There are few sidewalks in Kabul, so when Shahrbanoo Sadat goes out for his daily walk, he shares the roads with cars and tanks. Military helicopters swirl overhead, creating huge clouds of dust.
There are thousands of reasons why you shouldn’t walk around this city, he says, and most people don’t.
“It is a crazy city and sometimes it is scary. But for me, I love it. You never know what will happen. It makes me feel alive. “
It’s that rush of adrenaline that has kept the 30-year-old filmmaker rooted in one city while others, including her closest friends, have fled. An unlikely place, perhaps, to make his third movie, billed as Afghanistan’s first romantic comedy.
“You rarely see a comedy or a musical from war-torn countries. There is the idea that your stories have to be about suffering, and yes, one side of life is full of tragedies. But there are also so many things to laugh at, ”says Sadat.
The movie, Kabul Jan, is a semi-autobiographical story of a young camera operator who falls in love with an older, married man: a reporter. One of the main goals, Sadat says, is to challenge the stereotype of Afghan women as weak and repressed.
“You see a lot of things that he is up against in his work, fighting for very basic rights every day, but you don’t see a victim,” says Sadat.
The story is closely related to her own experience, more than a decade earlier, when she moved to Kabul after growing up in the mountains of central Afghanistan and began a relationship with an older colleague. Incredibly, the two discovered that they were actually cousins who had grown up in the same town decades apart.
It was that revelation that would inspire her to write her first film, Wolf and sheep, based on their shared memories of growing up there, a landscape that she describes as “the end of the world.”
The film won an award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and made Sadat one of the highest-rated directors outside of Hollywood.
His second film, The orphanage, is available on Amazon Prime starting Tuesday.
“I want to redefine Afghanistan in the film market. This is my dream, ”says Sadat. “I have the ideas, I have the details, I have the stories.”
All his films are linked by the presence of a male character named Quodrat: a boy in the first film, a teenager in the second, and a male romantic interest in the third.
The series (plan five in total) chronicles her life and adventures in Afghanistan, echoing many of her own experiences growing up in a poor rural community where she walked six hours a day to and from school.
His filmmaking reflects his training at the French Institute of Afghanistan in Kabul, where he fell in love with the documentary style of movie theater true. “Cinema is about observation and it’s what I’ve been doing all my life,” he says. “I was never part of any club, I was always outside, looking at other people.”
Sadat was one of the last students to take that workshop. The following year, in 2010, his teacher died in a suicide attack and the course closed.
It was another reminder that Kabul is a dangerous place to work, and probably more so now than at any other time, she believes, amid uncertain peace talks and with the Taliban on the rise once again.
He acknowledges that his love for a city where a bomb can explode at any moment may seem strange to people. “But my life makes sense here,” he says. “I feel like I’m doing something for a place that needs me.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism