Oh Father I don't Want To Hate You
Dawood Hilmandi (director)
The Netherlands, Afghanistan
Years after he ran away from home as a boy to find freedom in the ‘West’, an Afghan-Dutch filmmaker goes back to challenge himself and his authoritarian father, questioning him about the notion of freedom.
I’m Dawood (32), a Dutch Afghan artist and filmmaker. At the age of 13, I ran away from my house after dealing with years of psychological abuse from my authoritarian father. I left Iran and settled down in the Netherlands – by myself. My father, Mohammad Yosef (75) lives as an Imam in Qom, one of Middle-East’s most religious cities. After losing his own mother, he himself suffered all kind of violence from his stepmother. He was forced to marry very young and later participated in the horrors of the Afghan-Soviet war, where he was imprisoned and submitted to torture and vexation. As a Mujahedeen commander, he was forced to escape to Iran because of life-threatening circumstances as an outcome of the war. My father has 14 children with 3 different women, whom he treated with the severity of rules and often the cruelty that one encounters on a military training base. He knew no tender and showed no love. As if he had no option but to make us live what he lived, we were subject of humiliations and physical punishments. From a young age we were often deprived of education and forced to work in night shifts of factories. In Iran my father became an Iman and one of the most respected men in the Afghan community. He is one of the most powerful and wise men of the country, with an impressive social network, respected for his endless knowledge and loved for his remarkable sense of humour. This duality between the public and private spheres was always difficult for me to understand. Our violent and repressed childhood had a tearing effect on all my siblings. Many of them are broken people and felt the same urge, as I did, to run away from home and live estranged from our father. After 19 years living by myself in Europe, away from family, I decided to go back home to find a way to know and understand my father. I want to understand the troubled circumstances that led him to become the man he is. At his home in Qom I propose my father to take a journey through his life, that will us to the most important and painful events in his life: his childhood, marriage, war, the departure of me and my siblings. We use these stories to dive into the past, allowing his sense of humor to mark the tone of the film, without losing the seriousness of the events. I want to create situations around those moments of his life that allow us to tell and remember the stories, instead of having confrontational dialogues. By revisiting and narrating the most important moments of his life through conversations, games, journeys together and reenacted situations, I try to understand the man he is and the impact that these moments had on my life. I want to confront the traditional conceptions of Afghan society on contemporary subjects. In Oh Father, I Don’t Want to Hate You, I take my father on two trips to Afghanistan. We go back to our roots in Hazarajat, first in the summer, and secondly during the winter. Next, we will travel to the famous pilgrimage in Karbala, Iraq, and I let myself (and the audience) be surprised by the power of freedom, imagination and tolerance. The spiritual journey, that is experienced together with thousands of other pilgrims, replaces the interview/documentary style of the other two trips. The last part is a fictionalized documentary scene in which the protagonists will be themselves. My father and I have passed the stages of discovery, confrontations and silence and are now ready to reach a new stage of being.
Dawood Hilmandi is an artist, filmmaker and researcher in cinema. His latest video installations, films and photographs explore the relation between authority and imagination. In 2017, Hilmandi won the prestigious Locarno Open Doors Hub production Prize with his upcoming feature film Badeszenen. Hilmandi’s new project Oh Father, I Don’t Want to Hate You was selected to participate in renowned international film platforms including Docedge Kolkata in India where he won the award for Best Emerging International Talent Award 2018, Greenhouse Morocco 2017-2018 and IDFA Forum 2018.