Themes and Key Words:
Arts, Human Interest, Current Affairs, Suicide Bombs, Afghanistan, War and Conflict
52′ | 90′
Filmdisposition, in coproduction with ZDF-ARTE
Niklas Schenck & Ronja von Wurm-Seibel
TRUE WARRIORS is the powerful story of Kabul theatre group AZDAR and their daring play about a suicide bombing. At their premiere in the theatre of the French embassy, a real suicide bomber is in the audience and blows himself up…(all filmed on cell phones!) What is now almost a statistic in every day news all of a sudden becomes very real and all of a sudden we get some understanding of the horrible reality of this. After this shocking incident some of the artists flee to Europe, amongst them world renowned Afghan film director Siddiq Barmak. But most stay in Kabul and stepped up their efforts, moving outside of secured compounds and into the streets, performing risky, political plays completely unprotected. They first resurface together with a play on the public lynching of a woman named Farkhunda in the center of Kabul, which hit the news worldwide in 2015. Their return carries an uplifting message, after all: ART is a true weapon and survives all adversity.
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Backstory and production
We had at that time lived in Kabul for a year and a half, working on shorter film projects (2×30′) and researching for a book of nonfiction stories. We got to know the founder of the theatre group a few weeks before the play and he invited us to the premiere, excited about the daring and special nature of the piece. But we’d long scheduled our move back to Germany for the day prior, so we couldn’t attend – instead, we woke up to the news of the attack. We’d often been to IFA and knew our friends would have been in the audience. As we were calling around to check on everyone, stories started pouring in. We’d lived in Kabul and experienced many explosions there, luckily without ever being this closed – hearing our friends stories we realized: We still have NO IDEA what it’s like when you’re actually inside the attack. So we decided to make this film: The telling of this story in its purest form.
We went back to Kabul with no budget as soon as the first few actors and musicians signalled they were ready to talk in depth about their experience that day. Getting to Kabul in early 2015 we found some deeply traumatized, others starting to move on – and every single interview blew our minds: Here were role models for dealing with adversity. Here were people who we wanted to BECOME ourselves. Here were strong and focused people with a real stake in their country, willing to risk it all.
We did most of the interviews in an underground club – it was the only place soundproofed well enough to shut out helicopters and ice cream vendors: No wonder, since the club owners’ lives depended on the neighbours not realizing what they’re up to in there, the kind of concerts they organize. Most internationals didn’t get permission to be interviewed or filmed there, though, as the place doesn’t have blast walls or armed guards – so we interviewed them in the German embassy instead.
Film industry „nugget“ – for festivals that might have screened his films:
The Afghan filmmaker Siddiq Barmak survived the attack in the audience. He’d lived in country through the Taliban time and the civil war, and made the first film after the fall of the Taliban: Osama, a picture awarded with a Golden Globe in 2003. Experiencing this attack first hand was his tipping point, though: He moved himself and his family to exile in France.
Possible attendance at screenings
Dr. Sarmast and his music students: The music school principal Dr. Sarmast led the music school’s all new girls ensemble (QUITE a feat in Afghanistan!) to play at the Davos World Economic Forum earlier this year – the various musicians have played all over the world and we could surely manage to combine a concert with a screening if that’s a teaser for a festival.
Qais Hatefi (former IFA press manager) fled to Flensburg, Germany, after the attack.
Nasir Formuli, the theatre director, is now studying puppeteering at prestigious Ernst-Busch-Academy in Berlin and has to decide whether he can return to Kabul soon. He just performed his first solo show about the Rumi play „The parrot and the merchant“ and toured worldwide with it.
Siddiq Barmak, the director of films such as Osama, lives in Angers, France now.
MORE ABOUT DIRECTOR – Ronja von Wurm-Seibel & Niklas Schenck
True Warriors was directed and produced by Ronja von Wurmb-Seibel and Niklas Schenck. Both grew up in Germany and freelance for major journalistic publications like DIE ZEIT, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, GEO and public broadcaster NDR/ARD. Together they lived in Kabul in 2013 and 2014 before embarking on True Warriors and produced two half-hour films for German public broadcaster NDR – a narrative story about a live-in-community of peace activists from four different ethnic groups (7 days in Kabul) and an investigative report on deadly unexploded ordinance that NATO forces left behind on their former training ranges Das tödliche Erbe der NATO. Ronja published the book Of all places Kabul – 13 stories of life in a war. Niklas was nominated for the prestigious Grimme Award for his first film Geheimer Krieg (Secret Wars, 2014, with Joehn Goetz and Christian Fuchs about German secret involvement in US war on terror, and up for an Emmy Award for the multimedia feature Love For My Enemies (2015).
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