About the Author: Beverly Mather-Marcus serves as a Cultural Affairs Officer at U.S. Embassy Kabul.
I saw something on July 23 that I never expected to see in Kabul – a full-blown film festival awards ceremony, complete with pop stars, famous presenters and a video montage of the nominees. There wasn’t a red carpet, but there were two lines of kids lining the entrance waving and shouting greetings to everyone as they entered. The awards ceremony concluded the 4th Kabul International Documentary and Short Film Festival, which was themed “The Sky Is the Limit” and ran from July 18 -23. The festival showcased documentaries and short films from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, Tajikistan, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain.
The crowd attending the awards ceremony was a mix of artists, fans, local dignitaries, and, perhaps best of all, their families. There were many fantastic moments. One of my favorites was watching a little girl, maybe three years old, trying to make her way through the crowd to her father, who looked as if he were one of the event organizers, before her mother quickly caught her.
The ceremony opened with an interpretive dance (again something I was surprised and delighted to see in Kabul) and a speech by Engineer Latif, one of Afghanistan’s most prominent filmmakers. He detailed the long journey Afghan film has made: literally from nothing to the burgeoning cultural institution it is now. He drew thunderous applause from the crowd when he said that no one could say Afghanistan does not have a real film industry because they are only making documentaries and short films. As he put it, “It may seem small, but it is theirs, and it is a beginning.”
Other favorite moments came when the awards for Best Child Actor and Best Male Actor were given out, both for roles in I Want a Horse, Not a Wife. The little boy who won said “For the whole movie I was asking for a horse, and now I have one!” (The award statue is a rearing horse.) The winner of Best Male Actor was moved almost to tears in his acceptance speech, stating that he watched televised awards ceremonies from everywhere else for his whole life, and he never dreamed the day would come that he could accept an award in his home country.