So far, cinemas have shown one or more films about the withdrawal of the Americans from Afghanistan, but we had not seen a film about the aftermath of the withdrawal, that is, after the Taliban fighters took control of things and turned the country into an Islamic emirate they called the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", until this film, which was shown at the last Venice Film Festival.
The film is the "Hollywood Gate," the name given by the Americans to their military base in Kabul, which some see as a major CIA base.
"Hollywood Gate" is a 92-minute feature-length documentary directed by Ibrahim Nashat and produced by Talal Al-Derki, and is the first real attempt to discover what is happening in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces and the imposition of Taliban control over the country.
Ibrahim grew up. First journalist to enter Afghanistan after withdrawal
The director of the Egyptian film Ibrahim Nashat is a German-based journalist who worked for German television, and his film is German-American production, and he is the first director to enter Afghanistan with a camera just two days after the chaotic withdrawal of the Americans in August 2021, armed with a handheld camera, accompanied by an Afghan translator, but according to the conditions set by Taliban officials that Neshat talks about at the beginning of the film.
He was only allowed to portray two Taliban figures; the first, Moulay Mansour, who was newly appointed commander of the air force without any knowledge of aviation, a traditional fighter we see running in his robes, dragging his huge body inside the American base in boast of himself.
The second is Mohammad Mukhtar, who is inferior to Mansour, an officer in the Taliban militia, which is now an army looking to repair modern equipment and weapons left behind by the Americans, the most important of which are squadrons of fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters, which the Americans left behind after they damaged them.
Moulay Mansour. An inexperienced barbarian who doesn't improve the calculation
Air Force Commander Moulay Mansour meets with a number of those who were pilots in the air force of the collapsed Afghan regime, some of whom are skeptical of them, also using threatening language, while also waving huge rewards, especially if they succeed in repairing these planes and returning them to work.
But this same man makes a simple miscalculation when he cannot determine the product of 67 by 100, which is the number required to pay the salaries of officers, he asks for 67,6700 afghanis (Afghan currency) instead of <>.
If this does not seem surprising, nor does Mansour's approach, which he and his leaders wanted the film to be a propaganda work that depicts the positives, and gave Nashat a whole year to portray their "achievements" in transforming Afghanistan into an Islamic emirate, as he issues what is completely contrary to the idea of propaganda, and with presenting a positive image of the Taliban, we see him threatening and threatening, for example: If this person (meaning the director) has bad intentions, he will die.
Moulay Mansour, who became commander of the Air Force
We hear this on the sound tape, as recorded by director Nashat without intervening or commenting, as he constantly tries throughout the film to keep a distance from those he films, not clashing with them but asking questions timidly, but at the same time surreptitiously picking up what he is not allowed to film, such as even passing by even quickly on the conditions of women, and one of the Taliban men beating one of them in the street.
Warriors' dreams. Ambitions to support power and revenge
In the film, we see a number of Kabul residents who spread the ground in the market, and children who appear to be hungry, in contrast to another child full of health and well-being, one of Mansour's sons, playing with weapons as if he represented the violence that arose under him.
Mansour never talks about what they will establish of projects to advance the country to serve the population, this is far from his thinking and the thinking of his colleagues, they are busy with only one thing, which is to support their power and strengthen their militias, and dream of permanent revenge, and the threat of war on their neighbor Tajikistan, Mansour calls the Ministry of Defense in that country, and threatens war, accusing Tajikistan of supporting insurgents in Afghan territory.
He speaks proudly about his wife, who was working as a doctor, and then stipulated to her before marrying her, that she give up her profession and devote himself to the house only, as for the officer Mukhtar, he accompanies Nashat to the grave of his brother, who was killed in an American raid, and vows in front of the grave to avenge him, and dedicates to him all the military victories they have achieved, and then tells the director that he only dreams of landing on top of a squad of American soldiers while holding a machine gun, and then opens fire to kill the largest number of them.
