A Swedish documentary about everyday life for women in an Afghan prison has been nominated for an international award at the Emmys, one of the hottest prizes in the film industry.
The movie No Burqas Behind Bars (also released as Freedom Behind Bars in some countries) was directed and produced by Swedish film makers Nima Sarvestani and Maryam Ebrahimis.
The documentary features 40 women and 34 children who are living in just four cells in Thakar prison.
It was first broadcast on Swedish television network SVT last year and has since been shown in cinemas around the world.
The title refers to the fact that women are usually required to wear burqas from head to toe outside the home, but these garments are not required in prison. The film’s director Nima Sarvestani sought to ‘unmask’ them further by asking detailed questions about their experiences.
“It is really good for this film to get recognized,” he told The Local after hearing of the Emmy nomination.
“Not just for me but because of the message of the film. For the Afghan women it is very important that their story is heard. People need to understand how women in Afghanistan are living and what they need.”
The women in the documentary are serving long sentences for ‘crimes’ including marrying lovers their family disapproved of or running away from abusive husbands. The movie has been praised for capturing the prisoners’ desperation as well as their strength.
One of the characters, Sara, has since moved to Sweden with the help of the film’s production team, after she was threatened by her family following her release from jail.
No Burqas Behind Bars has already been well received by international critics, winning prizes including the Best International Documentary award at the New York Independent International Film Festival and at the Rome Independent Film Festival earlier this year.
The movie has also been nominated for the Best TV Documentary Award at the Prix Europa Festival in Berlin, which is Europe’s largest festival for TV, radio and online media and kicks off on October 18th in Berlin.
Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.