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Shabnam has spearheaded this project as a personal quest to learn more about her father and her native country of Afghanistan

SHABNAM HUMPHREY - Director 

Shabnam has spearheaded this project as a personal quest to learn more about her father and her native country of Afghanistan. She is the only daughter of Ahmad Zahir. Currently pursuing her Masters at Wake Forest University with a Bachelor's degree in English and a minor in Sociology. With over a decade of expertise in graphic design, storytelling, digital media marketing, and photography, Shabnam thrives in crafting visually compelling narratives and steering impactful projects that resonate deeply with her.

Shabnam will delve into a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's history—the transformative time and boundless opportunities within the arts. Through her lens, she will weave together the poetic legacy of her father, capturing his spiritual message of unity and freedom. 

Shabnam hopes to continue her father's passion for the arts and to protect artists in Afghanistan. She has committed to advocating for the rights of Afghan artists - worldwide. Since 2014, she has been at the forefront of the battle for Copyright Protection for Afghan Artists. Collaborating with the Arts & Entertainment Advocacy Clinic at Scalia Law School and the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington D.C., Shabnam's efforts paid off. On June 2, 2018, Afghanistan achieved a historic milestone by becoming a member of the International Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works under the Berne Convention. This monumental accomplishment ensures that Afghan artists now enjoy the same copyright protections as their global counterparts.

"The film will explore this historical turning point for Afghanistan at the end of my father's life. The 1970s were a time of revolutionary change in my homeland. It was a place that didn't need saving, it was a thriving land that had limitless opportunities - even  within the arts. My father's soulful, poetic message will be the fabric of the film, connecting the audience from every corner of the world. His message of political dissent and personal self-expression is perhaps more relevant today than it was in 1976. It will be a personal journey that I will share with the audience to seek closure and answers."

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HILLARY PIERCE - Co-Director + Producer

Hillary Pierce, an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker who splits her time between Austin and Marfa, Texas. After honing her skills in scripted film and television in North Carolina, she ventured to New York City to study under Direct Cinema pioneer Albert Maysles. Over the past decade, Hillary has produced acclaimed documentaries such as TOWER, recounting the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas, which won numerous awards including an Emmy and was shortlisted for an Academy Award. Her film THE RIVER AND THE WALL, exploring the impact of Trump's border wall, premiered at SXSW in 2019 and was nominated for an Emmy. She also produced AT THE READY, a coming-of-age teen law enforcement documentary that premiered at Sundance in 2021, and produced the short film THIS GIRL’S LIFE: ON GROWING UP TRANS IN TEXAS currently streaming on Vogue.com. Currently, Hillary is developing new projects while consulting for fellow filmmakers. She is an active member of the International Documentary Association and the Documentary Producers Alliance.

Upon first meeting Shabnam and becoming acquainted with the project, I found myself deeply intrigued for a multitude of reasons. The allure of Zahir's era in Afghanistan, during its golden years prior to the turbulence of the late 1970s, captivated my interest. Yet, what truly captivated me was the prospect of aiding Shabnam in becoming the driving force behind uncovering the enigmatic life of her father. It is both tragic and remarkable that just as she was beginning life’s journey, her father's life was tragically cut short. As the daughter of an absent and inscrutable father, Shabnam’s desire to learn more resonated with me. Delving into the depths of who Zahir was, the profound impact he left behind, and exploring the remnants of his legacy, is a narrative I not only wanted to explore but to illuminate cinematically.

Tom Freston is a Principal of Firefly3, an investment and consultancy firm focusing on the media and entertainment industries

TOM FRESTON - Executive Producer

Tom Freston is a Principal of Firefly3, an investment and consultancy firm focusing on the media and entertainment industries. He is both a former Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Viacom Inc. One of the founding team at MTV in 1980, he became Chairman and CEO of MTV Networks in 1986 where he oversaw MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, and other television and digital businesses. He held that position for 17 years. Earlier in his career he ran a textile import business in Afghanistan and India as well as working in advertising in New York City.


Mr. Freston is Board Chair of the ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization that fights extreme poverty. He is an advisor to Vice Media, the Raine Group, a merchant bank firm, and Moby Media, which operates television networks in Afghanistan and Africa. He serves on several boards including Imagine Entertainment, Moby Media, Vice Media, and the think tank New America. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2005, Mr. Freston was cited in the Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” issue. He has received many industry honors and awards.

An Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Sam spent five years living and working in Afghanistan,

SAM FRENCH - Executive Producer + Mentor

An Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Sam spent five years living and working in Afghanistan, where he produced and directed documentaries for the UN, NGOs, aid organizations, and the media, including HBO, BBC, CNN, Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera. He wrote and directed the Academy Award nominated short film “Buzkashi Boys,” which was the first narrative film since 2001 to be filmed entirely on location in Afghanistan. 

 

Sam is back in Los Angeles and is writing and developing both narrative and documentary feature film projects. Sam believes in the power of storytelling to connect people across different cultures, and that if we lift up our voices and share our stories we can change the world.

"Ahmad Zahir is revered by every Afghan, from every tribe; he is the one thread that ties Afghans together around the world. I want to show the world the Afghanistan I grew to love. And I will strive to the utmost of my abilities to create a film with Shabnam that honors her father's life, that brings to life an Afghanistan that exists as a dream in the soul of every Afghan who still holds his music in their hearts.

Hilmand has been working diligently on archival material for the production

ADAM H. DEHSABZI - Associate Producer / Lead Archivist

Adam has been working diligently on archival material for the production since 2020. He is a graduate researcher of International Relations at the University of Chicago, primarily focusing on the politics of modernization, state formation, nationalism, and self-determination in the Middle East, specifically interested in Iran and Afghanistan. With a background in architecture and experience in large scale urban renewal projects, Adam’s multifaceted expertise are crucial to successfully navigate the complex and fragmented archival landscape of the region.

"At a time when Afghan heritage faces the threat of erasure and extinction, it is critical to tell the world the story of Ahmad Zahir, his enduring legacy, and how he became a symbol for a nation. His shocking death, months before the Soviet Invasion of 1979, became a symbol of losing a hopeful Afghanistan to four decades of turmoil. I want to support Shabnam in her personal quest for answers being sought by a war-weary nation, determined to convey this coming-of-age story through compelling archives, and to preserve a neglected piece of Afghan heritage for generations to come.”

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