“MINA WALKING” follows Mina, who at her young age does what some adults in well established countries do not do: cook, sew, wash, and sell knick-knacks in the war-torn streets of Kabul to feed her severely estranged father and aging grandfather. For that, she does not even get any credit. All what she does is keep moving forward no matter what the circumstances are…
Yosef Baraki, who wrote and directed “MINA WALKING” does an impressive job to capture the honest life of Kabul, that does not look a fairytale.
As part of TIFF International Kids Film Festival in Toronto, I had the great pleasure talking with Yosef Baraki over the phone to talk about “MINA WALKING” and its concept. After fifteen minutes of interview, I literally felt incredibly proud of having an opportunity to share the outcome of it with you, my dear reader.
MOVIEMOVESME: What inspired you to write a story such as Mina Walking?
Yosef Baraki: The story started really because I myself was born in Afghanistan. I left there when I was two years old and traveled to Europe ultimately settling down in Canada. So I had spent a lot of my life surrounded by Afghan culture but it was hard to go back because of the conflict. So recently I started going back and in the course of my travels I befriended these street children you see in the film. I befriended a specific group of these children from the street and what struck me was that unlike all the other members of the society that I encountered on the street, these street children had nothing; no homes, no family, no money but they were very, very happy, very determined and very “professional” because they knew how to target people. So they were living a very interesting life and from the circumstance you’d think maybe they wouldn’t be so open to life but they were very eager to make a living, to work. When at the end of the day the girls would go home I’d think whether she has anyone to go to, or a home or will she sleep on the streets. This got me thinking and made me want to explore this as a film. So this is the origin of the story and we never finished the full script because it was an effort on my part to keep it open to interpretations and open to changes. So the people in the movie are also the authors of the movie I’d say because they helped a lot creating a lot of the scenes.
MOVIEMOVESME: Why did you decide to give her an even more challenging future than the present and how did you explore that part?
Yosef Baraki: The story of the ending was something I was witness to. This is a very unfortunate practice where these women are beggars who are actually put into groups who are seen by these men who profit from their begging. So it almost becomes like a business where they ride around in cars and they are dropped off at different parts of the city and then they have to come over and give the money to the men. That is something I saw myself and so the decision to place that at the end of the film is pretty much about two reasons: 1. To possibly keep it open because Mina’s grandfather is no longer alive and she has given up on her father. So maybe there is some hope for her. There isn’t much hope if she stays at home and marry some man that her father chose. So the ending is open in many ways. 2. The reason I wanted to end it there was because providing an ending that was perhaps very positive would not do justice to the real people who inspired this film because that is not the reality that they live. So I didn’t want to make this a melodrama because that doesn’t look like the current Afghanistan.
MOVIEMOVESME: Why have you included the two powerful scenes where Mina’s grandfather dies yet no one helps her bury him and the one where she goes to the police and does something unimaginable?
Yosef Baraki: The first scene you’ve mentioned is on of the first things I had in my head when I conceived the story of Mina Walking. I always wanted to create a character that was too young for the amount of responsibilities for her age. This vision I wanted to explore the details of how you prepare a body for the funeral. I talked and researched about the procedure there of burying the body there facing the Mecca. All these traditions were very interesting and I wanted to put it all in there but the challenge was how Mina doesn’t know all these things. She will have to find people who’ll help her do that. She gets rejected because people don’t want to associate with her family because a house without a woman is known as a house where there are drugs. So she meets Samir, who along with his father is on a same socio-economic level as Mina. So they agree to help and through this kindness we see the fraternity between the street children.
In the whole film there’s so much responsibility on Mina she’s meant to act more like an adult than a child of eleven years old. So when it comes to making a very big decision such as what is she going to do with Bashir, I’d like to show the audience that she’s still a child who doesn’t know the consequences of her decisions to go and do that at the police station. So although she had the responsibilities of an adult, she still has the mind of a child and she doesn’t know what will happen if she goes to the police station and tell the story. I wanted to show her childish ignorance in spite of her maturity.
MOVIEMOVESME: This movie is also philosophical. How much has the philosophy contributed to the making of Mina walking?
Yosef Baraki: I think philosophy has really helped me in many areas of life and especially when looking at subject matter in filming. Instead of saying that I just want to make a drama film, action film or war film, I always ask myself something that maybe construed as a philosophical question. With this movie it was: What kind of an effect will it have on the audience if instead of relying on media footage I take this girl, point the camera at her and I make a very philosophical statement? So in these ways thinking deeply about characters and about subjects and about how to execute these is really how philosophy comes to help me. These questions form the style, the technical aspects as well, not just the story. So philosophy is very important to me.