Tuesday, October 13, 2015

LFF2015: Frame By Frame (2015)

“So are you going to use this picture and try to bomb the Americans…?”

Frame by Frame is about the modern history of Afghanistan told through the eyes of four passionate photographers, Najibullah Musafer, a photography lecturer at Kabul university; Wakil Kohsar, a photojournalist and democrat; and then husband and wife photojournalists Farzana Wahidy, who covers women’s stories, and Massoud Hossaini who won the 2012 Breaking News Photography Pulitzer Prize (Here is his Talk at a Kabul TED event).

The film begins by explaining the rise of the Taliban after the soviet invasion of 1979, and how they banned photography for the next twenty years until the US invasion in 2001, leading to the beginning of a new era of press freedoms (and harsh internal terrorism).  We then follow Wakil as he explores the upcoming elections and voter registration, Farzana documenting the heinous violence inflicted on women under the Taliban era and Massoud covering various events for the newsdesk where he works. 

Each of the photographers has a reverential attitude towards the power of images and the capturing of moments.  And this is enhanced throughout Frame by Frame as some of Najibullah’s lectures on how to ‘see’ through photography and how to read images are edited throughout the narrative.  This gives the viewer an extra appreciation for the pictures on screen – we are present as the photographers take their images, and then we are told how to decode them. 

Picture sourced from The Guardian
The most famous picture being Massoud’s 2012 Pulitzer image of a bombing that killed a number of children during the Islamic celebration of Ashura.  Massoud just happened to be present during the terrible explosion and had to decide between running for cover or staying and documenting the mayhem – and it was this dedication to journalism that got him recognised for the prize.  Yet, the work of Walik in rural areas documenting the impoverished citizens being registered for their first ever elections, or Farzana’s work with women who have been terribly abused by their husbands under the Taliban regime, are both equally as insightful and important.

Yet for all of the harrowing, newsworthy images of terrorism and appalling violence that Western viewers are used to seeing of Afghanistan, directors Alexandria Bomback and Mo Scarpelli also reflect the middle class comforts of the country.  Just like every other urban couple around the world, Farzana and Massoud still have go shopping for energy drinks and a dizzying amount of hair products before deciding between Blu-Rays of The Hangover part 2 or Oz: The Great and Powerful

The Afghan’s, after the Taliban’s photography ban, are now using photography to capture the state of the country and their cultural identity – from beautiful images of the landscapes, to the uncomfortable epidemic of heroin addicts in the streets.  Scarpelli and Bomback’s film is a celebration of ‘now’, those decisive moments captured through film.  And the hope that those moments lean more towards expressions of joy than explosions of violence.

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