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Letter to Bibi Jan: Weaving a letter across Afghanistan and Denmark

Lea Glob, Karen Waltorp, Nilab Totakhil, Mursal Khosrawi, Asma Safi, Sama Sadat Ben Haddou, Andreas Dalsgaard / Denmark, Afghanistan / 2023

Four young women fled Afghanistan as children in the early 90s and grew up in Denmark. Now reaching 30, they weave a letter to their grandmothers – who cannot read! This project is a radically collaborative portrait of and with Asma Safi, Sama Ben Haddou, Nilab Totakhil, Mursal Khosrawi and anthropologist and filmmakers Karen Waltorp and Lea Glob.

Letter to Bibi Jan (grandmother) is both a radically collaborative documentary film, and installation-cum-archieve about and by Asma Safi, Sama Sadat Ben Haddou, Nilab Totakhil, and Mursal Khosrawi with anthropologist and filmmakers Karen Waltorp and Lea Glob. Denmark and Afghanistan have recently been involved in war. They are also intertwined in terms of Danish anthropological expeditions to Afghanistan since the late 1930s, which means Danish ethnographic collections hold some of the most important knowledge and artefacts, which formed part of the foundation of the discipline in Denmark.

Our cinematic machine will create new archives via the film experience and a ‘politics of inviting’ that includes a pop-up studio and women’s circles – sharing stories, photos and writing a letter to one’s grandmother. The stories that are weaved will be gifted to archives in an insistence that this too is part of Danish history. It will also travel with the film and pop-up studio to other countries and have a place in a virtual space. It speaks to an existential condition, it speaks of belongings, places, and relations. It concerns all. Weaving a letter, word by word as a cross-generational collective memory, a cinematic machine will be travelling, collecting, sharing, and insisting that roots are in fact rhizomatic and home can be simultaneously the place you’re in presently and in the memories and relations to the place where you (or your parents) came from.

Lea Glob

Documentary Filmmaker / Director / Conceptualise and Filming

Biography:

Lea Glob is an award-winning director and cinematographer. Her filmography counts ‘My Father Kasper Højhat’ (2011), ‘Olmo and the Seagull’ (2015, co-directed with Petra Costa), Her documentary “Venus” (2017), co-directed by Mette Carla Albrechtsen, was also published by the Danish publishing house Gyldendal as a book. In her forthcoming film ‘Apolonia,’ Lea is yet again at the crux of stories based in the magnificent chaos of everyday life. In the same vein, ARTlife was an invitation to use her craft to help a young generation give form to their stories that are not often seen on the big screen.

Karen Waltorp

Director / Co-Principal Investigator / ARTlife 2017-2020 Co-Founder

Biography:

Karen Waltorp is associate professor, Ph.d. and award-winning filmmaker. As Co-Principal Investigator on ARTlife she developed the methodology of ‘research-through-collaborative-filmmaking’ which has resulted in co-authored articles and book chapters and has transformed into an independent Film Collective. She is currently the Principal Investigator on DigiSAt – Digital Everyday Lives Far From Silicon Valley: Technological Imaginaries and Energy Futures in a South African Township. She is director of Manenberg (2010) author of Why Muslim Women and Smartphones (2020) Energy Futures (2022) and An Anthropology of Futures and Technologies (2022).

Nilab Totakhil

Director / Writer / ARTlife 2017-2020 Co-Founder

Biography:

Nilab Totakhil is a teacher, a Teach First Alumnae, and a member of the ARTlife Film Collective. She holds a Cand.scient.soc from Lund University, Sweden and a BA in Education. She actively combines her academic background with her pedagogies and teaching in her everyday work life. She strives to give all children a chance to gain an education regardless of background and social status. This motivation comes from her own background as an Afghan refugee. Totakhil is the co-author of Why Care: Voluntary work, Contemporary Islam (2021) and has volunteered as an intern for the UNESCO in India and for the NGO Wale Wale Kenya.

Mursal Khosrawi

Director / Writer /  ARTlife 2017-2020 Co-Founder

Biography:

Mursal Khosrawi holds an MA (cand.scient.pol) from the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Social Sciences. She is a public opinion maker and a regular panelist on P1 Morgen, Radio4, and Danish National Radio’s ‘Debatten’ sharing her views on issues related to inequality, minority issues, refugees, immigration and integration policies in Denmark. She is the current President of the think tank Handletanken, which works towards equality with a focus on gender. She previously worked at the Danish Refugee Council and is a regular contributor to RÆSON and Altinget.

Asma Safi

Director / Writer / Cinematographer / ARTlife 2017-2020 Co-Founder

Biography:

Asma Mohammadzai Safi holds a BSc in Economics and Business Administration and a MSc in Brand Management and Marketing Communication from the University of Southern Denmark. She is a videographer, photographer, and writer, and has travelled to her native Afghanistan, capturing its landscapes and people through her lens. Safi is the co-author of ‘Shared’ (The World in a Cup of Chai). She has been a Career Ambassador at RIO University of Southern Denmark, and a volunteer and project manager at FS2S: From Street 2 School, raising funds for street children in Afghanistan to go to school.

Sama Sadat Ben Haddou

Director / Writer / ARTlife 2017-2020 Co-Founder

Biography:

Sama Sadat Ben Haddou holds a MA in International Development Studies and Global Studies from Roskilde University, Denmark. She is the co-founder and former president of NGO TakeMyHand and currently she is the President of MINO Denmark. She has written about the various understandings of gender across donors/recipients in (post)conflict areas and worked with the UN in Kosova. She is the co-author of Digital Diaspora in a Media Ecology: Afghan Women and the Case of Farkhunda, to be published in the forthcoming Routledge anthology Diasporic Political Communication: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives.

Andreas Dalsgaard

 Producer

Biography:

Director, born in 1980. Graduated from the National Film School of Denmark as a fiction film director in 2009. He has a degree in visual anthropology from Université Denis Diderot Paris VII in 2004 and a BA in Anthropology from University of Aarhus 2003. Dalsgaard made his directorial debut a few years before graduating from film school with the documentary ‘Afghan Muscles’ (2007), winner of the Best Director prize at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles.Working in documentary since, his films include ‘Bogota Change’ (2009), ‘The Human Scale’ (2012), the doc-fiction ‘Travelling with Mr. T’ (2012), ‘Life is Sacred’ (2015) and ‘The War Show’ (2016).