DER Documentary

Postcards from Tora Bora

by Kelly Dolak and Wazhmah Osman
color, 87 min, 2007


At the height of the Cold War, the Osman family frantically escapes from Afghanistan while leaving almost everything behind. In the ensuing chaos, their only suitcase filled with family photos is stolen. Now after two decades of living in America, Wazhmah Osman, a young Afghan-American woman returns to her childhood home. Armed only with rapidly fading memories, she recruits some unlikely and reluctant guides to put together the pieces of her past.

On an alternately sad and humorous quest, she encounters confused cabbies, the enthusiastic former minister of the tourism bureau, amuseum director that archives land mines, and a group of angry street vendors. As Wazhmah desperately searches for any tangible evidence of her former life, the journey leads her to many unexpected places. Amidst the rubble and destruction, she finds her estranged father who in the aftermath of war choose his country over his family. On the road, Wazhmah frequently finds herself at a strange intersection where cultures clash, identities are mistaken, and the past violently collides with the present.

The filmmakers incorporate recovered Super 8 home movies and family photos that offer a rare and unprecedented look at 1960s and 1970s pre-war Afghanistan. Travel brochures are animated to reveal the country's peaceful past. Drawings by orphan children are animated to illustrate the Soviet invasion and subsequent wars. Interviews with Wazhmah's family and on the ground interviews with shopkeepers, teachers, orphans, and soldiers bring to light Wazhmah's personal journey and the country's current situation.

Visit the film's official website:

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
AAA/Society for Visual Anthropology Film, Video & Multimedia Festival, 2009

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Born Into Struggle
Daughter From Danang
From Babylon to Beverly Hills
Manhattan, Kansas
Our Burmese Days

Related Resources:
Read an interview with the filmmakers on the website Divine Caroline
Read Wazhmah Osman's article Afghanistan: Vultures in the "Graveyard of Empires" on the Women's International Perspective, Inc. website

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts