything upside down to make their writ the law of the land, interfering in every affair of the country’s life. As a result, two of Barmak’s short films were either got lost or those were damaged by he Taliban militiamen when they ran amok during 1996-2004.


It must be said to the credit of Barmak that he, with a steely resolve, worked hard to rehabilitate the young Afghan film-makers, who were incurring the Taliban’s wrath. Undaunted by the repercussions, the group, led by him, looked towards India and elsewhere for starting of a new wave of filmmaking in Afghanistan. He himself made Osama to expose how excruciating was the rule of the Talibans, especially their attitude towards the womenfolk of the country. The film, which earned Barmak the world-wide fame, also received the UNESCO’s Fellini Silver Medal in 2003 and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film next year.



Barmak followed it up with Opium War in 2008. In Opium War, he hints at the irony of a destitute Afghan family which has to grow opium for the benefit of the American soldiers in Afghanistan to help them ease away their weary of fighting the Talibans in an alien land by seemingly using opium as pain-killer.
Through these two films, Barmak has made the ground reality of Afghanistan abundantly clear its true stories to the world.




Opium War (2008)

Osama (2003)

The stranger (short 1987)

The wall (short, 1983)


Osama, Afghanistan, 2003, 83 min.Director & writer: Siddiq Barmak

Producers: Siddiq Barmak and Julia Fraser. Cast: Marina Golbahari
Synopsis: The film is set against the time when the Talibanwas ruling the roost in Afghanistan and it decreed that no woman would ever work outside her home. The story revolves around a family have died in various Afghan wars. The surviving mother had earlier worked as nurse in a hospital, but the Taliban forced her to remain indoors along with her mother and a teenaged daughter. The mother and grandmother decide on what they feel is the only option left to them: they ask the teenaged girl to masquerade as a boy, so that she can get a job to support them. Despite her misgivings, not to speak of the apprehensions that militia men of the Taliban might flog her if they find out her deceptive ruse, the girl agrees to make herself out to be a boy. She cuts off her beautiful lock of hair, and as a symbolic gesture, puts the same in a pot so that she can see her lost femininity flourish there.
Awards: Won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2004.
Received UNESCO’s Fellini Silver Medal in 2003


Opium War, Afghanistan, 2008, 91 min. Director & writer: Siddiq Barmak
Synopsis: It is Siddiq Barmak’s follow-up film to Osama. Two American soldiers are stranded after their helicopter crashes in enemy territory in Afghanistan. The soldiers are constantly at odds but cannot do anything but rely on each other to survive. When cutting across the poppy fields, they lick the poppy essence to bury the pain and anguish of the battle. Along the way, they encounter a local family that lives in the shell of a of wacky characters and they are also constantly at each other’s throats. Opium War combined realism with absurdity and the cast consist of non-professional actors.


Info from Catalogue 10th Asian film festival Mumbai, 22-29.2011