International human rights film festival starts in Kabul

KABUL: (MEP) – Another international human rights film festival opened in the Afghan capital Kabul on the weekend with the screening of Sundance festival winner Wajma, the country’s official submission for the Academy Awards.

The six-day film festival aims to highlight human rights issues, social inequality, discrimination, war and violence, organizers said.

It will showcase some 75 films from 21 countries, ranging from documentaries to full-length movies, as well as animated productions, times live reported.

“We received about 380 films around the world,” said Diana Saqeb, director of the Afghanistan Cinema Club, one of the organizers.

The opening was attended by a couple hundred Afghan and international filmmakers, activists, politicians, authors, journalists and students.

Saqeb said eight films would be selected by a jury under international, national and student competitions. The winners will receive monetary awards.

Thirty-three of the 75 featured films are from Afghanistan.

Some topics are controversial, like rape and forced marriages, NATO’s involvement in 12-year-old Afghan war, the situation of Afghan refugees in Iran, and the handful of women drivers in Kabul city.

“Artistic activities have significant impact on human rights expansion and promotion in a country like Afghanistan, where rights violations are common occurrence,” said Shida Mobtaker, an activist and participant at the festival.

Another participant named Jalaluddin said that due to 30 years of war in the country, “we did not have a free hand in cinema.”

“And there wasn’t a significant opportunity for making films. Such screenings could take us to an open society,” he said.

Festival director Malek Shafii said there would be a series of workshops and discussions.

“It will be an excellent opportunity for dialogue and discussions related to the importance of art and human rights.”

He said the situation in Afghanistan was “acute, but not hopeless.”

“We are paying a heavy price, but we will stand strong,” Shafii said. “The festival, among others, is one of the signs of standing up again.”

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