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Afghan actors risk their lives to entertain fans

January 10, 2012

Afghan actors risk their lives to entertain fans

A crack team of Afghan police hunt down a suicide bomber in the heart of Kabul just in time before he can detonate his explosives. With their clinging black suits, modified rifles and slim-line headsets, they could be straight out of a Hollywood action movie.

In fact that’s not far off. The team are actually members of ‘Eagle Four’, the stars of the popular cop show on Afghanistan’s most popular television station, Tolo.

Based loosely on the internationally successful American series, ’24’, the show’s fast-paced action and dialogue have proved a hit, making lead actor Najebullah Sadiq very famous. But, on a return visit to his home city of Jalalabad he reminds us how difficult it can be for actors in Afghanistan.

Defying terrorist threats

“We have faced lots of problems,” Sadiq tells us. “I’ve been given warnings hundreds of times. They say you shouldn’t make films about the fight against narcotics anymore, or women’s rights. They ask, ‘why did you play that role in this film or that serial? You’re against suicide attacks.’ So I’ve had warnings many times, received messages, even letters to my house.”

Film in Afghanistan has a long history, dating back to the1960s, but is currently very under-funded. It can also be dangerous for the actors involved. Najebullah Sadiq lives with threats on his life every day.

“Before leaving my home, I walk and look around my house and when I drive out with my car, I park it and look around my house again or I tell someone else to see if there’s anyone suspicious around my house,” says Sadiq.

Jalalabad is the second-largest city in eastern Afghanistan and one of the leading trading centres with neighbouring Pakistan exporting agricultural products like oranges, rice and sugarcane.

It has also become known for its small but dedicated collection of film-makers and the abundance of DVD and CD shops in the city. But a series of bombings against the movie and music shops last year harmed the careers of Afghan entertainers.

Every entertainment shop in the city shut down. But this year, with the announcement of the second stage of transition to include Jalalabad, security has improved enough for the sellers to re-open.

But problems continue, especially when it comes to finding actresses. “We have 4000 Afghan actors, but from these 4000 we only have 3 to 4 female actresses who have starred in 1 or 2 movies. They were given warnings by their families as well as by other people who are from different organisations or call themselves Mullahs or holy scholars. They were given warnings and they left the film business,” explains Sadiq.

Inspiration for the future

However, half the team of ‘Eagle Four’ are women, one of them a computer expert with the skills to locate a suspect and send the details to the men on the ground in a flash of her fingers.

The technology-laden world of ‘Eagle Four’ may be a little way in the future for Afghanistan’s still-developing police force, but Sadiq says he hopes his role in the series will inspire both the conduct of Afghan security forces and the trust of the people they protect.

“’Eagle Four’ has acted as one way to develop our police department and I hope that one day our police will be equipped like they are in ‘Eagle Four’ and be able to find terrorists from security cameras or using the internet.”


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