Vocaloid Cosplay Wig
A Close-up View on Mohsen Makhmalbaf''s Life in Kabul
Summary: Makhmalbaf is living in Kabul along with his family including his wife Marzieh, his children
Samira, Hanna and Meitham
and even his mother and sister. Shortly after he arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, Makhmalbaf found out
that he could not differentiate
between filmmaking, which was the main objective of his visit, and contribution to training Afghan
children, establishment of public
libraries and building schools. That''s why he became occupied in almost all the mentioned tasks. He is
currently involved in
construction of schools, while he keeps calling on the public for providing relief aid required for
reconstruction and equipment of
Kabul orphanage by printing commercials in the Iranian and foreign newspapers. Meanwhile, he is also
working on his films.
Text: I met Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the prominent Iranian cinematographer, in his house located at one of
the streets of the Afghan
capital city Kabul. He was clad in Afghan clothing and as my colleague said, "He has been associating
with Afghans so often that he
almost looks like them."
Makhmalbaf is residing in Kabul along with his whole family including his wife, Marziyeh, his daughters
Samira and Hanna and his son
Meitham. He has even taken along his mother and sister. They live at a two-floor house located at
"Qassabha" (the butchers) alley at
one of Kabul''s central streets. The house serves both as their residence and working place. Makhmalbaf,
his family and his cinematic
colleagues accompanying him for film production all live and work in the same house.
We arrived at Makhmalbaf''s house at dinnertime, when several individuals were involved in setting the
table and distributing food,
while Meitham and his aunt were busier than anyone else. Makhmalbaf''s elder daughter, who had just
arrived and was still in his black
manteau, kindly went towards the refrigerator, opened its door and speaking to the little Afghan boy
asked him to help himself to
anything he might wish.
The little boy staring at the food inside the refrigerator with surprise eventually picked up a big drink,
hugged it and said: "Hannah,
Makhmalbaf told me that when Samira and her brother had been out to make a phone call, they had
come across the boy at the part
near their house.
The boy had told Samira while crying that fearing the stray dogs he has not been sleeping for many
nights. He has lost all his family
members in the US bombings except her sister who lives somewhere in the country with her husband. In
the past months, all
throughout the warm and cold nights he has been sleeping in the park and has gained a bite of bread in
the daytime. Now, every time
he is offered food, reminding his sister from whom he doesn''t hear anymore, he keeps on saying, "I
don''t want any food, I am
looking for my sister." Then he goes after Hanna, Makhmalbaf''s younger daughter.
Makhmalbaf says, "Even I myself don''t have any idea how long he is going to stay with us. But he
should stay with us as long as he
grows up and can manage to take care of himself. As by whom he was brought to us doesn''t actually
make much difference."
Makhmalbaf said that he has been seriously involved with Afghanistan for the past two or three
The interest dates back to the time when he was up to produce his film called "Qandahar". His
clandestine visit to Afghanistan three
years ago was actually on account of this very film, since he intended to conduct the preliminary
research for making Qandahar. The
visit took place simultaneous with the migration of a great number of villagers to outskirts of the city of
Herat. Makhmalbaf narrates
the memoirs of those days in Herat with great sorrow:
"The villagers were dying of hunger and didn''t believe at all that such incidents are taking place in our
neighborhood. Nonetheless, no
one in our country ever said a word about it. Neither did the press, the radio and TV broadcast nor even
the world news media
mentioned anything about it."
"When I used to make a film at Iran-Afghan borderline, I witnessed migrants attempting to rush towards
Iran''s borders on foot.
Nonetheless, some of them lost their lives out of hunger and disease before reaching a city such as
Zabul, while some had walked on
mines on their way. It was hard to believe that such deprived people used to frequent the borderlines of
our homeland. Whenever
reference is made to hunger and poverty, the first thing coming to one''s mind is Africa and we all forget
that Afghanistan is another
Africa located beyond our border. Facing such catastrophic events every day, Makhmalbaf felt for the
Afghans more deeply."
Makhmalbaf has been living with Afghanistan for many years and has closely witnessed the difficulties
encountered in the everyday
life. Nevertheless, he is still faced with new problems day by day, which makes his heart squeezed. He
says, "As if one would never
get used to observing so much poverty and disaster and one would feel harmed every day."
