To "not wait for the archive" is to enter the river of time sideways, a bit unnanounced, much like the digital itself did, not so long ago. (1)
Afghan Films, the national film institute of Afghanistan, opened in 1968.
The negative archive of Afghan Films is intact, protected and persevered by a long-term staff who also produced and screened these films, through vagaries of political upheaval. To watch these reels is to see an often violently changing ideological landscape against the continuous effort and precariousness of making films, under such conditions. These images travelling now from film to pixels showed us rich, surprising and joyful things, begging a broader audience.
It began with a bit of time-travel: Vijay Chavan, a Bombay film technician still adept at working with 1980's Spirit telecine machines arrived in Kabul. He repaired the existing FDL90 telecine machine and editing Steenbeck, and trained four staff members in using and trouble-shooting them. Shortly afterward a local database was set up using an offline instance of Pad.ma.
To introduce these dimensions into the film database, the digitising of reels was accompanied by a process of talking to people both in Afghan Film and beyond. The 90 or so films digitised during the workshop range from the 1920's to the 1990's, and cut across many genres including newsreel, documentary and fiction features. Several of the current Afghan Films staff have worked here since the 1970's and have worked on these films as directors, cameramen or actors. Our conversations with them translated into a rich set of annotations for the digital film material.
The workshop ended with the screening of a “footage film” that we edited in
Kabul, from the digitized portions of the archive. It was titled: A Brief history of
Audiences and Crowds, from the Afghan Films Archive. The no-longer operational
mobile cinema unit at Afghan Film organised a screening in the city-center park,
Shar-E-Nau, on 15th April 2012. One day before the “Taliban Spring Offensive”. The screening, included Khan-e-tarikh https://pad.ma/BYA/info