The International Film Festival Rotterdam -that will be held 24 januari till 4 februari 2007- will present the first international premiere of a feature length fiction film shot with mobile phone. The film is called Why didn’t anybody tell me it would become this bad in Afghanistan. The 70 minute film is directed by Dutch filmmaker Cyrus Frisch, who previously made: Vergeef me (2001) and Blackwater Fever (2006).
Why didn’t anybody tell me it would become this bad in Afghanistan is an extremely subjective psychological drama. The world seen through the eyes of a Dutch soldier, traumatized in Afghanistan. No dialogue.
Frisch shot the film in and around his neighbourhood in the centre of Amsterdam (over the course of 18 month) using mainly the Sharp 903 (started out with the Sharp 902). He wanted to capture the increasing tension he felt in the streets. Tension between the long- standing locals and a new immigrant population. He filmed confrontations as he saw them. The mobile phone allowed him to capture the rawness of what he saw.
The title Why didn’t anybody tell me it would become this bad in Afghanistan, forces the viewer to watch the film through another window – that of a shell-shocked Dutch soldier who has returned home after a tour of duty in Afghanistan. We see life in a Western city throught his eyes, as tense and fraught with uncertainty and violence as the place from which he has just returned.
Frisch on the origin of Why didn’t anybody tell me it would become this bad in Afghanistan:
I once heard a war veteran say: “When I leave my house to go shopping, I always feel I have to go back and put on my helmet and fighting gear, even though I know this to be nonsense.”
In the ten years that I’ve been living on this charming little square in the heart of Amsterdam, I’ve seen the atmosphere become more and more aggressive.
A growing number of youth of immigrant origins (“foreigners”) use this place as a hangout. The residents eye them with concern. The teens demand that they be treated with respect, while the predominantly white residents feel they ought to earn that respect.
These different expectations give rise to a lot of misunderstandings and rows. It creates a growing tension that is completely unnecessary and wouldn’t exist if the parties involved were to approach each other with a little more tact and circumspection.
The residents demand the police to take firmer action. And the police officers comply. Almost imperceptibly, they interfere more frequently and more forcefully every day.
It was out of a feeling of compassion with the belittling or outright aggressive and intolerant way these kids are being treated, that two years ago I decided to try and capture this alarming development with the camera of my mobile phone.
For lots of reasons it seemed logical to me to make these images into the observations of an Afghanistan veteran. The most important of these is that his past makes it believable that he feels threatened, even if in fact not much, or nothing is going on.