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What We Left Unfinished

WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED is a long-term research, film, exhibition and book project centered around five unfinished Afghan feature films shot, but never edited, between 1978 and 1992: years that encompass the Afghan Communist coup d’état, attempted reforms that met bitter rural resistance, a series of internal purges and assassinations, the Soviet invasion and withdrawal, a five-year attempt at national reconciliation, the handover of power to a mujahidin coalition, and finally dissolution into civil war. From the unfinished films commissioned, produced and canceled by various iterations of the Afghan state, in various moments of the Afghan Communist project, we can reconstruct not the truths, precisely, of how the state existed and acted in those moments, but rather its most important fictions: its desires and fears, ambitions and ghosts. In the imaginary presented by most finished films of the period, we see the ideal People’s Democratic Republic that could have been, but wasn’t; in the unfinished films, the reality – a utopian project secured by violent force – lingers like a shadow, just barely concealed behind allegories and codes. The world around the films, where filmmaking itself was a dangerous enterprise, seeps into the world onscreen.