Film

Talk, Talk, Talk: November 2008

Like the sainted sigh of relief that comes after another shriek-filled All Hallow's Eve, November usually means the start of the 'nominate me' process for the proposed prestige pictures of 2008.

Like the sainted sigh of relief that comes after another shriek-filled All Hallow's Eve, November usually means the start of the 'nominate me' process for the proposed prestige pictures of 2008. Yet looking over the list below, there's more commerciality than classicism on display. With the exception of two films on the 14th, everything else looks like it's aimed directly at the coffers, not the critic's year end Best Of lists. And who said the reverberations from the writer's strike would subvert Tinsel Town's business model as usual approach?

Director: Marc Forster Film: Quantum of Solace Studio: MGM Cast: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini Website: http://www.007.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-14 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-10-31 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/q/quantumsolaceposter.jpg

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07 November

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Quantum of Solace

When it was announced that relative unknown Daniel Craig was taking over the role of the world's most famous spy, fans started foaming at the messageboard mouth. One massive hit (Casino Royale) later, and all is quiet on the James Bond front. With Monster Ball's Marc Forster behind the lens and a short story by Ian Fleming as an iffy foundation, the only real controversy so far centers on the movie's slightly clunky title. Audiences can expect more of the same from the revamped 007 -- more hot tempered confrontations, more pseudo sexist banter, more shirtless moments for everyone's favorite government agent. It’s been a long time since Bond seemed this relevant -- or interesting.

Quantum of Solace

Display Artist: Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath Director: Eric Darnell Director: Tom McGrath Film: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Studio: DreamWorks Animation Cast: Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bryceson Holcomb, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen Website: http://www.madagascar-themovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-07 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/m/madagascar2poster.jpg

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07 November

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Madagascar: Back 2 Africa

After the daring, and quite delightful Kung Fu Panda, it's a shame to see Dreamworks applying the automatic "success = sequel" formula to this half-baked quasi-comedy. Sure, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock can be very funny, just not voicing anthropomorphized zoo animals. The plot has the New York bound characters from the first film crash landing in their native habitat. Hijinx supposedly ensue. We can expect lots of strangers in a strange land lameness and cross cultural clumsiness from the artless all star creatures. There is so much more to CCI than stunt casting and pop culture riffing. It’s just too bad that the suits who started the trend (with Shrek) have failed to learn this lesson.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman Film: Repo: The Genetic Opera Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Alexa Vega, Anthony Head, Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, Sarah Brightman Website: http://www.repo-opera.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-07 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/r/repogeneticoperaposter.jpg

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07 November

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Repo: The Genetic Opera

Parlaying his long dormant Saw cred on this peculiar pet project, director Darren Lynn Bousman offers up a song and dance dystopia where plastic surgery disasters demand their own financial repo men. Much bloody bedlam and anarchic arias follow. With Paul Sorvino, Paris Hilton, and Texas Chainsaw II's Bill Mosley in tow, this all singing surrealism is poised to be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show -- misunderstood upon release, revered come time for cult consideration.

Repo: The Genetic Opera

Director: David Wain Film: Role Models Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch, Bobb'e J. Thompson Website: http://www.rolemodelsmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-07 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-23 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/r/rolemodelsposter.jpg

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07 November

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Role Models

In what seems like a return to the worst parts of the '80s high concept comedy phase, Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott slum in this humorless, hackneyed Big Brother mentoring mess. On the positive side, everyone's favorite Superbad supporting player, the fake ID flouncing McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) plays one of the troubled teens. On a less comforting note, The State's David Wain is in the director's chair. His uneven creative catalog suggests something equally problematic and patchy.

Role Models

Director: Baz Luhrmann Film: Australia Studio: Fox Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandoln Walters, David Gulpilil, David Ngoombujarra, David Wenham, Bryan Brown Website: http://www.australiamovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 Distributor: Fox US Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/a/australiaposter.jpg

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14 November

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Australia

After fussing over his next possible project (believe it or not, it's been seven years since Moulin Rouge! ) Aussie madman Baz Luhrmann has decided to pay tribute to the land of his birth. This Giant-sized epic, promoting the pioneer spirit of the former British penal colony has favorite son Hugh Jackman opposite divined daughter Nicole Kidman as World War II era lovers forced to drive cattle across the forbidding Down Under outback. As luck would have it, the nearby town of Darwin is also under attack. So far, a teaser trailer has hinted at the film's luxuriant scope, and some have suggested that Luhrmann is actually attempting an all encompassing homage to similarly styled movies from the past. The look sure is the same. Here's hoping the drama is equally dynamic.

