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The Forbidden Reel explores the world of Kabul's cinemas in a documentary photography book published by Daylight Books.

Success!  Thank you to everyone who has supported The Forbidden Reel or has helped spread the word about the project. The Kickstarter campaign is now over, but there are still copies of the book available. Please contact me by email at jonathansaruk@gmail.com for more information or visit my website www.jonathansaruk.com which will be updated shortly.  Thank you again for your support!

In a nondescript concrete building along a busy street in the old city of Kabul, young men file into a dark, smoke filled theater and take their seats. Soon the projector roars to life, and the audience begins to laugh, whistle, and even dance as the latest Pakistani cinematic drama illuminates the big screen. The new book, The Forbidden Reel, documents the cinemas of Kabul, a form of entertainment banned under the Taliban that has sputtered back to life since the US invasion 12 years ago.  The Forbidden Reel provides an alternative narrative to life in the violence-plagued city, where going to the movies, for many, is an escape from the harsh reality outside. 

Five years ago I made the first of what would be many journeys to Afghanistan to cover the ongoing conflict. During my early months in the country I focused on documenting the war while embedded with soldiers on the frontline.  But I soon found myself drawn more to the stories of the country's resilient people. Among these narratives was one I stumble upon unexpectedly. 

The seed for The Forbidden Reel was planted in Kabul in June, 2009 while I was photographing a feature on the Mr. Afghanistan body building competition.  The event was being held in the Park Cinema in Shawr-e-Naw, a rundown building at the edge of the park which I had never before been inside.  I became curious to see it as a functioning movie theater. Unfortunately, I was unable to return to a cinema in the city until a subsequent trip to Afghanistan in the fall of 2010. But when I did, it became clear that the city's cinema culture was a remarkable facet of life in Kabul worth documenting. 

I am fortunate to have two brilliant contributors to The Forbidden Reel. Javed Rezayee, a Kabul native who grew up watching movies in the city's cinemas and whose family was later forced to flee to Pakistan during the civil war of the early 1990s, provides an emotional account of those days under Soviet occupation and the outsized influence going to the movies had on his childhood. Annick Shen, Open Society Foundations' Senior Communications Coordinator for Photography, will also provide insightful commentary including an account of feature's early evolution and its departure from the imagery coming out of the country during the height of the US troop surge.

The realities of the photography book market today make the cost of publication prohibitive without the participation of the author-photographer. That is why I have created this Kickstarter campaign: to engage others who see the importance of publishing this story and allow them to participate in the process of bringing it to life. Rewards for your support include the ability to pre-order the book, prints and postcards. In addition I am offering some exciting and unique rewards for larger donations. The Forbidden Reel will run approximately 124 pages and will be hardbound in linen with an embossed title and image on the cover. The funds raised from this campaign will support the significant costs of printing the book, much of which I will have to cover myself, and will not be realized as profit. Daylight Books, who will be the publishing the book this spring, has already provided design and editorial support, and I now just need to deliver the final payment. 

 Thank you again for your interest in this project. I sincerely hope you will consider helping to make this exciting document a reality.   

About Jonathan:

Jonathan is a freelance photographer based in Malmö, Sweden. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Neon Magazine, IO Donna, The Sunday Times Magazine, and his photographs from The Forbidden Reel were recently selected for the 2012 PDN Photo Annual and American Photography 28. The work has also been featured on msnbc.com, wired.com's RAW File blog and the NPR.org's Picture Show blog. Jonathan is a Featured Photographer with Reportage by Getty Images.

About Javed:

Javed Rezayee is an Afghan living and working in New York City. He graduated from Tufts Univeristy in 2010 on an international scholarship. Javed has translated, subtitled, and provided consultation for documentary films on Afghanistan including Opium Brides produced by Frontline / PBS, and Snow Leopards of Afghanistan created by National Geographic. 

About Annick:

Annick Shen is the Senior Communications Coordinator for Photography at the Open Society Foundations and also works with Documentary Photography Project. Prior to working at the Open Society, Shen was a Senior Photo Editor at Reportage by Getty Images where she managed a roster of 11 award-winning photojournalists. She worked as a photo editor at numerous publications including ESPN, Men’s Journal, Newsweek, New York Magazine, the New York Times, and Time Asia.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The risks and challenges at this point are centered on funding: the photos have already been taken, the initial edits have been made, the first edits of the text are finished and the design is moving along -with your financial help, the book will be published and delivered by April 2014.

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    Let's meet up! I'll hand deliver all rewards at the $1,000 level and take you out to dinner. In addition, I will provide a portfolio review if requested. (I will meet the supporter at a mutually agreed time and place. Location restrictions apply. Please email me for more information).

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    A one-on-one workshop! I'll meet you in the city of your choice and conduct a three day photography workshop, plus all of the items at the $1,000 level. (I will meet the supporter at a mutually agreed time and place in the continental US or Europe only. Supporter pays for their own transportation, room and board. Please email me for more information).

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    Dinner and a movie in Kabul! A 3-day personal tour of Kabul where you will have the opportunity to see the movie theaters featured in the book as well as other notable landmarks in the city, plus all of the items at the $1,000 level. (I will meet the supporter in Kabul at a mutually agreed upon time. Supporter must pay for their own flights, hotel and board- except for one dinner on me. Please email me for more information).

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