It is not often that I am nervous before a screening. I have done many Q&As in many countries and - because I know my film better than anyone - I am confident that the session will be entertaining, interesting and fulfilling for both the audience and myself. I have taken many questions from many angles and know that I can usually find an answer that will enlighten and inform and contribute to a wider discussion.
Why then was I suddenly nervous before my most recent FILM FORWARD trip to Paris? What would be different about this event and why did I feel it was so important to get everything right? Well, it’s not often you get to screen a film in The UNESCO HQ for a start. Or that there in the audience is the US ambassador to UNESCO, the ex-Afghan Ambassador to France, The ambassador of Senegal and Columbia? And finally it is not often that your moderator is Khorshied Samad, Kabul Bureau Chief for Fox News Channel in Afghanistan for nearly three years and author of Afghan Women, Media and Emerging Democracy: Social Evolution in Post-Taliban Afghanistan. For the first time I thought, someone might know my film better than I do!
So there in the dusk of October Paris, under the intense eye of the Eiffel Tower, we arrived at the UNESCO building at the Place de Fotenoy for the FILM FORWARD screening. Men in West African dress and women in saris were bustling about the vast 1950s reception alongside suits and military uniforms. Sculptures by incredible artists were scattered in the grounds. the Y-shaped building is the most international building in Paris both in terms of the membership of the Organization it houses, currently standing at 186 Member States (actually 187 – I have just heard Palestine has joined: hurrah!) and in terms of its construction, for it is the combined work of architects, engineers and advisors from 10 different countries.
But of course rather than being nervous about having such an experienced and brilliant moderator as Korshield, when it came to the actual conversation, I was inspired: her questions and discussion points were really exciting and she was able to put my film into the wider context, allowing the room to ponder the nature of democracy through the Afghan Star lens and question the future of Afghanistan. I think the film and our discussion shatters a lot of the myths that have built up about the country.
There’s no doubt that morale in Kabul at the moment is low and it is difficult to predict a positive end to the conflict there but it was wonderful with Khorshied to be reminded of the greatest asset that Afghanistan has: its youth. When you think of them, there is hope. There is always hope.