Two female Afghan filmmakers, who were part of the Venice Film Festival this weekend, have warned against trusting the Taliban’s promises. 38-year-old director Sahraa Karimi told reporters at the festival on Saturday that in just two weeks, the most brilliant elements have left the country.

She added the Afghan film industry entirely stopped “in the space of a few hours” after the sudden takeover by the Taliban on August 15.

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Karimi said the archives are now under Taliban’s control and the work of directors vanished in a few hours, adding that only some were able to leave with their computers.

Her fellow Sahra Mani, who is known for a documentary about victims of incest A Thousand Girls Like Me, added: “This collapse meant we lost everything.”

With tears in her eyes, Mani said they destroyed Kabul’s only mixed music school.

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Mina was the first head of the Afghan Film Organisation in 2019. She shared how she escaped the country on August 15. “I started my day normally, and several hours later, I had to take the hardest decision in my life: to stay or leave the country. We are actors, directors, producers, we are not politicians. We just want to realise our dreams.”

She described her fellow exiles as “ambassadors of Afghan identity,” and warned against trusting the Taliban.

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Only the international community can save artists of Afghanistan. “Help us! We need hope. Please be our voices and speak about our situation,” added Mani.

The pair were joined at Venice by members of the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), which was formed at the festival last year to help artists from countries in turmoil such as Myanmar.