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2/18/04 - AFGHAN FILM - 2004-02-19

After more than two decades of Soviet occupation, civil war, and Taleban misrule, Afghanistan is beginning to revive. As President George W. Bush says, “The people of Afghanistan are moving forward”:

“Afghanistan still has many challenges, but that country is making progress, and its people are a world away from the nightmare they endured under the Taleban.”

And in another sign of progress, the Washington, D.C., office of the Motion Picture Association of America hosted a special showing of the first Afghan movie produced since the overthrow of the Taleban.

“Osama,” the winner of the Golden Globe award for best foreign film of 2003, is the story of an Afghan girl who was forced to disguise herself as a boy named Osama in order to get a job.

Said Tayeb Jawed, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, pointed out the connection between the film’s title and the name of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Ambassador Jawad said, “Long before September 11th, that name has terrorized and victimized the Afghan people.”

Farida Azizi, an Afghan women’s activist, says that when she lived in Afghanistan, she saw many girls like the film’s main character who risked their lives every day to help feed their families. Marina Golbahari, the thirteen-year-old star of the movie “Osama,” once lived as an illiterate beggar in Kabul. Many other cast members reportedly lived in orphanages or refugee camps.

“Osama” marked the debut of film director Siddiq Barmak. “I think it’s a good way to introduce my country to the world,” Mr. Barmark said. “I think it’s a good messenger, a good bridge between people for understanding each other.”