From 1978 to 1991, the Afghan Films Institute had been producing propaganda features to fit with the times. This documentary follows the incredible story of five of these unfinished works from Afghanistan’s Communist era, when the constantly shifting political regimes resulted in films remaining unfinished, unedited, and thought to be destroyed.
In her debut feature, Mariam Ghani pieces fragments of this once-lost footage, from The April Revolution (1978), Downfall (1987), The Black Diamond (1989), Wrong Way (1990), and Agent (1991), unedited (and therefore, uncensored). Just as the original filmmakers did when they shot action scenes with real bullets, hired ex-agents to play spies, or restaged the Communist coup d’état with the army, air force, and an awful lot of tanks and missiles, What We Left Unfinished interweaves histories and fictions. Ultimately, we come to understand both the price paid by Afghan filmmakers for the benefits they gained under Communism and the reasons they persisted despite the risks they faced—and why they still believe that film could save Afghanistan from the divisions tearing it apart today.