Extras for Samira''s Film
Finding extras for Samira''s film left a great impression on Makhmalbaf. Despite the fact that in
Afghanistan hardly any woman is
prepared to appear in a film on account of family prejudice, Samira was looking for extras for her film.
The same prejudice that
according to Mohsen Makhmalbaf, mainly accounts for the appearance of the Taleban. He says, "The
Afghans have never had a
correct image of the cinema. Once they are asked if they are willing to play in a film, they imagine that
they should either dance or
sing, while the film itself might seem to them nothing but the love story of a girl and a boy along with
dancing and singing."
Eventually only a number of hungry individuals were the only ones who agreed to appear in Samira''s
film as a multitude, who just
meant to earn something for themselves and their families. The first day Samira started working with
them, she had to stop the film
production. According to her, "Since they were too hungry to be able to work, before anything they had
to be fed."
The day Samira produced part of her film with 150 Afghan individuals she had to serve 500 food
portions. Nonetheless, by the end of
the day, some claimed that they hadn''t got anything to eat. This was due to the fact that some of the
women had got several food
portions and had hidden them under their Burqas in order to take them for their children who had hardly
got anything to eat for days
If You Visit Afghanistan!
There was no end to Makhmalbaf''s stories about Afghanistan. He adds, "I may sound to exaggerate to
those who have never been to
Afghanistan. However, if they happen to visit the country, they would hardly be indifferent to what''s
going on. Even if they make up
their minds to pay attention to everything and everyone once they arrive in Afghanistan, it will almost be
out of question."
Then he stared at the floor, which was covered with floor mat and told me in a moment, "One cannot be
indifferent to what is
witnessed, even if one doesn''t intend to pay attention to them since the beginning."
$13 Paid Monthly to A Surgeon
A few days before this interview, Makhmalbaf got seriously sick and was taken to a hospital at Kabul''s
neighborhood. Once he was in the hospital, Makhmalbaf asked a surgeon about the reason for Afghan
migrants having left for Europe
where they had become physicians not returning home to help their countrymen. The Afghan surgeon
replied, "As a surgeon my
monthly salary is just dlrs 12-13. Can one afford to live on this income?"
According to Makhmalbaf, while this was the best state hospital in Kabul, the salary of the surgeons
working there is quite low and no
medicine is available there for many diseases.
Makhmalbaf''s words reminded me of the Afghan physician, Mohammad, who had told me a few days
ago at one of Kabul clinics,
"Most of the medicine available in Afghanistan are fake and have been imported from Pakistan."
Mohammad had also told me, "You
know, nowadays even the medicine imported from Iran is hard to come by."
While Makhmalbaf was talking about the difficulties of living in Afghanistan, his eyes looked tired and
melancholy. He says, "This
time, when I was leaving Iran for Afghanistan, I took along about 2,000 aleppo boil ointments, since
here you can hardly come by
anyone who is not infected with aleppo boils. With a cheap ointment one could prevent its
consequences. Of course, it is so easy to
talk about it, but when it comes to practice it seems almost out of question, since a minimum of 20,000
aleppo boil ointments should
be imported into the country in order to campaign merely against the single disease. I asked him, "Mr.
Makhmalbaf, after all you have
already said what made you and your family come to Kabul?"Makhmalbaf says, "There are so many
basic requirements in
Afghanistan and such a great need for responding to such demands, that it doesn''t make much
difference what makes any individual
to visit Afghanistan. No matter if one visits the country with the objective to make a report or any other
reason, once the visitor leaves
Afghanistan he would certainly feel to have partially left behind his heart. That''s why one would like to
return to the country over and
Makhmalbaf has so far visited about 40-50 countries, but he has hardly ever wished to return to any one.
He says, "I have only had
such a strong feeling for revisiting any country, among the 40-50 states I have so far been to." He adds,
"Once when I visited India, I
went through such a strong desire on account of the marvelous diversity of cultures I came across over
there. The second time I had
such a feeling was when I was visiting Afghanistan, which was on account of its special circumstances
and the strange feeling of
nostalgia, which overshadows one''s feelings. The feeling was so strong that it made me revisit the
country over and over again. Of
course, my main objective was not to produce films."
