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Blaffer Art Museum to host Afghan film exhibit

Mariam Ghani, the Afghan American filmmaker behind "What We Left Unfinished," is also a writer, lecturer and activist. | Courtesy of Steven Matijcio

Mariam Ghani, the Afghan American filmmaker behind “What We Left Unfinished,” is also a writer, lecturer and activist. | Courtesy of Steven Matijcio

Blaffer Art Museum will show its new exhibit on Jan. 21, a multimedia experience by Afghan-American activist and filmmaker Mariam Ghani.

The exhibit “What We Left Unfinished” is a combination of film, research, exhibition and book project that explores the unfinished work of five Afghan feature films that were shot between 1978 and 1991. The exhibit is free to view for students and faculty. 

“This exhibition strives to humanize the people and culture of Afghanistan and reopen North American readings that have been so gravely overdetermined by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the often conflicted relationship between our countries,” said Steven Matijcio, Blaffer’s Jane Dale Owen Director & Chief Curator.

“What We Left Unfinished” has been a multi-year project that follows a small section of Afghan film history from the Communist era.

“In the research project ‘What We Left Unfinished’ I will be looking for some of these unfinished films and the people who made them, trying to decipher from the gaps between what was finished and unfinished,” Ghani said in a web essay about the work. 

“What We Left Unfinished” draws material from five Afghan films: “The April Revolution,” “Downfall,” “The Black Diamond,” “Wrong Way” andAgent.” 

“It is not simple to work with an archive in a country like Afghanistan, where books, films and monuments are all subject to burning; stupas are looted and statues shattered, and sites sacred for one reason or another are eroded by both natural and human disasters,” Ghani said in a web essay.

Although “What We Left Unfinishedhas been viewed at international film festivals, this is the first time the film will be shown in a U.S. museum.

It is also set to be presented in February at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

“I wanted my first show at the Blaffer to be in dialogue with the city, or more accurately, my perceptions of it, and Mariam’s project drew fertile parallels connecting Afghanistan and the United States,” Matijcio said.  

Ghani does an extraordinary job of locating richness, vibrancy and intrigue through her work that shows how history can be retold through a variety of perspectives, Matijcio said.

“I hope that visitors gain a deeper, more insightful perspective into life in Afghanistan that stands in contrast to the often narrow and nefarious headlines that too often dominate the headlines,” Matijcio said. “We also want to highlight the complex relationship between cinema and state-building, and the way that films can be employed as a form of ideological imagining.”

Along with “What We Left Unfinished,” Ghani has another ongoing project since 2004 with artist Chitra Ganesh called “Index of the Disappeared” at MD Anderson Library. This is a physical archive of the 9/11 disappearances as well as a mobile platform for public dialogue. 

Ghani on Jan. 29 will be at the Blaffer Art  Museum to introduce a special screening of “What We Left Unfinished  along with audience questions from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

The exhibit will be available until Mar. 14th. 

“We very much encourage the UH community to visit us often and again, and employ the museum as a resource and gathering place,” Matijcio said.

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