American citizen and Afghan expatriate Sonia Nassery Cole chose a location rare for any film today and especially for the movie The Black Tulip that she both directed and acted in: Kabul. Yet, when you listen to her talk about her decision, as in the behind-the-scenes video below, you understand Cole could have made the movie nowhere else. Getting it made was an act of defiance and also a poetic response to the loss of freedom in the country she loves and gave up. Cole will tell you that surviving extortion, death threats, kidnapping attempts, loss of crew, machine gun fire, and a bomb blast while she was in Afghanistan do not compare to what Afghanis under the heels of the Taliban endure each day to this day.
First screened in late 2010, The Black Tulip begins a decade ago as it takes up the true and tragic story of a family who, believing the Taliban had been routed, open in Kabul "The Poet's Corner", a restaurant and meeting place where writers and artists can perform at an "open mic" and share their stories freely. Soon the family become victims of a terror campaign by the local Taliban cell. Cole points out, "There is no movie unless there is a great story." The story she relates, she says, is "a real story about the people who dream and who hope the way we do." It's a story about the people just like us whom few of us have ever even considered during the war that America is fighting in Afghanistan still.
The Black Tulip was Afghanistan's official entry for Best Foreign Film at the 2011 Academy Awards. (The film's original "Freedom Song" and "Forever One Love" also were Oscar nominees that made the Academy's shortlist.) It was screened most recently, in March, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Its theatrical release is scheduled for sometime this spring.
Cole also produced the documentary The Bread Winner, about a day in the life of an Afghan boy who supports his family by selling newspapers and calendars.
Here's the trailer for the film (the language is Cole's native Dari):
Profile of Sonia Nassery Cole, Founder of Afghanistan World Federation
Breadwinner Productions (This site features a synopsis, cast, the filmmakers, a director's statement, production notes, screenings, and other information about the film.)
Brooks Barnes, "A Director's Many Battles to Make Her Movie", The New York Times, September 21, 2010
The Black Tulip on Twitter