Makhmalbaf is involved in production of two long feature films in Kabul. One is being directed by his
daughter, Samira. The other is
being directed by the Afghan Film Producer, Sediq Barmak, who is a post-graduate from a Russian
university. Barmak is also the
President of "Afghan Film", which is an institute similar to the Cinematic Department of Iran''s Ministry
of Culture and Islamic
Guidance or Farabi Cinematic Foundation. Of course "Afghan Film" has no facilities. It is neither
equipped with a laboratory, no a
studio and not even with a camera. The only thing they possessed was an out-of-order camera, which
was sent to Iran by
Makhmalbaf to be repaired.
As a matter of fact, both films are being produced by a joint Iran-Afghan team. The experts of both
groups are Iranians and the
Afghans are just working experimentally to gain expertise. Once they are through with the two films
currently being produced, they
intend to form the first Afghan professional cinematic group to initiate working their first film in the new
era. Besides Makhmalbaf is
nowadays involved in getting prepared for the Kabul International Film Festival. He is making his best to
make Qandahar''s actress,
Niloufar Pazira, to preside over the festival. He hopes that the festival would provide a modern
atmosphere for the Afghan cinema.
Makhmalbaf continued, "In view of the recent difficulties in Afghanistan, specially in the past decade, it
is actually estranged with
image. During the past 100 years, just 40 long and short films have been produced in the country. This
is all there is to its cinema and
one can write its entire cinematic history in a whole week." He noted, "It''s just enough to watch the 40
films. What I would like to
point out is that the history of Afghan cinema is quite short. Meanwhile, in Afghan cinemas mostly
Indian films have been screened.
People''s image on cinema in Afghanistan is either Russian films produced during the reign of Russians
or Indian films, which are still
screened in their cinemas."
Not Only for Cinema But for Afghanistan
Makhmalbaf has not only taken many measures for Afghan cinema, but has likewise done many things
for the Afghans and
Afghanistan itself. A while ago, he called upon Iranian film producers to present as many films to the
Afghan people as they can
afford, so that they will be screened in Afghanistan''s cinemas. After the call, 30 feature films were
donated to Afghanistan''s cinema.
He says, "I meant not only to compete against the Indian films, but to change the imagination of
Afghans about cinema. Since, even
the worst Iranian films have a social message to convey. Iranian cinema, after all, reflects the various
aspects of people''s life." He
adds, "Iranian cinema including its artistic films of general appeal and its films of special genre is marked
by its social aspect quite
different from that of Indian films."
Since Afghans are used to Indian films, Kabul cinemas have actually accepted to screen just one Iranian
film every night. The
proceeds from screening Iranian films are to be allocated to holding the first Kabul International Film
Two Schools in Herat
Makhmalbaf is currently involved in making three schools in Herat with the proceeds from Samira''s
films. Each school will consist of
28 classrooms covering 2,480 meters and 5,000 meters of courtyard.
One of the schools, the construction of which was initiated by Iran''s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was left
unfinished. It is now being
constructed by Makhmalbaf and his accompanying group. After the fall of the Taleban, Makhmalbaf
started his attempts towards
educating the Afghan children and young adults who had been deprived of education during the war.
Some of them were the children
staying in Iran and who on account of the illegal residence of their parents in Iran were never allowed to
Given that such a measure known as "Afghan Children Education Movement" required financial means
and other facilities,
Makhmalbaf took over to call for relief aid by advertising in Iranian dailies, which are still remembered
by a lot of Iranians. The ads
were usually published in full color in reformist dailies. They showed the portrait of an Afghan girl with a
phrase calling on the public
for relief aid to be extended for the education of Afghan children. The expenses of the ads amounted to
rls 600 million, but the dailies
publishing them refused to receive any money in favor of Afghan children. But what was the outcome?
The public just contributed rls
10 million. According to Makhmalbaf, "Such a reaction merely shows the lack of public confidence,
even in the press, the same ones
which are nowadays acceptable more than others."
Then Makhmalbaf appeared on a Greek TV broadcast and addressed the public in a one-hour program
in a not-too-fluent English, as
he himself put it. The same one-hour program ended up in a public aid of 80,000 dollars transferred to
the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deposit account, which had been
announced by Makhmalbaf. What is
the reason behind it? Why did he fail to collect a remarkable amount in favor of the Afghan children in
his own country? How did his
one-hour speech make the Greek to donate such a great amount to the cause? Was the failure of such an
appeal in Iran owing to two
decades of official and direct state publicity made in favor of Afghan people, which now manifested
itself in such an indifference?
