The Journey

The Film

A woman wrapped in a yellow headscarf looks towards the camera, with a mountain in the background. Two women, in a blue full-body veil and the other in a white full-body veil, embrace against a rocky landscape and blue sky. A group of women, all wearing headscarves and some holding babies, sit outside against a rocky mountain backdrop.

I would never imagine I could participate in this adventure, travel alone and free across my country.
— Jamila Emami, filmmaker

When I take the camera, I feel confident.
—Gul Makaj Ranjba, filmmaker

A woman in a yellow headscarf stands in front of a rocky mountain and holds a small child wearing a green hat.

A male doctor feels a woman’s forehead with his hands during an examination.

A woman in a green headscarf turns her back to the camera, raising her right hand.

From July 2002 to August 2003, 14 young women, several still in their teens, trained as camera operators and video journalists at the AINA Afghan Media and Culture Center in Kabul. The first female journalists to be trained in Afghanistan for more than a decade and the first ever to be trained in digital media, most of the trainees had never traveled outside Kabul and had not been able to study or pursue careers while the Taliban controlled their country. Created as the culmination of this unique training program, AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED contrasts the harsh lives of the rural women of Afghanistan with those of the film’s young camerawomen, who are experiencing newfound freedom and opportunity while attempting to use their work to change the condition of women in their country.

Traveling to rural regions of Afghanistan, the filmmakers worked to gain the confidence and trust of their interviewees, obtaining unprecedented access to their countrywomen. Journeying to Bamiyan, the mountainous region where the Taliban destroyed the enormous ancient statues of the Buddha, they captured heartbreaking footage of women and children who have been reduced to burrowing in caves. Struggling to survive with little food and no water or electricity, left to fend for themselves as the rest of the country rebuilds, the women are led by Zainab, an older woman who details the privations of their daily lives.

The filmmakers travel to Herat, a city known for its rich heritage but also for its lack of freedom for women, where they discover it difficult to find a woman willing to speak to them. They visit a doctor who treats women who cannot afford medical care and meet Faugia, whose husband was killed by U.S. bombs when she was six months pregnant. Now Faugia's daily struggle is to find food to feed her family.

In Jalalabad, the young women are anxious to interview some of the nomadic Kuchi women, who roam the country and find shelter in destroyed villages. But tribal elders forbid them to film women's faces and so they journey on. In Badakshan, the journalists learn that the primary source of money in the region is the cultivation of poppies, where one crop can earn enough to buy a car. They finally find a group of Kuchi women willing to speak to them and they hear about their struggles to eke out a life for themselves and their children.

Despite the suffering they encounter, the filmmakers also manage to find moving examples of hope for Afghanistan's future and emerge from the experience committed to revealing not only these stories to the world, but also the personal stories of the women behind the cameras: women who were not allowed to appear in public, let alone travel, during the Taliban era. A poetic journey of self-discovery, AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED is a profound reminder of independent media's power to bear witness.

Find out more about the training program behind the film >>

Meet some of the filmmakers of AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED >>

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