April brought us a very thoughtful review by Alexander Miller for Film Inquiry.
Ghani’s film is powered by the curious, and fraught relationship tha can exist between oppression and art, the pursuit of the creative endeavor against intellectual suppression and, of course, the subversive, and complex role of propaganda and film.
Admittedly, the thesis of What We Left Unfinished is a bit of a hard-sell. Still, Mariam Ghani’s approach isn’t a dare, nor does she sell the film as a gimmick, but rather, it’s a meditative look at the intervention of a regime in the pursuit of making movies. It’s an always relevant reminder of how important film is as an artistic medium.
Mariam Ghani weaves an engrossing documentary from the stories behind these films and the believe-it-or-not production tales. There are layers throughout, and its organic density lends us a subtly rewarding viewing experience. While directors Juwanshur Haidary and Latif Ahmadi discuss these movies, you can see that there’s a passionate catharsis in discussing these movies.
In recounting these stories, we see cinema as a tool, a form of entertainment, propaganda, and in ways both literal and metaphorical as a weapon. What Mariam Ghani provides is an active document that interacts with the viewer by sharing a unique, practically unheard of chapter of cinematic history that’s shaped by a nation’s tumultuous legacy. The curated movie clips are impeccably edited and illuminating in how raw these movies feel, not in terms of restoration; some of these surviving movies look terrific. While it might sound dense and only appealing to a niche demographic, Ghani’s immersive record is a curiosity that will satisfy any inquiring cinematic mind.