Sahraa Karimi

Writer in Residence, 2023

Sahraa Karimi is a film director, scriptwriter and university Lecturer from Afghanistan. 

She belongs to the second generation of Afghan migrants in Iran. In December 2001, when she was 17 years old, she immigrated to the Slovak Republic. Sahraa studied at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Film and TV in Bratislava, Slovakia (FTF- VSMU) for nine years, where she received her PhD in Film Studies (feature film directing and screenwriting).

After completing her studies, she returned to Kabul in August 2012 and founded her own film and multimedia company, Kapila Multimedia House, to support independent Afghan filmmakers and artists. In 2016, she worked as a communications officer at UNICEF in Afghanistan. However, after two years, she decided to quit her job and focus on her career as a filmmaker. While shooting her debut fiction film, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” she found that the government film organization, Afghan Film, did not support independent filmmakers and did not function, as it should. When the government advertised the position of director general of Afghan Film, she applied among four other men and became the first woman in Afghanistan’s history to head a state film organization. 

She is also the first and only woman from Afghanistan to earn a doctorate in cinema and the only Afghan filmmaker who is an active member of the Slovak Film and TV Academy. 

Sahraa was forced to leave Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 due to the sudden and unexpected fall of Kabul and the return of the Taliban to power. In her new life in exile, during the academic year 2021-2022, she was a visiting professor at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia (Rome National Film School) in Rome, Italy. Sahraa also received a filmmaking fellowship at The New School, Department of Film and Media Studies in November 2022 for academic year 2022-2023 , and since then she is a member and scholar of the New University in Exile Consortium Scholars. She is also a filmmaker in residence since February 2023 at Westbeth Artists Housing.

Sahraa Karimi has about 30 short fiction and documentary films in her filmography, which she made while studying at FTF- VSMU Bratislava from 2002 to 2012. Her films have been internationally successful and have been broadcast by ARTE France, BBC, Slovak TV and other European TV channels. She is also the winner of many important international film awards, such as the Slovak National Film and TV Award, Bilbao Int. Documentary and Short Film Festival-Spain, One World Doc. Film Festival-Slovakia, Sole Luna Film Festival-Italy, Morodas Doc Film Festival-Italy, DIDOR Film Festival-Tajikistan, Dhaka International Film Festival-Bangladesh, Cine Film Festival, Montereau, France, and many other important film festivals around the world. She has also served as a jury member in many important international film festivals around the world, including as the head of the jury of Stockholm International Film Festival, Sweden, November 2021.

Her feature documentary film “Afghan women behind the wheel” received about 25 awards at important film festivals around the world, and her other film “Light breeze” was awarded as the best short fiction film by Slovak Film and TV Academy. Her other documentary film “Parlika, a woman in the land of men” had its European premiere at the One World Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia, in October 2016, and received the Best Documentary Award at the 16th Dhaka International Film Festival 20018 in Bangladesh. Her first feature film, “Hava, Maryam, Ayesha,” was shot entirely in Kabul with Afghan actors and had its world premiere at the 2019 Venice Film Festival and was in Orrizonti completion section. It was Afghanistan’s entry for the 2019 Academy Awards. The film has participated in more than 50 film festivals around the world and won numerous awards, including Cigle D’or, Cine – Festival En Payes De Fayence, France, 2021, and it is the last film in the history of Afghan cinema made before the return of the Taliban.

Sahraa is currently working on her second future film with the working title “Flight from Kabul”, whose producers have been confirmed and which will be a co-production between Slovakia, Italy and France.