Another project taken on by Makhmalbaf, which occupies so much of his time nowadays, is the
equipment and reconstruction of
Kabul Orphanage, where 800 orphans are taken care of. They have lost their parents in war, while they
are mostly killed in tribal wars,
fighting against one another.
The health condition at Kabul Orphanage was disastrous. They didn''t even have sanitary bathrooms and
showers. Nonetheless, owing
to the same project, the orphanage is now equipped with 10 sanitary showers and bathrooms.
Makhmalbaf even employed a physician
in the orphanage in order to provide them with proper health and treatment.
When Makhmalbaf launched a campaign for the education of Afghan children, he realized that many of
them were sick. That''s why he
made up his mind to do something about their health, in the first place and then proceed with their
education. At the same time, many
Iranian physicians of various specialties announced their readiness to cooperate with him and took on to
treat a lot of children free of
charge. They consisted of 24 physicians who are now prepared to visit Afghanistan and treat the
infected children or make surgeries
on them free of charge.
Makhmalbaf says, "It will be preferable to provide the facilities for making surgical operations in
Afghanistan so that the Iranian
physicians can treat their patients in Afghanistan. Then the Afghan children needing medical treatment
wouldn''t have to go through all
the trouble to get entry visas to visit Iran in order to have their heart or eye operated. An optician
included at the 24-member
volunteered Iranian physicians, is willing to visit Afghanistan and operate 2,000 cataract patients in two
months; provided that the
required facilities would be available over there.
I asked Makhmalbaf, "You have been living with Afghans and their problems for quite a time. I would
like to find out what is their
most significant problem from your point of view?"
From his point of view, there are currently three major problems in Afghanistan, the most important of
which is lack of funds.
Makhmalbaf says, "The conversion of our deprived traditional community into a relatively modern one
was materialized on account of
oil revenue. While the Afghans neither have oil, nor any substitute. The question now is not that the
Taleban have closed the schools
and that the new government is now determined to reopen them. But the actual issue is, how and with
what budget do they intend to
run the schools? The world has claimed that it has already donated an amount of 4.5 billion dollars to
Afghanistan in five years. For
the time being, I would like to leave aside the fact whether such a promise would be materialized. But
even if it is materialized, the
amount would never suffice to respond to the preliminary needs of the Afghan people.
Makhmalbaf Writes to Annan
When the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, visited Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf was invited to a
glorious reception arranged in
Tehran by Iranian authorities in Kofi Annan''s honor. Instead of attending the reception, Makhmalbaf
addressing a letter to Kofi
Annan, told Iranian officials, "I apologize for not coming to the reception. I would rather appreciate if
you hand in this letter to the
Secretary-General instead of my presence."
In his letter, pointing to the 4.5 billion dollars donated to Afghanistan by the world, Makhmalbaf had
written, "Mr. Annan, the amount
of 4.5 billion dollars divided between 20 million Afghans would mean that every Afghan is to receive a
relief aid of 225 dollars in five
years. That means an annual per capita quota of 45 dollars."
He adds, "From Iranian point of view, every Afghan is to receive a daily relief quota of rls 1,000 from
the world. It seems like we are
supposed to provide every Afghan with one loaf of bread every day. Under such circumstances, the
Afghan nation will continue to be
poor and given the current domestic and world condition, they can only continue begging."
His letter added, "Mr. Kofi Annan, how can one manage to save the Afghans from their historically
deprived world and introduce
them to the modern world of today with an annual amount of dlrs 45 in a country which has no
economic resources? It has somehow
stayed away from the world''s general cultural trend. Even if we can manage to return Afghanistan to its
status of two decades ago,
namely before it underwent all the disastrous events, they would just be on the verge of cattle breeding
era, instead of the present age
to which the entire world is currently exposed to.
According to Makhmalbaf, the Afghan transitional government, which has constantly been calling upon
the world for relief aid, which
is actually a type of large-scale begging, has not so far managed to take a more active role.
He says, "Did you know that Afghanistan''s historical problem is that it has nothing of value which would
be of interest in the
post-imperialistic era? In the world of today, every country has somehow a share in the world economy
one may have oil, while the
other might be rich in industries, etc. What I mean is that every country has something to present at the
global trade market.
