OU hosts Afghan Women’s Festival to spread awareness


Photo courtesy of Bridget Kies

The film “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha” follows three women and their lives in Afghanistan. The OU community was presented this movie during the Afghan Women Film Festival.

With big news always happening around the world and in other countries, Oakland University’s Film Studies and Production program, along with the College of Arts and Sciences, Student Affairs and Diversity, Women and Gender Studies and the English Department, decided to host a film festival to spread awareness about women in Afghanistan. This was also to bring awareness to the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan.

“Then it clicked for me like okay, we can’t, I can’t stop the Taliban. Right? I’m just like one person in Michigan,” Bridget Kies, assistant professor of film studies and production at OU, said. “But we can have a film festival. And through that, we can help save these movies and give them a big audience. And by watching these movies, we can get people more aware of what’s going on.”

The event was spread out between three days: Nov. 7, Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. All three days featured films directed by women from Afghanistan, about women in Afghanistan.

The event originally was brought up as an idea back in August when the news was all about the Taliban being recaptured. With this affecting woman, Karimi reached out to the film community asking them to show her movie and any others as they would become banned in Afghanistan very soon. 

“It’s easy for people to have forgotten what happened in August and to remember that it’s still ongoing, right?” Kies said. “The situation is still ongoing, people are still fleeing for their lives. The Taliban keeps changing the rules, and making things more and more oppressive for women.”

The first night featured the movie “A Thousand Girls Like Me” by Sahra Mani in 2018. The film was about a young Afghan woman and her fight after years of abuse from her father. The highlighted message from this film was phyiscal and sexual abuse.

The second night featured: “In the rumbling Belly of Motherland” by Brishkay Ahmed in 2021. This film was about three journalists that reported on the bombings, elections and Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Last night (11/21) featured the movie: “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha” by Sahraa Karimi, 2019. This film was about women from different backgrounds living in Kabul and the struggles they had to go through in their lives.

The final event also contained a Q&A with guest speakers — Arezo Areapoor, an Afghan actress in Hava, Maryam, Ayesha; Fariba Pajooh, a journalist that was previously stationed in Kabul; Zahra Nazari and Yusuf Sultani, founding members of the new organization Afghan Association of Michigan; and Elizabeth Vasquez, COO, and Nusrat Hussain, senior attorney, from Freedom House Detroit. 

While the first two nights were held at the Film Lab in Hamtramck, the final day was held at Cinema Detroit. The film department decided to move these events off campus to open up the opportunities it could bring.

“It’s a thing for our community, but we decided to do it off campus because we thought it would also be a really good opportunity for the university to connect with local movie theaters,” Kies said.

At each event there was a mixture of attendees — including many community members, OU students and OU faculty. 

“I hope that our students will be more interested in global cinema and feel like they’ve learned something about Afghanistan,” Kies said.