The astonishing story of Afghanistan’s visionary moviemakers and the films we almost never got to see, Ariel Nasr ’s acclaimed feature documentary The Forbidden Reel ( Loaded Pictures / National Film Board of Canada ) begins an online theatrical run on Friday, December 11.

News release

December 3, 2020 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada

The astonishing story of Afghanistan’s visionary moviemakers and the films we almost never got to see, Ariel Nasr’s acclaimed feature documentary The Forbidden Reel (Loaded Pictures/National Film Board of Canada) begins an online theatrical run on Friday, December 11.

The Forbidden Reel is being presented online by three Canadian cinemas:

One of the winners of the Rogers Audience Award at Hot Docs 2020, The Forbidden Reel has also just added to its list of honours with a Special Mention – Grand Prize for Best National Feature at RIDM, the Montreal International Documentary Festival, presented December 1.

About The Forbidden Reel

Nothing about the bullet-scarred building—one of hundreds in central Kabul—indicates the astonishing story that unfolded within the walls of Afghan Film.

It was here that an impassioned clique of filmmakers, often working across enemy lines, gave birth to a progressive national cinema in one of the most underdeveloped societies on Earth. And it was here, in an episode worthy of a spy thriller, that a clandestine network of cinephiles conspired to protect this precious legacy from the iconoclastic fanatics who destroyed the great Buddhas of Bamiyan.

Unearthing surprising new aspects, Afghan-Canadian director Ariel Nasr brings this epic history to shimmering life, juxtaposing dramatic insider testimony with luminous 16-mm recreations and clips from newly restored feature films that reframe our understanding of Afghan history. In one extraordinary sequence, Nasr returns to Afghan Film with the brave Taliban official who secretly broke rank at a pivotal juncture in 1996 to help ensure the survival of his nation’s cinematic heritage. Also featured is the inimitable “Engineer” Latif Ahmadi, still in his twenties when he began shaping Afghanistan’s national cinema, as well as actress Yasmin Yarmal, who has defied restrictive gender norms to become a beloved national icon. 

In addition to Hot Docs and RIDM, The Forbidden Reel has been an official selection at some of the world’s most prestigious non-fiction film events, including a world premiere at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, as well as screenings at Vancouver’s DOXA Film Festival and Brazil’s It’s All True – International Documentary Film Festival.

The Forbidden Reel is co-produced by Loaded Pictures (Sergeo Kirby, producer) and the National Film Board of Canada (Kat Baulu, producer). Executive producers are Sergeo Kirby for Loaded Pictures and Annette Clarke for the NFB. In a gesture of cultural diplomacy, the NFB has been assisting Afghan Film with the restoration of its archive.

About Ariel Nasr

Ariel Nasr is a multi-award-winning director and Oscar-nominated producer, currently based in Montreal. His NFB credits to date also include the Canadian Screen Award-winning The Boxing Girls of Kabul (2011). His acclaimed independent work includes an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Film, Live Action as producer of Buzkashi Boys (2012), and more recently, writing and directing the documentary The Mosque: A Community’s Struggle (2019), which opened theatrically across Quebec. On October 19, he joined the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio as an interim producer in Montreal.

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