The world’s attention is currently focused on the war in Ukraine, but two new documentaries from National Geographic and Netflix are offering ‘Afghanistan’s Forgotten Stories’.
After the sudden withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan last year and the return of the Taliban to power, many stories of the people left behind in this devastated country have been forgotten despite being remarkable. A major reason for this trend is the war in Ukraine. This war is apparently between Russia and Ukraine, but the entire international community is affected by it.
The effects of this war are far reaching and their scope is also very wide. Many observers are describing the Russia-Ukraine war as the biggest political crisis since World War II, and economists see this war as changing the “world order” to a large extent. From this point of view, it is not surprising that after the withdrawal of the American and its allies from Afghanistan in 2021, the stories of many people who are victims of the very dire situation in this country are extremely tragic and unforgettable, despite the Ukraine war. have been forgotten or neglected due to
Forgotten Stories of Afghanistan
Filmmaker Matthew Heinemann and German filmmaker Marcel Mittel-Zieffen aim to bring to light and bring to the big screen the stories of people living in a society ravaged by war and aggression for decades, but forgotten.
National Geographic’s “Retrograde” is a story about an Afghan general who tries unsuccessfully to stop the Taliban’s advance in 2021, while Netflix’s “In “Hands” tells the story of the country’s youngest female mayor, who is forced to flee for fear of being targeted by Taliban extremists.
The stories of both films begin a few months before the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Both protagonists are seen trying to build a safer and more equal future for their country, and both films end there, with the two protagonists sitting abroad watching the activities of the Taliban in their own country. They are forced to sit outside and watch how fast the Taliban are wasting their hard work and erasing all the traces of their work.
The story of General Sami Sadat
“We kind of forgot about the story,” says Matthew Hineman, director of Retrograde. When was the last time we talked about the war in Afghanistan, or read an article about it?” Matthew added. “A lot of people are talking about the country that we have left behind.”
National Geographic’s “Retrograde” is a documentary based on the extremely difficult and rare access to US Special Forces. An opening scene shows American soldiers destroying their equipment and retreating, wasting the extra ammunition their Afghan allies once desperately needed. After the withdrawal of American troops from the American base in Helmand, Afghan General Sami Sadat took charge and assumed the responsibility of stopping the advance of the Taliban.
In one scene of the documentary, Sadat sees the situation around him deteriorating and rallies his men to fight and remain committed to their mission. Director Matthew Heinemann recalls the scene, “Every sign was saying stop, give up, it’s over and he had this blind belief that maybe, just maybe, if he could get to Lashkar Gah or If they stick to Helmand, they can defeat the Taliban.
Eventually, General Sadat had to flee and the filmmakers turned their cameras back to the dismal scenes at Kabul Airport. It was a scene of Afghan desperation, as Afghans jostled for a place on the last American planes.
According to director Matthew Hyneman, “It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever witnessed in my entire career.” was done He says that the human element is not found in public policy and foreign policy discussions about wars. According to Heinemann, “What I have tried to do throughout my career is to take these big but vague topics and put a human face on them.”
The story of Zarifa Ghaffari
Zarifa Ghaffari, a former mayor of Afghanistan, is the main character of the movie “In Hands”. While talking to the news agency AFP, he said, “Afghanistan under the Taliban is the only country in the world where women can sell their bodies, their children and anything but are not able to go to school.” According to Zarifa Ghafari, “Afghanistan is disappearing as a topic in international political meetings.”
Former mayor Zarifa Ghaffari, who survived the assassination, saw her father shot by the Taliban. This was before the Taliban came back to power and then she left Afghanistan. Recalling those events, she says, “I still can’t hold back tears when I talk about that moment.”
“It was something I never really wanted to do,” she adds, adding that she was 24 when she was appointed mayor of Maidan City, and after that appointment, she took care of the girls. Campaigned for education. “I had some personal responsibilities, especially after my father’s murder, to help keep my family safe,” she says.
The producers returned to Afghanistan and filmed Ghafari’s former driver Masoom, now unemployed and living under the Taliban. In the most disturbing scenes, he is seen joining forces with the same militants, who once attacked Ghaffari’s car while the driver was innocently driving Ghaffari’s car. Zarifa Ghaffari said, “Masoom’s story represents the story of all the crises in Afghanistan, why people are finally feeling betrayed.”
Although the nature of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine are completely different, both the above-mentioned films present a cautionary tale about what can happen to a troubled region after the West’s attention is diverted. Filmmaker and director Matthew Heinemann says that this has happened throughout history and will continue to happen in the future, but what can we ultimately learn from this experience?
Zarifa Ghaffari said, “What has happened and is happening in Ukraine, this is what we have been going through for 60 years. The same thing is happening again and again. So we share their sorrow.