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Directed by: Elham Ehsas
Cast: Afsaneh Dehrouyeh, Elham Ehsas
Synopsis: In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, a woman walks into a chadari store in Kabul to buy her first full-body veil and face an uncertain future.
How did the idea for Yellow come about?
I remember watching a live press conference by a Taliban spokesman who was announcing the new decree that all women must wear the Chadari, the blue full body veil and it made me think of all the women who grew up without having to wear it before. They must now go out and buy one and learn how to use it because it has such a narrow field of view through its tiny mesh window. That's what inspired the short film. What happens if an educated girl walks into a Chadari shop to buy her first veil from an uneducated Talib shopkeeper?
Where was the film shot?
The film was shot between Kabul and Afghanistan. Obviously due to its sensitive topic I couldn't shoot the whole thing in Kabul, but all the exteriors were shot in Kabul and the interior of the shop was in Hackney, London.
Afsaneh Dehrouyeh is absolutely wonderful. She lights up the screen. The camera adores her. Where did you find her and how you cast her to play opposite you?
Me and Afsaneh have a history of working together. I cast her opposite myself in my first short film Our Kind of Love which went on to be BAFTA longlisted and is currently on 3.1 million views on YouTube. That film works because of the magic that Afsaneh brought to it, a natural beauty in performance and emotion. I remember when I first auditioned her for Our Kind of Love, I had this feeling that I had found a gem of an actor and four years on, we are still great friends.
Initially,when I had the idea for Yellow last year and started writing the script, I had Afsaneh in mind. After speaking to her, we both agreed to open the role first to authentic Afghan girls who might be interested in playing Laili, so I taped a few girls but it's quite difficult to get an Afghan girl to agree to be on screen due to cultural restrictions. So then I came back to Afsaneh, who is originally Iranian, and decided to go ahead with her as my Laili.
Short films such as Yellow show that no matter how many borders, boundaries and religions separate us, we are all very similar. We all fall in love. We all have our own vanities. Does that statement make sense to you?
It makes absolute sense. What drew me to write this story and this situation is that it is a simple interaction between an Afghan woman and a Talib member. We see members of the Taliban as one dimensional people and I wanted to flesh that out even more against the backdrop of their reputation. The Girl and The Talib are from different walks of life with different ideologies and goals but we soon learn that beneath all the labels, they are both the same and both human and in another life, they could have been lovers or friends. But they are divided because there is a wall between them. A wall of ideology and the wall is much deeper rooted than just us humans. It is a wall of deep-seated fear, which is dangerous and what we need to address as a society and a people. That was what interested me in writing Yellow.
MANHATTAN SHORT hits a very wide audience. What message would you like them to take away from Yellow after viewing it?
This film serves as a reminder to anyone who watches it. Afghan women and girls have not had access to education since 2021 and they are slowly becoming an invisible people. They have been deprived of their basic human rights and no one is talking about it. I want them to be reminded that Afghan girls and women need our help. Please seek out any way in which your community can provide assistance whether that might be writing to your local politician asking them engage in the wider dialogue with the Taliban or charities that can help aid women of my country. Please don't forget the women of Afghanistan.