Filmmaker Brings Afghan Documentary to Tropic Cinema
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Filmmaker Alexandria Bombach is difficult to track down because she’s always on the move. Although she maintains a small apartment in Santé Fe, she’s on the road 11 month of the year. “I live out of a suitcase,” she says.
“‘Frame By Frame’ is an important documentary,” notes Matthew Helmerich, executive director of the Tropic Cinema. “By examining photojournalism in Afghanistan, it helps us understand the role of the press in helping us understand the world.”
For the film, Alexandria Bombach and her crew -- “Me, my co-director/co-cinematographer Mo Scarpelli, our Afghan ‘fixer,’ and a driver, just the four of us” -- followed four local photojournalists in their daily lives.
“Troops have all but left, news bureaus are shutting down, and the international focus is turning elsewhere” observes Alexandria Bombach.
“Photography is a powerful medium,” say Bombach. “It’s such a large part of our identity as humans.”
She started the documentary because she was curious about “I was very interested in our perception of Afghanistan,” she explains. “So often the image we see of Afghanistan is of war taken from the perspective of foreign journalists – I wanted to hear from Afghans about Afghanistan.”
Traveling to Afghanistan wasn’t difficult. “All you need is a passport and a $150 visa,” she shrugs.
Hooking up with the journalists was easy. “It’s a small journalism community.”
These photojournalists work at great risk. The Taliban had banned photography from 1996 to 2001. And traveling in-country with a camera still wasn’t safe.
One of the photojournalists, Najibullah Mussafer, was recording the genocide as the Taliban started pulling out.
After graduating with a business degree from Fort Lewis College in Colorado, during the peak of the recession, Bombach decided to pursue her passion -- filmmaking. “I got my first video camera when I was 13,” she recalls. So she formed her video production company Red Reel and started working on her own terms.
While “Frame By Frame” is her first feature-length documentary, she has made over a dozen short documentaries including “Common Ground,” “23 Feet” and a series of shorts called “Moveshake.”
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s what I was doing too. “I’d become addicted to making documentaries, telling stories.”
After seeing her film “23 Feet” about people living simply to do what they love, people would contact her, saying how it had changed their lives. “One couple sold their house, bought a van, and set out traveling around the US,” she recalls. “That’s when I realized the impact films can have."
Just turning 30, she’s “very, very happy” to be past her twenties. “Before people saw me as a young woman going places where she shouldn’t go. Now they can see this is not a young person’s choice. This is my life.”
Alexandria Bombach will be on stage at the Tropic on Tuesday to introduce her film, and to answer questions afterwards. Because of its theme -- the importance of journalism -- Tropic Cinema has invited several local newspaper editors and photographers to attend the screening as its guests.