This week’s spotlight is presenting you Atiq Rahimi, a French-Afghan writer and filmmaker. Originally from Kabul, Rahimi was forced to leave his home country after the Soviet invasion and after a year of refuge in Pakistan he received political asylum in France where he started his career in television as a commercial and documentary producer.

In late 1990’s Rahimi embarked on his first writing project that would bring him international attention. His 2000 Persian book, “Earth and Ashes” became an instant bestseller both in Europe and South America and the movie based on the novel directed by the author was awarded “Prix du Regard vers l’Avenir” at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

P1D2340718G_px_640_His success as a writer continued, reaching a peak in 2008 when Rahimi won France’s most prestigious literary prize, the 105-year-old Prix Goncourt, for his novel “Syngue Sabour”, translated into English as “The Patience Stone”. But the powerful story of an intelligent woman under the oppressive weight of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan didn’t remain just in the written pages. Rahimi decided to make a movie based on it.

The film “The Patience Stone” had its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and was very well received by both public and critics. Adapted from the book by Rahim and Jean-Claude Carrière (Luis Buñuel’s longtime collaborator),“The Patience Stone” is set somewhere, in Afghanistan or elsewhere, in a country torn apart by a war. A beautiful woman in her thirties watches over her husband who has fallen into a coma. After ten years of living under his control, with no voice of her own, she finally has the upper hand and starts to reveal to him her deepest desires. The woman’s confessions are extraordinary and without restraint: about sex and love, her anger against a man who never understood her and never showed her any respect or kindness. Through the words she delivers so audaciously to her husband, the woman seeks to free herself from suffering and her husband becomes unconsciously syngué sabour (“the patience stone”)- a magical black stone that, according to Persian mythology, absorbs the plight of those who confide in it.

The freedom of Rahimi’s film is striking and the subversive nature of the story hints to the subject regarding Islamic women condition and their denied longings. “I cannot say whether this woman exists. But she is a woman whom I would like to see exist in such a similar situation, in such a culture. A woman who rebels, who reveals herself, who tells her story, who discovers her desires, her body, who realizes herself”, says Rahimi about his main character.

Atiq Rahimi’s “The Patience Stone” has been chosen to be the Afghan entry for the Oscars 2013 for the best Foreign Language Picture and pursued its international journey in film festivals around the world: US, London, Pusan or Abu Dhabi as well as in the home city of the filmmaker: Kabul. Internationally acclaimed for its powerful plot as well as for the courage of tackling delicate subjects, “The Patience Stone” is an example of how a powerful message can be conveyed through filmmaking.

We at ÉCU support the filmmaking worldwide and also have a dedicated Non-European section. We hope that there will be many filmmakers also outside Europe that inspired by Atiq Rahimi’s story will submit their movies to ÉCU 2014.

Ruxandra Matei

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