SXSW Film review: Heroic efforts to document Afghan lives

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A scene from "Frame by Frame," which documents photographic efforts in Afghanistan.
A scene from "Frame by Frame," which documents photographic efforts in Afghanistan.

A scene from “Frame by Frame,” which documents photographic efforts in Afghanistan.

In our selfie-obsessed culture, it’s hard to imagine a life without photographs. When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1996, they issued a full media blackout. Taking a picture became an actual crime. Not only that, but they had a habit of destroying any photographs that they found, often erasing a family’s history in a matter of moments.

 

In “Frame by Frame,” co-directors Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli tell the story of the fledgling free press in Afghanistan through the eyes of four local photojournalists who are working hard to document a daily reality that is often plagued by violence. Showing up at the scene of a suicide bombing and surrounded by police, one of the cameramen tells his fellow photographers to “be careful so that they do not think we’re terrorists.”

 

This same man, Najibullah Musafar, explains that without photographs, he believes his country would have had no identity. As such, he secretly continued to document families and the world around him during Taliban rule. Another photographer, Massoud Hossaini, earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for Breaking News Photography for his stunning work. His wife, Farzana Wahidy, generally documents the lives of Afghan women, but struggles as many men do not wish for their wives to be photographed in any way. While exhibiting an incredible tenacity and also picking up international awards for her work, she readily admits that she does wonder, “If I die, is it worth it?”

 

War-torn Afghanistan is described in the film as a “graveyard of stories.” These brave men and women are risking their lives to shoot and share those stories and make sure that the people whose lives have been lost are never forgotten. This film is a fitting tribute to them and also a sobering reminder of the freedoms we so easily take for granted.

 

“Frame By Frame” plays again at 11 a.m. on Sunday at the Alamo South Lamar and again at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday at the Alamo South Lamar.

 

 

 


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