How have your steps in the world of cinema been?
Through my humanitarian work I got to know places I would never have been and through my foundation we were able to provide resources and help. In 2004, when I attended the inauguration of a hospital that we built in Afghanistan together with Doctors Without Borders, I met a boy named Farouk who sold newspapers and calendars. He fascinated me that an eight-year-old boy could be in the middle of the tanks alone. He was the one who supported the seven members of his family. I shot a documentary called “The Breadwinner”, which was about a day in the life of Farouk. It was a success. It was shown in the United States Senate, it was screened in Columbia, Harvard, Georgetown, Freedom House… and all the major pale institutions and world banks. The documentary changed the policy towards humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. That was the most powerful moment I have ever experienced. I realized the power of the film and how it could impact the world.
When did the movie “The Black Tulip” come out?
The success of this documentary allowed me to realize that I could make a film about the history and struggle of my people. That led me to direct and produce my first feature film, “The Black Tulip”. It won thirty-four film festivals and was selected as Afghanistan’s nominee for best foreign film at the Oscars.
Do you always tell true stories?
I take the refugees very close to my heart and my idea of speaking those who don’t have it later led me to direct and produce my next film, “I Am You,” for which we continue to seek international distribution. Both are based on true stories.
You now have a new and exciting project that you have presented these days at the Cannes Festival to your investors. What can you tell us about him?
Currently, due to the shameful withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, which after twenty years has left it in the worst position in which it has been in its history, I cannot go to shoot movies in my country. In the meantime, I wanted to make a film that was the antithesis of the ones I had done before. It’s called “Behind the Facade” and it’s a film that asks us to take a closer look at the extravagant lives of the world’s billionaires. Set against a backdrop of private jets, luxury yachts and multi-million dollar villas.
What will it consist of and who will be the actors?
The film opens at the grand opening of a ruthless developer’s hotel on the Amalfi Coast in Capri, Italy. The protagonists are an architect, an heiress, a cunning journalist and a beautiful young woman. The collision of their lives threatens to uncover a secret that will change their lives and challenges them to decide what will make them happy. Will it be wealth, luxury and power…or true love? It will be shot in May 2023 on the Amalfi Coast: in Capri, Sorrento, Positano… This will be my first big-budget film.
They all helped me raise the voice of the Afghan people after the Soviet invasion and shine a light on that corner of the world that no one paid much attention to at the time.
What kind of help and attention did you receive?
It is very interesting that celebrities and personalities unite in a selfless cause because of the amount of positive changes and the impact that it can generate throughout the world. Thanks to that I was able to host my first event honoring the late President Ronald Reagan, which was attended by 1,400 people. We presented the Freedom Award at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, and raised funds to help refugees from Afghanistan. Shortly after, I had the pleasure of presenting the same award to the late Muhammad Ali for his humanitarian work after visiting Afghanistan and bringing much needed attention to the children of my country. This event was full of stars like Stevie Wonder and the late Natalie Cole.
Your faith in respecting women and your commitment in this regard is even stronger, if possible.
I really believe that if a woman’s right is violated anywhere, it spreads throughout the world and is violated everywhere. In the West, we cannot sit back and pretend that this is not happening. And we must remember that our freedoms as people are very fragile. My humanitarian mission in life is to fight with every cell in my body, especially for the Women of Afghanistan, and I will do so until my last encouragement (afghanistanworldfoundation.org).
How did you become a film producer?
From a very young age, I realized that I was addicted to it. I loved the tranquility of the cinema and I never dedicated myself to eating popcorn or candy. I was only attracted to the screen and I stayed glued to it seeing what was happening.
That was the passion that led you to the White House. Tell us the story…
This passion grew stronger and stronger as I became a teenager. When I arrived in the United States, after the Soviet invasion of 1979, I was devastated and alone in the country, without my family with me. At that moment I decided to write to the President of the United States.
two Ronald Reagans. It was a nine page letter and his chief of staff contacted me and invited me to the White House. My life changed the day I met him and asked him to help the refugees in Afghanistan.
How did President Reagan help you?
At that time he replied that he couldn’t do much, but he explained that I, a passionate and determined Afghan girl, could do many things. Imagine being a teenager and being told by the most powerful man in the world that you can change it. She asked me, “Would you like to be that person?” Without hesitation, I answered yes… and that she would be the defender of the Afghan people. She ordered me to visit Afghanistan and bring back some child victims of the air strikes.
set with Hollywood’s top stars and without a gun to my head or the Taliban trying to kidnap and torture me. This is how I experienced it first hand while directing and producing my last two films. I wrote about it in great detail in my book, “Will I Live Tomorrow?”
Your son, Christopher Cole, is also a film producer.
My son is the most beautiful gift that God has given me. Of all the achievements I have achieved throughout my life, the most important is having raised a person who makes a difference in everything he does. Christopher is my pride and the joy of my life. He is my source of strength and happiness.
Production and text: NANA BOTTAZZI
Home photos: GIORGIO BARONI
Posed photos: ALESSANDRA FIORINI
Wardrobe: DIOR/VERSACE/ETRO/ALBERTA FERRETTI/ROBERTO CAVALLI
Jewelry: STEFERE JEWELRY by CORINA MIHAILA LARPIN ART: LEILA HELLER GALLERY NEW YORK
Makeup: JO FRANCO NEW YORK / @sonianasserycole