The Afghan capital city of Kabul is divided into districts. “District Unknown” is the name of Afghanistan’s leading heavy metal band. Director Travis Beard, himself a musician and journalist, lived in Afghanistan for seven years and discovered the band for himself in 2009. He consequently supported them as their mentor. The band name is carefully chosen. The four members, two brothers and two cousins, began their musical careers clandestinely, playing in cellars across the entire city, in order to promote the city’s, as it were, “unknown district” of rock music in the capital.
It seems that heavy metal was mother’s milk to brothers Qasem (bass guitar) and Pedram (percussions). Their father has been a Metallica fan since 1996. A home-movie sequence shows the two boys at about age five rocking out in front of the camera to a Metallica song.
Rock music is generally considered the devil’s work amongst Afghanistan’s strict Muslims. But, the more well-known the band becomes (even “Rolling Stone” published a six-page feature) the greater the dangers the five have to face. We are in a position to observe this from seemingly great proximity, as Travis Beard’s hand-held camera reports directly to us.
This grippingly directed and montage-edited filmic essay turns us into eye (and ear) witnesses of their career and of life in everyday Kabul, while simultaneously allowing us a glimpse of the Afghan capital’s underground music scene, which we are not likely to see in televised reports. It is both a courageous and an encouraging film, even though the end, visually different to underline this, comes to a sobering verdict about the band’s career. Clearly not owing to a lack of musical talent, but rather a result of the political and life-threatening everyday situation in Kabul. We can but hope, that for Kabul and for the band, Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, my, my / Rock and Roll will never die” will prove true.
16 November 2018 — 19:30 — Kino Atlantis
18 November 2018 — 21:00 — Kino im Stadthaus II
19 November 2018 — 22:30 — Kino im Stadthaus II
15 November 2018 — 17:00 — Kino II
17 November 2018 — 21:00 — Kino II
Travis Beard (Australia) studied Photojournalism and worked globally as a photojournalist for numerous big news agencies like Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN und National Geographic, before he settled in Afghanistan. He was co-founder of several non-governmental organisations and managed Afghanistan’s first alternative arts festival, “Sound Central” for three years. His involvement with the Afghan art and music scene is also reflected in his film productions e.g. at “Martyrs of Metal” (2017) und “RocKabul” (2018).