By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Whenever a lot of Americans think of cinema, they don’t automatically think of Afghanistan. To be fair, we don’t exactly have a lot of exposure to what their cinema has to offer. And at this point, we may never have the full experience ever. Afghanistan is a nation that has seen many changes of the guard, and has thusly, lived through multiple regimes and forms of leadership.

During the Soviet Communist regime, filmmakers in Afghanistan were given the opportunities to make movies. These movies, however, would have to meet the standards deemed appropriate by the government. Now, I know that sounds rather disturbing, given the amount of freedom allowed to artists in the United States to make films, and the freedom allowed to all artists to express themselves. This documentary presents the real situation where filmmakers were allowed to create their art and were allotted financial and other resources to create their films, given that their works did not disparage or criticize those in power. The result is a truly interesting film that allows these Afghani filmmakers to recount their fascinating experiences during a time when they were actually able to work.

Director Mariam Ghani tells these stories, through the words and existing footage of the surviving filmmakers who attempted to make films during the occupation of Afghanistan during the Soviet Union regime. The film does give a backstory regarding the nation’s history of cinema, but mainly focuses on the changes that Afghani cinema went through during its turbulent history. The film is appropriately titled What We Left Unfinished, because most of the filmmakers during the Soviet regime did not get to complete their films before another revolution would take place.

The documentary offers some insightful perspective from filmmakers dealing with the constraints of the censorship, but also expresses their gratitude that they were able to continue working, even if their movies were intended as jingoistic propaganda. This is a film that I feel cinephiles would genuinely appreciate. It is a documentary that I most definitely highly recommend. The film is currently available in some theaters, as well as virtual cinemas.

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