"This idiot cares a lot about photographing women"
The director allows himself to film the rows of planes stacked in the military base, despite the warning of Commander Moulay Mansour against this, and when repaired later, he photographs them and the pilots who are preparing to fly them, and also turns the camera to the faces of the women covered by the burqa, and Mansour notices this, and comments sarcastically, "This fool cares a lot about photographing women."
One of the repaired American helicopters operated
In one scene, a Taliban man tells him why women are required to wear the burqa, it's like throwing two pieces of candy on the floor, one wrapped and the other naked, which one you can pick up and eat, a naïve summary of a woman's body stable.
Funnily enough, when a Taliban colleague asks him whether Sharia requires the burqa, he hesitates and does not answer, as if he was surprised by the question.
"You lost the war." American booty at the military base
Commander Moulay Mansour reviews inside the military base what the Americans have left behind, of enormous military equipment amounting to - according to what is mentioned in the film - more than $ 7 billion, which is currently in the hands of their enemies, along with many other things, including tons of medicines, most of which they discover expiration, sports training equipment inside a section dedicated to training in order to maintain fitness, shelves full of bottles of liquor of all kinds that they collect in preparation for disposal, many broken computers, and so on.
All the Taliban men carry mobile phones, some use them for photography, and all use them for lighting, which is a source of light at night, due to the lack of electricity in the city.
Moulay Mansour with his sons
In one scene, the officer, Mohammed Mukhtar, takes the director to a place in the mountains, where he shows him the cave where he has been hiding for years, and the Americans were unable to reach it with their bombs, and says that they were fighting the Jews, and that they have won over them, and shouts "O Jews... You lost the war," he said, then naively saying that the Taliban could control the whole world if they had the technology like the Americans do.
Photographing reality. The winds are running as the Taliban ships do not wish
There is no audio commentary on what we are watching, but director Ibrahim Nashat is keen to keep the long shots during which the moving camera follows men and places, and also shoots other general shots from high angles that show the city, and monitors - even remotely - the destruction that occurred in it, and also saves on the audio tape the insults and words uttered by Mansour and his companions directed at him, reflecting their ridicule and contempt for him, as they consider him of a lower rank, because he does not identify with their beliefs and convictions.
It depicts their collective prayers, then their gathering to eat on the floor, some of their conversations, meetings and discussions about the modern weapons that the Americans have left behind, with their quick departure from Afghanistan, and at every step the director takes with his camera we can glimpse the effects of war, and the images we see become the most expressive of the predicament of the status quo there, and it prompts the question: Can a state be run in such a haphazard way?
An armored vehicle from the Americans that they left behind
Ibrahim Nashat does not leave himself prey in the hands of the Taliban, making them what they want from propaganda using the means of cinema, but rather makes his film reveal part of the reality of the deteriorating situation in which people live, without trying to hide the reflections of his image in mirrors or glass surfaces, and leaving himself free to follow the event for a long time without sharp transitions, as he tells us in the end, he wanted to convey to us what he saw without any interference.
Anniversary of the withdrawal. Military parade at the American base
Taliban men are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the departure of the Americans with a military parade at the Bagram military base, and invite a number of diplomats and foreign officials from France, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran, along with their invitees.
But at the same time, they exclude those who do not have an official invitation, expel them from the plane that will carry them to that base in a rude manner, and sometimes beat them severely in front of the camera, and insult them, which contradicts their claims of tolerance and self-restraint, a picture that also reveals the reality of the alternative regime that came from rubble and destruction, and how it deals even with its comrades and believers.
During the parade, we see swarms of helicopters that have been repaired and reactivated, as well as teams of soldiers, with a special focus on the division they call the "Martyrdom Corps."
"Hollywood Gate" is a skillfully made film in very difficult and dangerous conditions, and there is no doubt that the filming of the film was in itself an arduous adventure, from which the director came out with the material that the world watches, to realize for himself the nature of what is happening in Afghanistan, after everything that happened for more than 20 years.