Dr. Sarmast’s Music School


Polly Watkins and Beth Frey
2012 | 97 minutes | Australia, Afghanistan
New York Premiere | Director in Attendance

Is there a place for art in a conflict zone? Dr. Sarmast’s Music School tells the remarkable story of Afghanistan’s first National Institute of Music (ANIM), established during a creative vacuum in 2009, eight years after the Taliban was toppled from power. In a country where no orchestra was capable of playing the national anthem, the road is long and bumpy, but over two years ANIM and its implacable leader Ahmad Sarmast chip away at their dream of a safe space filled with fine instruments and aspiring musicians. Occasional interjections by choppers overhead serve as a reminder that this newfound creativity must be nurtured with great care, as the school’s 150 pupils persevere and—through music—find their lives transformed.

The screening will be followed by a conversation with Wazhmah Osman, filmmaker and an assistant professor of media studies and production at Temple University. In her forthcoming book she analyzes the impact of international funding and cross border media flows on the cultural traditions of her native Afghanistan.

Continue the conversation after the film at our Mead Mixer, a daily happy hour in Cafe on One from 6-7:30 pm

Co-presented by Australian Consulate-General

Past Forward, My Perspective

When I first met Ahmad Sarmast he was galvanized to preserve his country’s devastated music culture. But how do you save these rich traditions while overcoming an archaic prejudice that limits women from expressing their own musical voice? Documenting Ahmad’s efforts to realize his vision for inclusive and accessible music education for all Afghan children, and witnessing the joy of so many boys – and girls – sharing their musical heritage while forging vibrant new traditions, was an extraordinary experience.

-- Polly Watkins | Director, Dr. Sarmast’s Music School