The history of Afghanistan in the second half of the 20th century was marked by oppression and violence. The Afghan-Canadian filmmaker Ariel Nasr tells this story from the perspective of Afghan film history. Interviews with film historian Mariam Ghani, filmmakers Latif Ahmadi and Siddiq Barmak, actress Yasmin Yarmal and other key players are interspersed with film excerpts—from both fiction and documentary—from the archives of the national film institute, Afghan Film. They show a rich culture in a period in which the country underwent many drastic changes, from the communist regime and the war with Russia to the oppression by the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban.
Particularly under the Taliban, filmmakers’ lives were at risk. During this time, a small group of people managed to save the archives from destruction at the hands of the fundamentalists. The Forbidden Reel clearly illustrates how invaluable cinema is, not only as an artistic expression or factual report, but also as a means to know and understand one’s own history better.