‘Kamay,’ About Hazara Family’s Fight for Justice in Afghanistan, Picked Up by Cat&Docs Ahead of Visions du Réel Premiere (EXCLUSIVE)

Paris-based film sales agency Cat&Docs has acquired “Kamay,” the debut feature documentary from filmmakers Ilyas Yourish and Shahrokh Bikaran. The film will world premiere at Visions du Réel, which runs in Nyon, Switzerland, April 12-24. Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer (below).

In “Kamay,” the filmmakers pick up the story of a Hazara family’s struggle to reconcile the official story of their eldest daughter Zahra’s death while attending the University of Kabul. It is taking years to navigate Afghanistan’s judicial landscape, even to just receive Zahra’s personal effects.

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Zahra’s younger sister, Freshta, continues to gather the Kamay plant for her late sister’s research high up in the mountains near their house, but the mystery surrounding Zahra’s death and the great loss felt by the family affects her deeply – as she herself is nearly ready to enter university next.

“Kamay is a wild, self-sufficient plant found in the mountains of central Afghanistan,” Yourish explained. “It is emblematic of the Hazaras, who must have a way to exist without any of the resources saved for their urban countrymen. The word itself is a testament to resilience and resistance: the Hazara identity of the family is crucial to understand the struggle of the family for justice.

“Historically, the Hazara identity has been compromised time after time. The film is a witness to an important time now – a witness to how, despite historic persecution, this Hazara family navigates their civil rights as they fight the Afghan state. Both the Kamay plant, and the family, fight to survive on their own terms.”

Filmed over the course of six years, the story takes an unexpected and dramatic turn when the Taliban take over the country in 2021. Yourish, whose own family fled the country in 1997, is Hazara himself, and speaks to the plight of his community with authority.

Yourish left Kabul in late July 2021 and was coordinating the evacuation of his team from Brussels. The family in the film, the Khawaris, were caught in the crush during the Abbey Gate suicide bombing during the chaotic evacuation before making it safely out.

“It feels like the world has abandoned us, again,” said Yourish, who lives in Belgium. “It makes us sad, but it does not make us stop. It’s important to me to continue to get out to the world the stories of resistance and resilience by those who have stayed behind.”

The film is produced by Yourish with Hanne Phlypo and Evelien De Graef at Clin d’oeil films.

“Our decision to join forces with this project in late 2021 fills us with immense pride,” Phlypo said. “Steering the production through turbulent times, including the immense upheaval caused by the Taliban’s resurgence, and ensuring the safe passage of the film’s collaborators to Europe amidst the turmoil in Afghanistan, speaks to the commitment of the film team to bring this story to audiences.”

“We at Cat&Docs are always looking for original documentaries in fields as varied as history, society, justice, the environment, the economy, politics, art and culture,” said Catherine LeClef, president Cat&Docs, “but always associated with a high standard of content and form.”

“Kamay” is produced by Kamay Film and Clin d’oeil films, in co-production with ROW Pictures in Germany, Temps Noir in France and Shelter Prod.

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