Directed by Mariam Ghani • 2019 • Afghanistan, Qatar, United States
Starring Latif Ahmadi, Said Miran Farhad, Juwansher Haidary
Utterly unique in film history, Mariam Ghani’s archival marvel is a probing and engrossing case study in censorship, authoritarianism, and political art. Thirty years after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the subsequent civil war, during a new era of political uncertainty for the embattled nation, WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED looks closely at the era of state-funded Afghan filmmaking during the country’s Communist era, bringing together dozens of writers, actors, and filmmakers to discuss five unfinished, unedited projects produced between 1978 and 1991. Scenes from the five never-before-seen films, beautifully restored, testify to the immense resources provided to filmmakers—provided that they could navigate the high-stakes studio politics, demands of an authoritarian government, and unceasing threats of violence that accompanied each production. Depicting the censorship process with astounding detail, this passionate, brilliantly researched exposé raises potent, eternally relevant questions about art and politics, freedom of speech, and what happens when the truth becomes a bargaining chip.