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Sahraa Karimi, an Afghan director who narrowly escaped the Taliban to safety in Europe just weeks ago, is turning her harrowing true story into a feature film.
Called Flight from Kabul, the film will trace the 40 hours from the moment on Aug. 15 when the Taliban invaded the Afghan capital to when Karimi finally managed to flee with her family, traveling first to Istanbul and finally to Kyiv in Ukraine.
“I want to show to the world that it was a normal day, everything was normal. And then it all collapsed,” she said, speaking exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter. “In the news, people only saw the bigger story of the crowd. But there were many individual stories in those 40 hours, stories I saw myself, that I experienced.”
Karimi says Katayoon Shahabi, producer on her debut feature Hava, Maryam, Ayesha, which premiered in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival in 2019, will produce Flight from Kabul together with Wanda Adamik Hrycova, a producer and president of the Slovak Film and Television Academy. Hrycova was key in helping get Karimi out of Afghanistan and securing safe passage to Ukraine. Karimi studied film in Slovakia and has Slovak citizenship.
Karimi documented parts of her escape live on social media, filming scenes of her running through the streets of Kabul, yelling to others, “the Taliban are coming! Run! Run!”
“It was difficult, and it is still difficult for me to remember that time,” she said. “But last week I sat down and looked at myself in the mirror and said: ‘Sahraa are you going to be sad all your life?’ This is the reality: you have this trauma and the only way to forget this trauma, at least for a while, is to write it and to make it into a film.”
Karimi, the first female president of the Afghan Film Organization, was in Venice Saturday for a panel discussing the role the international film community can play in raising awareness of the plight of artists still living under the Taliban regime. She was joined by fellow Afghan director Sahra Mani (A Thousand Girls Like Me).
Karimi called on the international film community “to be our voices. All of you, don’t forget about Afghanistan. We have talent, we are hardworking, we have stories to tell to the world. We can be part of the world community… we tried so much. We shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Mani reminded the audience of the very real danger that artists face in Afghanistan today, noting that the Taliban recently “arrested a musician and shot him to death because he played a musical instrument. We are not 100 years ago. It’s shameful for us in any corner of the world if someone got killed for playing a musical instrument.”
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