Afghanistan Appoints Woman to Head State-run Film Company

Sahraa Karimi is the only woman in the country to have obtained a PhD in cinema.

May 22, 2019 08:53
2 minute read.
Afghanistan Appoints Woman to Head State-run Film Company

Afghan women collect saffron flowers in the Karukh district of Herat, Afghanistan, November 5, 2016. Picture taken November 5, 2016. . (photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMMAD SHOIB)


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Islamabad - The Afghan government has appointed the first female director-general for its state-run film production company, Afghan Film Organization (AFO).

Sahraa Karimi, 36, is a prominent filmmaker in her own right. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field and has directed more than 30 films. She is the only woman from Afghanistan to have earned a doctorate in cinema.
Nadir Nadiry, who chairs Afghanistan’s Civil Service Commission, told The Media Line that Karimi had been selected through a pure merit-based process overseen by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC). 

The Media Line spoke exclusively with Karimi.

“I was born in an ethnic Persian-speaking family in 1983 in Kabul. My family was forced to migrate to Iran as the Taliban had barred girls from getting an education, and my father was keen to educate his daughter,” she told The Media Line.

(In reality, it was the second time her family left Afghanistan; the first came just after she was born, when her parents felt she would have a brighter future elsewhere.) 

At 17, she graduated high school in Tehran and saw that as a migrant from Afghanistan, “I was deprived of everything I had worked so hard to achieve. There was no reason for me to stay. I wanted to go somewhere where I would have an identity and could pursue my dreams. So, I migrated to Slovak Republic.”

She spent 12 years there studying for her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in film and directing. Her PhD in cinema is from the Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Film and TV in Bratislava.

“I returned in 2012, where I co-founded a multimedia house,” she related. “Our films are mostly about civil rights issues faced by women in war-torn Afghanistan.”

Her feature film “Afghan Women Behind the Wheel” has received some 25 awards from major film festivals around the globe. The film she made as part of her doctoral studies, “Light Breeze,” won the Slovak National Film Award. 

“War has affected Afghanistan’s cinema in terms of production, but our films can be very rich in terms of content because our country is full of colorful stories,” Karimi said.

She related that people in Afghanistan have been making films for close to a century, ever since Kin Amanullah Shah brought cinematography to the country. Unfortunately, war and other conflicts have kept the industry in a recession.

She related that there were only three or four female filmmakers in Afghanistan.

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