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Nothingwood - a French filmmaker's take on an Afghan film star

By Rosslyn Hyams

In her documentary Nothingwood French journalist Sonia Krunland shares her fascination with Salim Shaheen, Afghanistan's very own self-made filmmaker and actor. Plus promise Before the Summer Ends and Cinefile's pick of the month.

REVIEW

Nothingwood entertains and informs, when it takes a look atAfghan filmy hero Salim Shaheen and his country

Afghanistan has largely fallen off the headline news slot since the US pulled out most of its combat forces in 2015.

Sonia Krunland's documentary Nothingwood takes us away from the frontline and out of Kabul, as far as Bamyan and the restoration of the famous giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Krunland braves all kinds of situations with sincerity and honesty, even open fear, as she follows Shaheen, a man who fell in love with Bollywood as a child, and his regular team of actors and crew from studios to rock faces and even to his home, as they make film magic, out of nothing.

Their costumes are army surplus or picked up on market stalls. Their scenery is entirely natural.

In her first documentary feature for the big screen, the French woman, who has a grasp of Dari, one of the local languages, comes across as rather brave as she takes us to meet the rotund Shaheen.

And she reveals a lot more about ordinary people and their lives, sometimes through hints, sometimes more directly.

Her knowledge and understanding of Afghanistan, built up over two decades, allow her to share the things that move her personally about the country.

Also in Cinefile:

Up-and-coming director Maryam Goormaghtigh's Avant la fin de L'été (Before the Summer Ends) is full of promise. It opened both the ACID independent distributors' parallel festival at Cannes in May 2017 and a festival of Iranian film in Paris in June, Cinéma(s) d'Iran.

And the choice of film festivals in Paris in June is wide to say the least. In fact, the Cinefile RFI Pick of the Month is a Brazilian movie, Para Ter Onde Ir, which screened in the 19th Festival du cinéma brésilien in Paris.

A unique look at war in Philippe van Leeuw's In Syria and Raoul Peck's lesser-bearded The Young Karl Marx

Egypt in the foreground and background In the Last Days of the City

Cannes Film Festival makes space for Andrew Steggall's Departure along with Abel Ferrara's Alive in France