Nonetheless, Afghanistan has nothing that would enable it to join the global economy. That''s why it is
Makhmalbaf expresses his view on Afghanistan''s former and current community as follows: "I suppose
that before Afghanistan was
attacked by the ex-Soviet Union, cattle breeding was its main source of income. Given that 75 percent
of the country is covered by
mountains, it has never been suitable for agriculture. There is no dam anywhere in Afghanistan to
harness waters, except Panjshir
Valley. All across the country is either flood-hit or plagued with drought. Thus pastures were the only
natural reserves available, which
were only good for cattle breeding."
"Afghanistan''s economy depending merely on cattle breeding accounts for their tribal and traditional life
style, which continued even
after it was invaded by the Russians. The only change brought about was that the Afghan `shepherds''
became `Mujaheds'' (warriors)
and started defending their nation and resisting against the enemy. The Afghans who before the Russian
invasion were involved in
cattle breeding changed their jobs and started to combat as they were encouraged to do so by the
budgets dedicated to the effect
either by the West or by financial means provided by the neighboring states. After all, Jihad (holy war)
and resistance required a
budget. When Iran was attacked by Iraq, our expenses were provided by oil revenues. But Afghanistan,
unlike us, had not any
resources. You can imagine how should a shepherd earn his living, once he has to fight instead of
breeding cattle. Thus there was no
other way rather than either being fed by the neighboring states or by the West. Afghanistan was
converted into a large dumping place
located in-between the world superpowers including Russia, China and the United States. Then
ideological countries such as Iran
having recently gained power were also added later. Given that the Afghans themselves were short of
any financial means, they could
only resist if their expenses were provided by others. That''s why the Mujaheds were soon converted
into mercenaries," he added.
When I looked at him surprised, he took a pause and went on, "I say all this, despite my affection and
respect for the Afghans. I
believe that I should analyze them, since I have strong feelings for them. One should properly analyze
the image of the Afghans to find
out how the simple shepherd became a Mujahed and was then converted into a mercenary without
noting the process. As a matter of
fact, each group was hired by one of the mentioned countries and the ones who achieved to stick to
their originality owed their
independence to their negative balance. For instance one tribe chose to fight with the Russians in the
first place, while later on it was
aided by the Russians to fight with Pakistan."
Negative Reaction to Modernization
According to Makhmalbaf, once the ex-Soviet Union raided Afghanistan, the bitter taste of the past
catastrophe of Shah Amanollah
Khan who had attempted to modernize the Afghan community simultaneous with Ataturk in Turkey and
Reza Shah in Iran, was
repeated once more. Nonetheless, the fact was that the Afghan community lacked the potential required
for urbanization and
modernization. Not owning the necessary resources for going through the development process might
have been the most significant
reason for it. As a consequence, the same tribal structure which was rooted in the economy depending
on cattle breeding ended up in
their heavy failure.
Given that Makhmalbaf has spent many years examining the Afghan community, he briefed me patiently
on the result of his survey. He
noted, "Afghanistan is a community which was attempted to be modernized twice, once by Shah
Amanollah Khan and the other time
by the Russians. Nonetheless, on both occasions, the reaction of the Afghan community was quite
negative. Believe me that the
damage inflicted by the Russians were not so grave as that done by the Afghans themselves. Once the
Russians withdrew, various
Afghan tribes and ethnic groups started fighting with one another and destroyed Kabul. Despite the fact
that the Russian attack was a
colonial measure, probably if they were not faced with the negative reaction of the Afghans, it would
have even born positive
consequences for them. Nowadays, a lot of people say nice things about Najibullah Mahfouz,
Afghanistan''s last Communist President
and while they regret his murder they wish the Lord''s Mercy for him, who served his nation very
Twenty Films or 20 Years of Wandering
In the past days, Makhmalbaf has been telling himself that if he were born in Kabul instead of Tehran,
instead of having produced 20
films in the past 20 years, he would have wandered for 20 years. This is exactly what happened to 35
percent of the Afghan people,
who have been homeless for 20 years. Shortly after he arrived in Kabul, Makhmalbaf realized that he
cannot differentiate between
filmmaking, contributing to the education of Afghan children, and making libraries and schools in that
country. That''s why he almost
worked on every one of them and as he himself put it, "Gradually everything was mixed up and I
realized that I am just following my