Sandra Schäfer stagings

with Nacir Alqas, Elfe Brandenburger, Aiqela Rezaie, Saba Sahar und Diana Saqeb


September 13 - October 18, 2008


The film Passing the Rainbow, shot in Kabul by Sandra Schäfer and Elfe Brandenburger in 2007, serves as the starting point for the exhibition “stagings.” The film presents female Afghan filmmakers and their strategies for subverting the gender norms of Afghan society. The practice of filmmaking in Afghanistan and the activities of everyday life are the film’s central concerns. Both filmmakers utilize the production of (visual) realities as a form of social intervention. At issue are changing roles and the delimitation of individual freedom of action. Passing the Rainbow dramatizes scenes from its protagonists’ daily lives, making visible the interactions and contradictions between constructed images and real living conditions. For Schäfer and Brandenburger, collaborating with local women was crucial: The protagonists are coproducers and provide a corrective to Western perspectives.


The exhibition is divided into two parts:


Staging democracy, in the front room at JET, is an introduction to the film, to the cinematic practice of the protagonists and to their historic context in Afghanistan. The films being shown here were all made in 2007, i.e. during the so-called process of democratization after 2002.


In the two-channel video installation to act in history, Sandra Schäfer uses images from the photo archives of Nancy Hatch Dupree and the Williams Afghan Media Project. Schäfer has combined this rarely seen material with footage of her own, shot during multiple research trips between 2002 and 2008. The installation reflects the creative process behind Passing the Rainbow as well as its reception in Kabul and Berlin, and it uses historical images to trace the representation of women in Afghanistan.


A mobile cinema installation will show Passing the Rainbow as well as two films made in 2007 by Afghan women: 25 Darsad (25 Percent), by Diana Saqeb, and Nejat (The Rescue) by Saba Sahar.


In Nejat, her second solo film production, director Saba Sahar tells the story of a superheroine, shot in the Pakistani “Lollywood” style with sophisticated martial-arts scenes, and featuring herself as the main character. Like her protagonist, the director’s day job is with the police.


Under Afghanistan’s new constitution, dating from 2004, 25 percent of the parliament’s members must be women. The director Diana Saqeb portrays six of these women in her documentary film 25 Darsad. In a pivotal scene, the female parliamentarians walk out of a session in protest at a colleague’s misogynistic line of argument during a vote on an equality bill.


With staging civil war, in JET’s back room, the exhibition traces a historical arc to the short film Saya (Shadow) by Nacir Alqas. The film, which was finally shot in Kabul in 1990 after a two-year ban, is about a war widow whose new husband refuses to accept her son from her first marriage. With a heavy heart, the widow, played by Yasemin Jarmal, decides to abandon the boy at a busy bazaar. Saya addresses a common phenomenon during the Soviet occupation and the civil wars that followed. Many husbands lost their lives during the wars, and because of the strict social code it was difficult for the widows and children left behind to build new lives. The seemingly documentary setting and the lead actress’s dramatic work recall the films of Italian neorealism. After a brief period of openness, Afghans found themselves confronted not only with more civil wars, but also with a rigid conception of gender roles and the repression resulting from that conception.


In 1996, Alqas narrowly escaped a murder attempt. He and his family subsequently fled and have since been living in Germany.


Sandra Schäfer has visited Kabul and Tehran frequently since November 2002 to do research with Elfe Brandenburger for the film Passing the Rainbow and the film festival Kabul/Teheran: 1979ff. In 2007 she curated the film festival SPLICE IN, on gender and politics in Afghanistan, its neighbors and Europe, which took place in Kassel, Berlin and Hamburg. In 2008 the festival continued in Kabul under the title SECOND TAKE, in cooperation with CACA-Kabul, Afghan Film and Zara Zandieh. Schäfer also coedited Kabul/Teheran 1979ff: Filmlandschaften, Städte unter Stress und Migration (Film Landscapes, Cities under Stress and Migration), a metroZone book published in 2006 by b_books-Verlag in Berlin.

Following her presentation in the exhibition space at JET, Schäfer’s installation to act in history will be shown as part of the exhibition “Working Documents” at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge in Barcelona, beginning November 20, 2008. www.mazefilm.de


Thanks to Latif Ahmadi, Cintia Alves, Jochen Becker, Elfe Brandenburger, David Edwards, Matthias Horn and the Orphtheater, Harriet Lesch, Britta Lorch, Karin Rebbert, Montse Romani and Virginia Villaplana.


Funded in part by the Cultural Affairs Department of the Berlin Senate.