Australia

Director: John Hillcoat Film: The Road Studio: Dimension Films Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-14 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/theoradpic4.jpg

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14 November

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The Road

After the unqualified success of No Country for Old Men, elusive author Cormac McCarthy should have expected the success of his latest novel. Thanks to a Pulitzer Prize, and some Oprah aided buzz, The Road became a monster bestseller. Still, translating the harrowing journey of a nameless father and son through a post-apocalyptic nightmare that is the former United States doesn't sound like guaranteed motion picture product. The hiring of Viggo Mortensen as the male lead showed promise. Bringing The Proposition's John Hillcoat on was another genius move. But getting untried playwright Joe Penhall to write the script could be the translation's undoing. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. The book deserves it. The Road

Director: Brett Simon Film: The Assassination of a High School President Studio: Freestyle Releasing Cast: Reece Thompson, Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris, Josh Pais MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-14 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/the-assassination-of-a-high.jpg

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14 November

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The Assassination of a High School President

With a title that ends up being more provocative than the actual premise (a comic conspiracy at a snooty Catholic School is uncovered), there are a lot of potential pitfalls for the undeniably odd sounding effort. First up is novice feature filmmaker Brett Simon. His untried status actually cost him the job of bringing Juno to the big screen (and that script was pretty much a slam dunk). Second, the storyline seems overly complicated, trying to mimic All the President's Men via a half-hearted Heathers. In the end, there's too many cons to suggest a satiric success.

The Assassination of a High School President

Director: Malcolm D. Lee Film: Soul Men Studio: MGM Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Bernie Mac, Sharon Leal, Sean Hayes, Isaac Hayes Website: http://www.soulmen-movie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-07 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/soul-men-poster.jpg

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14 November

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Soul Men

Until a few months ago, no one had ever heard of this comedy-drama from Undercover Brother helmer Malcolm D. Lee. Then co-stars Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes both died within days of each other. Suddenly, this story of a pair of backup singers putting their 20 years of angry differences aside to reunite for a cross country concert tour has the unexpected tinge of a last act elegy. Some have even forgotten that Samuel L. Jackson is the actual lead. Here's hoping the film succeeds on its own terms, and not just out of morbid media curiosity.

Soul Men

Display Artist: Chris Williams & Byron Howard Director: Chris Williams Director: Byron Howard Film: Bolt Studio: The Walt Disney Company Cast: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/bolt/ MPAA rating: PG First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-21 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-02-13 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/boltposter08.jpg

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21 November

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Bolt

When Pixar's John Lasseter took over as guide for the House of Mouse's animation output, he promised some radical changes and a return to old school Disney values. This movie sure looks like the bi-furcated product of such competing company mindsets. On the one hand is the attention to detail, fine tuned characterization, and sense of cinematic wonder that came from the studio's traditional pen and ink products. Then there is the blatant catering to computer generated concerns and the everpresent stunt voice casting (Miley Cyrus? There's a surprise). A lot will be riding on this release. Lasseter replaced original director Chris Sanders when he resisted the changes he suggested. Here's hoping he was right.

Bolt

Director: Catherine Hardwicke Film: Twilight Studio: Summit Entertainment Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Ashley Greene, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz Website: http://twilightthemovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 Distributor: Summit US Release Date: 2008-11-21 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-12-03 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/twilightposter08.jpg

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21 November

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Twilight

Oh god - get ready. Like a hornier Harry Potter, adolescent girls apparently go ga-ga over the syrupy supernatural series from author Stephenie Meyer, and this adaptation of the first novel in the quadrilogy already promises to be an overhyped ogre come release date. The studios have already inundated critics with cheat sheets, interview material, publicity puffery, and any possible marketing angle they can readily conceive -- and all for the teen dream story of a young girl falling in love with a local vampire. Sheesh. There's a possibility that director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) can deliver the mainstream muggle goods. If so, get ready for another three films of horror as raging hormones.

