These five must-watch films will help you get acquainted more with Afghanistan

Published August 21, 2021, 9:58 AM

by Joe Priela

Of grit and the passion to show the truth

(Photo from

‘What We Left Unfinished’ (2019)

The documentary by director Mariam Ghani tells the incredible and important story of five unfinished feature films from the Communist era in Afghanistan (1978-1991). An era where films were weapons, filmmakers were targets, and the dreams of constantly shifting political regimes merged with the stories told on screen.

According to their website,, despite government interference, censorship boards, scarce resources, armed opposition, and near-constant threats of arrest and even death, they made films that were subversive and, in the filmmakers’ opinions, always true to life. All five films, “The April Revolution” (1978), “Downfall” (1987), “The Black Diamond” (1989), “Wrong Way” (1990), and “Agent” (1991), completed principal photography before being canceled by the state or abandoned by the filmmakers. Never edited, they escaped the final censors’ cut. And while all five films are fictional, they each record some aspect of the period.

‘Buzkashi Boys’ official poster

‘Buzkashi Boys’ (2011)

“Buzkashi Boys” by Sam French lends us the perspective of two best friends who are struggling to realize their dreams as they grow up in Afghanistan.

Filmed entirely in Kabul by an alliance of Afghan and international filmmakers, the short film provides the rest of the world a glimpse of the life behind the usual headlines of war in Afghanistan.

It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film.

Watch it here

‘Osama’ by Siddiq Barmak

‘Osama’ (2003)

Set after the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the restriction of women in public life, the film follows a pre-teen girl that is forced to disguise as a boy in order to find work to support her mother and grandmother.

Directed by Siddiq Barmak, it was the first film to be shot entirely in Afghanistan since 1996, when the Taliban regime banned the creation of all films

‘At Five In The Afternoon’ by Iranian writer-director Samira Makhmalbaf

‘At Five In The Afternoon’ (2003)

A film by Iranian writer-director Samira Makhmalbaf, “At Five in the Afternoon” brings us the story of an ambitious young woman trying to gain an education in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban. The title comes from a poem by Federico García Lorca, which tells a tale of a being flourishing against all odds. The film premiered In Competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Jury Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

‘The Kite Runner’ (2007)

A story that is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet invasion to the rise of the Taliban regime, “The Kite Runner” is the first novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini and was published in 2003 by Riverhead Books, it tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul.

In 2007, director Marc Foster brought it to life on the big screen and shows us Amir, returning to his homeland in Afghanistan, after spending years in California, to help his old friend Hassan whose son is in trouble.