Film protagonists: Aiqela Rezaie, Roya Nuri, Hamida Refah, Zobaida Sahar, Saba Sahar, Breshna Bahar, Malek_a, Sakina Habib-zada, Marina Golbahari, Nilab, Razi Mohebi, Khaleda Forogh.
The film deals with performative strategies to undermine the rigid gender norms in Afghan society: on the level of cinematographic stagings, in political work and in everyday life. Life and character collide and overlap, as do playfulness and activism. Marina Golbahari, the lead actress in the Afghan feature film Osama, explains how her role in the film related to her real life. The policewoman Saba Sahar produces action films in which she plays the leading part as a policewoman. She stages increasingly sophisticated martial arts scenes, while simultaneously demanding the binding rule of law. The former teacher and actress Breshna Bahar appears as the spokeswoman of the fictive female president of Afghanistan. In a demonstration scene, the two actresses Hamida Refah and Zobaida Sahar, who play the grandmother and daughter in Osama, demand the improvement of their housing situation. Hamida takes over directing as we stage a scene from a fairy tale. The actresses of the demonstration scene in Osama speak of their current political problems. A girls’ theater group rehearses educative plays about the upcoming elections; the male roles are alternately played by different girls.
The protagonists adjust the production of the film to their own conditions in order, within that framework, to participate in a public statement. They act as co-producers of the image, shaping the content of scenes and moving in and out of the role of director. Our own visibility is marked precisely at the point where the protagonists become active authors of the film process.
We return to Kabul in 2006, to discuss the rough cut with those involved. The actress Breshna Bahar asks us to remove a dance scene with her because dancing in public is deemed unseemly, especially for women. Another protagonist, recently married into a very conservative family, is no longer allowed to appear in any film whatsoever. Since her scenes are important to us and we don’t want to delete them completely, we develop a digital effect retaining the figure’s movements but abstracting identifiable facial expressions. These consultations and changes are necessary in order to show the film in Afghanistan without causing problems for the protagonists in their daily lives.
There are women in the film who don’t want to be recognized: An activist of the covertly operating organization RAWA who advocates the separation of state and religion; women whose husbands, brothers or sons forbid them to play in films; the girl who earns a living for her family as a boy. They consciously opt for different strategies to make themselves anonymous, thus remaining visible in the film by being unidentifiable. Burka and chador become strategic instruments and the separation of image and sound enables us to establish anonymity on other levels.
As we assemble Passing the Rainbow, we do not question the exact genre of the film being made. Our approach is inspired and influenced rather by the theme of acting, by questions related to how representation is engendered and by the collaborative production process of a film. Passing the Rainbow maneuvers the borders of various genres. We combine film excerpts, making-of recordings, scenes we staged ourselves, and documentary recordings of protagonists speaking about their filmic or political work. This variegated material is edited into smaller and larger intertwined dramaturgical sequences, which, as episodes, form an overarching narrative. We opt for an analytical approach showing the different methods with which the protagonists in Kabul intervene in social and gender-hegemonic processes – no matter if this takes place on the level of acting, in political work or in everyday life.
(Excerpts from “The Making”, Sandra Schäfer, Kabul, Film & Production of Representation, b_books, Berlin 2009)
The artist, filmmaker and curator of film programs lives and works in Berlin. In her artistic work, Sandra Schäfer has previously dealt with themes of representation of gender, urbanity and (post-) colonialism. Presently she is member of the Berlin based group artefakte which is part of Alexandertechnik, a network of social activists, artists and academics, who reject the reconstruction of the Prussian castle in Berlin as much as the current concept of the Humboldt-Forum. She is also involved into cinenova, a feminist non-profit, charitable organization based in London, dedicated to preserving and distributing films and videos made by women film makers, artists and activist. Until July 2010 she will be fellow artist at the research center for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) at Chelsea College London.
Schäfer has made repeated visits to Kabul and Tehran since 2002. She has been involved in different collaborative projects with filmmakers, activists and theoreticians. Together with the Berlin based filmmaker Elfe Brandenburger and in cooperation with actresses, filmmakers and activists from Kabul she made the film Passing the Rainbow. It is a film about actresses and strategies to undermine the rigid gender norms in Afghan society. She is co-curator of the film festival Kabul/Teheran 1979ff: Filmlandschaften, Städte unter Stress und Migration (Kabul/Tehran 1979ff: Film Landscapes, Cities under Stress and Migration) that took place 2003 at the Volksbühne Berlin. She is co-editor of a book with the same title, published in 2006 by b_books, Berlin. 2007/08 she co-curated the film festival SPLICE IN and lecture program on gender and society in Afghanistan, its neighboring countries and Europe. SPLICE IN took place in Kassel, Berlin and Hamburg. The festival was continued in Kabul in May 2008 in cooperation with the artist-group CACA-Kabul, the state-run film organization Afghan Film and the organization Open Asia under the title SECOND TAKE. In 2009 her book stagings. Kabul, Film & Production of Representation got published in the series metroZones/media at b_books, Berlin.
Films/videos/video installations/photographies (selection): Urban settings and other kinds too (2002-09), stagings (2008), Passing the Rainbow (2007), Traversée de la Mangrove (2006), The Making of a Demonstration (2004), A country’s new dawn (2001), Die unsichtbare Dienstleistung (The invisible services, 2000), Kontaktfreudig, offen und gewandt im Umgang (The joy of communication, open with an elegant manner, 1999), England-Deutschland (1997), Shift (1996), Doch bin ich wirklich (Of course am I real, 1996).