Music has a special power and set against the volatile environment of Kabul the first female orchestra in the country attempting to achieve peace through music. In a country where it is forbidden for women and girls to play music, a group of young women risk their lives every day to pursue their passion, both for music and gender equality in Afghanistan. Sisters follows UK musician, Dan Blackwell to Kabul to meet Afghanistan’s first ever female orchestra, ‘Zohra’. This documentary feature film ‘Sisters’ investigates the lives of the ‘Zohra’ members, the first all-female orchestra in Afghanistan’s and their two young leaders: Negin Khpalwak and Zarifa Adiba. Negin sticks with and leads ‘Zohra’ as the country’s first female conductor despite multiple death threats and family disputes. Zarifa is nowhere to be seen until Dan tracks her down. Discovering her precarious situation, Dan stays with her as she prepares to flee Afghanistan leaving close friends and family behind. Zarifa Adiba along with Negin, Zarifa was the outspoken second leader of Zohra until she fled the country during the production of this film.
‘I would rather die standing on my feet than living on one knee’ – Zarifa Adiba
How and why do these young women risk their lives to play classical music?
Are these brave women helping to pave the way for a possible future of equality in Afghanistan?
What threats do they face?
With the Taliban increasing incursions on rural and regional government positions and even the capital Kabul the prognosis for orchestras like ‘Zohra’ is not good.
Since making this film the American and UK forces have left the country and on the 7th August 2021 their citizens were advised to leave Afghanistan immediately. This was the day after the Taliban shot and killed Dawa Khan Menapal in Kabul head of of the Afghan government’s press operations for local and foreign media.
Be sure to check out the trailer for ‘Sisters’ here.
Lauren Tayla Chappell of Music Gateway recently caught up with writer, film-maker and producer Tony Klinger to talk about his new documentary ‘Sisters’. They discussed the challenges he faced while producing this project, the messages he was trying to get across and lots more.
Keep reading to find out more about this exciting, innovative project!
Lauren Tayla Chappell: You Executive Produced the Feature Documentary, ‘Sisters’, can you tell us more about this project?
Tony Klinger: Recently I find myself always saying that we will not accept any further projects unless they’re brilliant and we can share the passion of the originators. We have so many films of our own at various stages of development, pre-production, production, post, sales, or distribution that we normally say a flat no. But this was one of those exceptions.
Lauren Tayla Chappell: What was it about this project that made you want to be involved?
Tony Klinger: When Dan Blackwell told me what he was doing, making a film about the freedom of women to play in the only all-female orchestra in Afghanistan I felt compelled to support him and the film. Like most people I hate racism, oppression, and intolerance. I just had to help give these extraordinary, brave, and impressive young women of Kabul a voice to the world. It wasn’t really a question of how to say yes to the project, how could anyone say no?
Lauren Tayla Chappell: What messages were important for you to portray during this production?
Tony Klinger: I knew how important the music is to Dan so at no stage did we all allow this message to be diminished. He really believes we have a common language of music and that it can heal and build bridges between people everywhere. I happen to agree with that thought.
You know in my history I have been lucky enough to work with great musical talents ranging from The Who (The Kids Are Alright), Deep Purple (Made in Japan), Elmer Bernstein (Gold), Maurice Jarre (Shout At The Devil), Roy Budd (Get Carter), Henry Mancini, James Galway (Galway Plays Mancini) and many others. And all of them were international in their thinking and understood that music does cross all borders. Dan might be a new film maker but his truth and belief in this simple truth is a powerful and profound message. And he also happens to be a really good natural storyteller on film!
Lauren Tayla Chappell: What were the biggest challenges around pulling this together?
Tony Klinger: Like any other project on film this really shouldn’t have been possible for Dan or later for us. Everything was wrong. Young filmmaker with no previous film making experience to a professional level. A dangerous, very dangerous location. Some super hostile native people who want to kill these women for playing music. Difficult to access and impossible to fully secure location, do you want me to continue? But sometimes, when you are making a creative film you hold your nerve and take a jump into the water and hope it isn’t too hot or too cold.
