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American Women's Club of Hamburg



Louis Meunier, Afghanistan/France

In the 1970s, Cinema Aryub was a fashionable theater in Kabul with nine hundred seats and an area reserved for women. Although the structure survived decades of conflict, the cinema remains closed, but serves as a makeshift home to orphans and Naser, the projectionist and caretaker of Cinema Aryubs. Sikandar and Shab, both of whom had attended university, seek to revive the old theater for screening films, concerts and other cultural activities and so present a symbol of the cultural rebirth of Afghanistan. They convince Naser that the cinema can be restored and he reveals that he still has films which he had hidden from the Taliban. The children enthusiastically help with cleaning up. But Naser’s agreement to the plan was in part based on the assertion that Sikander had the support of his father, General Hazrat. 

Shab wants to work and not marry, as her brother Khaled intends. She accepts rides with Sikander to the cinema so that she can help with the restoration. Khaled, however, interprets his sister’s actions as immoral. Feeling in danger, Shab moves into the cinema, outraging her brother. Sikander doesn’t realize that Shab left her home. Shab is not entirely aware that Sikander has fallen in love with her.

As cinema renovations progress, tragedy strikes at the heart of the project, jeopardizing the dreams of Sikander and Shab. This film in documentary style cleverly addresses current cultural issues in Afghanistan. Cinema Aryub is actually renovated and with actors so convincing, you forget that this is fiction. (MW)

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