IDFA 2018 Opening: Kabul, City in the Wind
14 November 2018
Filmmaker Aboozar Amini's Kabul, City in the Wind, which opens IDFA 2018, plunges spectators into the heart of the Afghan capital through the lives of a bus driver and a young boy who manages to find pleasure amid the debris of conflict.
Amini, who left Afghanistan as a teenager to live in the Netherlands, hit upon the idea of capturing contemporary Kabul via life on its buses when he returned there for the first time in 2009. "The city had changed. I couldn't find the Kabul I once knew. I saw heavy American military vehicles passing in a convoy through the heart of the city. There was the non-stop presence of helicopters in the air and ambulance sirens," he says.
"Tired of all this I took the bus. There I met passengers from all parts of the society: the old, young, men and women, beggars and pickpockets, prostitutes and students. I saw for the first time the true face of the city."
Amini spent a month riding the buses, listening to people talk, picking up snippets of stories and getting to know the drivers. "Everyone was themselves in a true and honest way. I felt a huge difference between what I was seeing in the world media about Afghanistan and what was I seeing inside the bus. That was the moment I knew what my next film would be about."
The filmmaker eventually began shooting in 2015, producing the work under the Amsterdam-based Silk Road Film Salon banner that he runs with Dutch-Chinese producer Jia Zhao, in co-production with Japan's NHK Enterprises and with the support of the Busan International Film Fund, the IDFA Bertha Fund, Germany's EZEF Fund, a South Korean DMZ Grant and the Netherlands Film Fund.
Between times, he had chosen a local bus driver called Abbas as the central character and also met a charismatic young boy called Afshin who would also become one of the viewpoints of the work. Amini recounts how he met Afshin while out with his crew looking for an old Soviet tank, which lay abandoned in the hills of Kabul. "We came across a group of children playing in the snow. Suddenly there were hundreds of kids around us and I was filming with my iPhone. Their openness and bright smiles were very touching. It was like they didn't care about the shadow of war on them."
Afshin stood out as the leader of the pack and walked with Amini and his crew for an hour to bring them to the tank. "When I watched my footage back home in Amsterdam I knew Afshin was the one through whose eyes I needed to see the city," says the director.
Amini made 15 trips to Kabul from 2015 on, during a period that saw an escalation in violence and suicide attacks in the Afghan capital. On the advice of Afshin's father, Amini took basic security precautions like not hanging out in crowded places or attending big public events. Nonetheless, he found himself caught up in the July 2016 bombing of a demonstration in the city's Deh Mazang Square, which left at least 86 people dead and another 250 injured.
"It was horrible. This was the moment I decided not to show any form of violence itself in my film. Violence is against human nature," says Amini, who believes that people become desensitized to images and reports of violence and killing over time. "You won't see any blood or bombs or shooting in my film. I'm tired of seeing these images out of Afghanistan. I would like to make the audience relate to the lives there, to feel the pain and violence without seeing it. I try to show life and how precious it can be, in a town which is non-stop under the shadow of war and violence." Melanie Goodfellow
SEE NL Magazine #33 November 2018 / IDFA Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by EYE International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.