Lauren Tayla Chappell: How does this project differ from those you’ve worked on in the past?
Tony Klinger: I make some pretty crazy films in some dubious circumstances which, in retrospect, you think maybe I got lucky to walk away from, safe and sound, but this one has been a huge risk in every respect, and most importantly the physical risk to Dan Blackwell was pretty insane. When you’re making a more traditional film you can plan, you can predict what’s going to happen. On this one, from the day Dan started making the film through the times we got involved, right to the present day, this has been a wild ride, but I am very proud of everyone who contributed to its production, sales and distribution.
Lauren Tayla Chappell: Was there a particular moment that was poignant to you during this project?
Tony Klinger: Yes, strangely enough it came when we did our follow ups and found that all the leading characters in our film have now fled to other countries around the world to be secure from the Taliban. I hope that one day they will be able to return, safe and able to play their music.
Lauren Tayla Chappell: What’s next? Do you have any other exciting projects coming up?
Tony Klinger: We have the film we are currently producing, “Dirty, Sexy And Totally Iconic” celebrating the 50th anniversary of my father’s film, “Get Carter”. And on the theme of my father we also made “The Man Who Got Carter” which is my film love letter to my dad and that and “Sisters” are both being released on various platforms in September. We are in post production on our much delayed film, “Solo2Darwin” about the epic fight of Amanda Harrison as she attempted a flight in her biplane from England to Darwin in Australia and her adventures.
On the feature film slate we are in the final stages of development of our film “Reapers’ Shadow” a dystopian action film set in our future as we see it. I worked with its originator, Joe Sultana on the script and will be producing this film overseas later in the year, COVID permitting, and we also plan to make the first of three films from within Gripping Yarns Films our new co-venture to make films in the genre and tradition of Capra or Richard Curtis starting with “Sweet Dreams” written by Sen Monro.
Apart from that we aren’t very busy other than launching our radio stations, book publishing division and our full cast audio productions, the first three of which are already in the can…
We really hope you enjoyed hearing about our interview with Tony Klinger -, his recent project ‘Sisters’ and all his new plans for the future to come!
Dan Blackwell is a travelling musician and filmmaker from the UK. After working in the industry as a Session Guitarist, Producer and Composer, Dan launched a project called ‘4bar Collective’. The aim was to collaborate with large numbers of musicians, recording 4 bars of music from each to create original tracks and a network of cross promotion for all the artists involved.
“When I discovered Zohra online, I was inspired to completely rework the structure of the project into a documentary series and working with Tony Klinger helps me realise this ambition.”
In an ever more polarised world, Dan’s mission with 4bar Collective is to put a face and heart to the dehumanised people of the world, breaking down barriers such as politics, religion, ethnicity etc. through music, conversation, and collaboration.
Nahid Shahalimi lives in Munich, Germany with her two daughters. Forced to leave Afghanistan in 1985, Nahid and her family moved to Canada where she was raised before shifting to Munich where she solidified her career as an author, a human rights activist, an international consultant on Gender, a former professional athlete, a filmmaker and one of the most prolific international artists in the art world today.
In the last four years Nahid has travelled across Afghanistan collecting inspiring stories of hop eand courage from women who are great testaments of resilience, which she collated in her book, “Where courage bears the soul: We the women of
Afghanistan”. This is continuation of a creative global series Nahid began in 2009 with “We The Women”: a collection of inspiring stories of courageous and resilient women from around the world told through 3 creative pillars involving portrait paintings, books and documentary films. “We the Women of Germany” was the first of this series and gained immense successes following its Portrait painting exhibitions that took place between 2009-2014, where 100% of its proceeds were donated to UNICEF’s projects in Afghanistan.
Nahid produced “We the Women of Afghanistan: a silent revolution” a multiple-award winning documentary film which as part of its promotional tour had a special World Premier screening at the UN German Mission, the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City.
In addition, Nahid is the founder of the international campaign, “COEXIST – Stand up For Unity” which promotes unity through diversity. The campaign travels around the world raising awareness by gaining endorsements from renowned figures including His Holiness Dalai Lama and others.
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