Twilight

Director: Joe Wright Film: The Soloist Studio: DreamWorks Cast: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener Website: http://www.soloistmovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-21 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/s/soloistmovieposter.jpg

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21 November

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The Soloist

Nathan Ayers was a musical prodigy that developed schizophrenia during his second year at Julliard. He eventually ended up on the streets, playing his violin for spare change. Jamie Foxx, clearly hoping for a repeat of Ray-sized glory, essays the troubled troubadour. Robert Downey Jr. plays the LA journalist who uncovers Ayers identity, and Catherine Keener plays his editor. Director Joe Wright, who wowed audiences with his adaptation of Atonement, has the credentials to pull this off. Here's hoping his cast lets him. The Soloist

Director: Olivier Megaton Film: Transporter 3 Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Jason Statham, Natalya Rudakova, François Berléand, Robert Knepper, Jeroen Krabbé MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 Distributor: Lionsgate US Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-12-05 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/trans3.jpg

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28 November

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Transporter 3

It's clear by now -- Jason Statham has a concrete career death wish. Every time it looks like he will finally shed his musky, man of any action movie image (The Bank Job), he returns to the ADD addled genre that apparently keeps him well paid and underfed (does the man have ANY body fat whatsoever?). Following the failure of Paul W.S. Anderson's underrated Death Race, the brawny Brit returns to the franchise that made him an unintended international icon. That sound you just heard is the collection yawn from an unimpressed, "been there, done that" fanbase -- and if they aren't happy, this series seems DOA.

Transporter 3

Director: Seth Gordon Film: Four Christmases Studio: New Line Cinema Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Jon Favreau, Mary Steenburgen, Kristin Chenoweth MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-11-26 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/f/fourchristmasesposter.jpg

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28 November

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Four Christmases

Warner Brothers has poured a lot of star power into this otherwise unknown comedy quantity. It features four Oscar winners -- Reese Witherspoon, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek, and Robert Duvall -- and adds in a couple of country music superstars (Tim McGraw and Dwight Yoakam) for good measure. And we loved Seth Gordon's last film, the fascinating documentary The King of Kong. Still, it's hard to get a handle on a holiday film that sees a young couple competing for the affection of their divorced and remarried families (hence the title trouble).Four Christmases

Director: Alfredo De Villa Film: Nothing Like the Holidays Studio: Overture Films Cast: Freddy Rodríguez, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, Jay Hernandez, Luis Guzmán, John Leguizamo, Melonie Diaz, Vanessa Ferlito, Debra Messing MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-12 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/n/nothing_like_the_holidays.jpg

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28 November

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Nothing Like the Holidays

After changing its name from Humbolt Park (the setting for this ethnic tearjerker), Overture Films has been rather silent about this John Leguizamo led tale of a troubled Puerto Rican family and what very well may be their last Christmas together. Director Alfredo De Villa definitely understands the narrative terrain. His entire indie career has been forged via stories of individuals -- minority or otherwise -- and their life on the edge of social acceptance. We will just have to wait and see. Nothing Like the Holidays











alfred molina bruce willis judi dench kristen stewart australia robert duvall debra messing robert downey jr. ben stiller paul rudd jamie foxx jeffrey wright jada pinkett smith vince vaughn luis guzmán john leguizamo mathieu amalric seann william scott charlize theron reese witherspoon david wenham john travolta catherine keener nicole kidman peter facinelli bernie mac samuel l. jackson chris rock michael rapaport jay hernandez malcolm mcdowell jason statham giancarlo giannini mary steenburgen sean hayes jeroen krabbé bill moseley elizabeth banks paul sorvino jon favreau chris williams daniel craig elizabeth reaser isaac hayes paris hilton viggo mortensen elizabeth peña hugh jackman nikki reed mischa barton robert knepper kathryn morris david schwimmer melonie diaz françois berléand bryan brown david gulpilil alexa vega jane lynch anthony head vanessa ferlito sacha baron cohen bobb'e j. thompson reece thompson christopher mintz-plasse susie essman kristin chenoweth olga kurylenko sharon leal josh pais miley cyrus twilight freddy rodríguez gemma arterton madagascar: escape 2 africa bryceson holcomb quantum of solace role models sarah brightman ashley greene jackson rathbone kellan lutz robert pattinson mark walton bolt byron howard brandoln walters david ngoombujarra transporter 3 four christmases repo: the genetic opera natalya rudakova the soloist the road eric darnell tom mcgrath kodi smit-mcphee the assassination of a high school president soul men nothing like the holidays The Popmatters Fall 2008 Movie

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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