Keywords: afghanistanfilmmakingwoman director
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French documentarist Sonia Kronlund follows actor and director Salim Shaheen, an Afghan movie star who produced more than 110 low-budget movies in a country devastated by war.
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For love of the craft
This is a doc on the Afghani filmmaker Salim Shaheen. He has made 110 movies, with his 111th being chronicled here. But if you were to click on his IMDb profile, you wouldn't find a single credit beyond this one (as of now). As he duly notes, his movies aren't industry-produced like Bollywood or Hollywood; they are made for no money or profit, hence Nothingwood. He makes films for love of the craft: he goes into the desert, on the mountains, atop a roof building, anywhere just to shoot on natural location. The only crew is the cameraman. They are shown to audiences at community screenings, rather than movie houses.
French director Sonia Kronlund is fluent in Shaheen's Persian (IIRC) and, when she's on-camera, often acts like a visiting spectator. She has a low-key style of filmmaking that lets the subject speak for himself. We get biographic info on Shaheen, such as his multiple marriages and children, and how he was a nonviolent general during his time in the military.
The only thing I wish there were more of is how he goes about deciding to make films; it's a bit lacking in terms of the creative process. Nevertheless, his passion for life is infectious, and you might actually miss him when the movie's over.
Wonderful documentary reveals aspects of Afghan life we never suspected
French radio journalist Sonia Kronlund spent several weeks in Afghanistan following charismatic film maker Salim Shaheen, who claims to have produced and directed more than one hundred movies (none of which is on IMDb!) and that he even was at work during the Taliban regime, when all recorded images, even photographs, were forbidden. Shaheen learned his stuff from Bollywood. He's identical to movie showmen anywhere else in the world: he's brash and self-centred and loves showing off in front of the camera. At the London Film Festival screening Kronlund said that she could only control him by getting into the frame with him. Her presence balances the film very well. Shaheen appears to be shooting a biopic in which he's played by one of his sons. But much of this may have been fabricated. Kronlund also revealed that she was often calling the shots. She organised the trip to Bamiyan, where Shaheen poses in front of the remains of the Buddhas and talks about the philistinism that destroyed them. She also seems to have arranged for company member Qurban Ali to play several roles. Ali appears to be gay and sometimes dresses as a woman to everyone's amusement. But in fact he's married with children and is regarded in Afghanistan merely as "eccentric." (Ali travelled with the film to Cannes, where he was quite a sensation). The stories of Shaheen and his crew shooting crazy action pictures while bombs fell around them are wonderful. "Nothingwood" celebrates the indomitability of cinema.Nothing can stop it - even when a mad dictatorship makes it illegal!