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Ariel Nasr explores the remarkable story of Afghan cinema in the upcoming Loaded Pictures/NFB-co-produced feature The Forbidden Reel. Afghan Film head Ibrahim Arify visits NFB as Canada’s public producer assists in safeguarding Afghanistan’s rich audiovisual heritage.



September 28, 2017 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

A world leader in digital archiving as well as pioneering documentary works that address vital issues, the National Film Board of Canada is in co-production with Loaded Pictures on The Forbidden Reel, an upcoming feature doc by Ariel Nasr that will explore the heroic efforts of Afghanis to build and preserve their country’s national cinema—while the NFB works directly with the Afghan Film Archives to help strengthen their efforts in film digitization, preservation, and distribution.

In The Forbidden Reel, Oscar-nominated, Canadian Screen Award-winning Afghan-Canadian filmmaker Ariel Nasr (Buzkashi BoysThe Boxing Girls of Kabul) will offer his own account of how a small gang of heroic cinephiles pulled off a remarkable coup, saving their nation’s cinematic heritage from the fanatical iconoclasts who would later destroy the great Buddhas of Bamiyan. Filming through 2017 and slated for release in 2019, this feature documentary is a co-production between Montreal’s Loaded Pictures (Sergeo Kirby, producer) and the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio (Kat Baulu, producer). The executive producers are Sergeo Kirby and Annette Clarke.

Nasr will be filming this week in Montreal when Ibrahim Arify, president of Afghan Film, visits the NFB along with a selection of cinematic treasures from the Afghan archives. Arify will be in Canada for 7 to 10 days to learn more about NFB-developed digitization processes than can be put to work in Afghanistan, as he personally oversees the transfer of classic Afghan films by NFB digitization experts.

“Afghanistan has a remarkably rich and diverse national cinema. The vision and courage that have gone into safeguarding this legacy is really something historic in the annals of film preservation, and the NFB is honoured to be part of it—doing whatever we can to assist our Afghan colleagues in taking the next steps to preserve and share their nation’s priceless audiovisual legacy,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, NFB Commissioner.

Toronto-based cinematographer Duraid Munajim, whose credits include work on The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, is director of photography on The Forbidden Reel, with Nasr himself operating the second camera. Saleem Mohammed Yousofzada is the Kabul-based production assistant.

About The Forbidden Reel

A veteran of numerous Afghan shoots and something of an expert on Afghan cinema, Nasr has been developing this ambitious project for years.

The very existence of a sophisticated auteur tradition in Afghanistan comes as a surprise to many. Yet during the 1970s and 1980s the country witnessed the emergence of a fascinating national cinema, one focused on telling Afghan stories and putting Afghan concerns on screen.

Remarkably, during the turmoil of a communist coup, subsequent Soviet invasion, Mujahedeen resistance and eventual Taliban rule, Afghanis found a way to transcend differences and work together, united by their love of cinema and commitment to the culture and stories of their country.

In this film, Nasr has assembled the elements of a gripping story that challenges the perceived wisdom about Afghanistan. The Forbidden Reel will feature interviews with such key figures as “Engineer” Latif Ahmadi, founder of Afghan Film, recently returned to Afghanistan after a long exile; Ibrahim Arify; pioneering director Siddiq Barmak; actress Yasmin Yarmal; as well as a number of inside players who are speaking out for the first time.

“Mainstream Western media often represent Afghanistan in a reductive manner. Whether it’s the Afghan-Soviet War or the current struggle with the Taliban, it gets presented as a simplistic good-vs-evil narrative. I try to paint a more complicated picture, to deliver a more authentic, and ultimately a more nuanced, account of Afghanistan and its artists,” said Ariel Nasr.

Interview footage will be combined with excerpts from NFB-restored classic Afghan films—many of them unknown to the wider world—along with stylized recreations that evoke key episodes in the story.

About Ariel Nasr

Among Nasr’s producer credits is the Oscar-nominated short Buzkashi Boys (2012), a powerful coming-of-age drama filmed in Afghanistan. The Forbidden Reel will be his fourth project with the NFB exploring facets of Afghan life, following Good Morning Kandahar (2008) and the Canadian Screen Award-winning The Boxing Girls of Kabul (2011), produced by Annette Clarke, as well as an interactive project, Kabul Portraits (2015), which counts actress Yasmin Yarmal among its six featured subjects, produced by Clarke and the NFB’s Digital Studio.


Associated Links

Loaded Pictures
Ariel Nasr Unspools Afghanistan’s Forbidden Reel – NFB Blog

Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.