In Conversation with Afghan-German Filmmaker Arzu Qaderi about Feminism, Filmmaking and Empowered Women in Afghanistan

maya1Arzu Qaderi is behind “My Afghan Diary” – a documentary that seeks to give a platform to strong women through a series of controversial and confidential interviews. Tackling the victim stereotype usually perpetuated in the media, “My Afghan Diary” has a fresh perspective on women in Afghanistan and seeks to celebrate a nuanced portrait of individuals who are brimming with endurance and passion. The women interviewed are artists, performers, teachers, scholars, mothers and role models for the next generation of women in Afghanistan. Soosan Firooz is among them, she uses rap to express both personal and societal problems and was one of the first female rappers in her country. In anticipation of the first screening in the new year, I sit down to speak to Arzu about her first documentary and the process behind it. 

Can you tell us a little about your cultural background, and how that has influenced your practice as a filmmaker?

Growing up under the influence of two cultures, Afghan and German, was enriching. Although my mixed heritage also gave rise to a fair share of challenges, including cultural differences that I eventually overcame when my family moved to Germany. However, these challenges have given me a more empathetic understanding. Despite cultural ‘barriers’ we – as humans – still have a lot in common. In relation to making films, my experiences have helped me to step back and see the bigger picture, not just focusing on what I see.

Why, specifically, were you drawn to working in the female rights sector?

I always felt that women were not supporting each other enough, but we can help each other to find our voices again.

What did you discover through filming “My Afghan Diary”? What difficulties did you face?

Through “My Afghan Diary” I learnt that Afghan women pursue their dreams with equal passion as we do, even though women in Afghanistan face far more obstacles than we do in the Western world. No matter where we are from, women share the same essential values in trying to balance all areas of life, for instance home life and career, even when the outside world is in disharmony. 

Filming is banned in Afghanistan and the topic of female empowerment is taboo, so I faced many difficulties whilst making “My Afghan Diary” in Kabul. I wanted to focus on carrying out this passion project and getting it completed so I could spread the unique stories these women have to tell. I didn’t let fear stop me from completing this project.

What advice would you pass on to the younger generation of women and girls that will be reading?

Work hard to tell your own story, because no one else can or will. Never let fear or other people stop you from achieving goals you have set for yourself.

“My Afghan Diary” has just been given an award by Festival International del Cinema in Salerno, and has been nominated by Jaipur International Film Festival. To keep updated you can follow Arzu’s Instagram, Twitter and YouTube Channel. You can also find the link to the trailer below.

Written by Maya Campbell

Instagram: @arzuqaderi — Twitter: @arzuqaderi — YouTube: Arzu Qaderi

My Afghan Diary” Trailer

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