Yosef Baraki (born in November 10, 1989) is a Canadian-Afghan writer and film maker. He started making short films when he was 12 years old. Since he has made five short films. He studied film production and theory at Toronto’s York University and Humber College. After graduating from film school he made his first feature film, Mina Walking, which had its world premier at Berlinale 2015. The film budget is $50,000 and was shot in 19 days within Kabul. Besides being the film’s writer and director, Yosef is the editor, cinematographer, and camera operator of Mina Walking.
The story of the film came to Yosef when he spent time in Afghanistan/Kabul and came across the fact that many children have to leave school and work on the streets to provide for their families. When he was in Kabul, he met a group of four street children who would sell goods outside a government building. The dynamics between these kids were fascinating, specially when the girls of the group were making more money than the boys. To support themselves or their families, these kids and thousands like them in Afghanistan work and don’t go to school. The film shows children remain deprived from a fundamental human right like education as a result of war and poverty in Afghanistan.
Mina is the main character of the film. She is a twelve year old Afghan girl living with a senile grandfather and a neglectful drug addict father. Mina has to disregard her education and walk the streets of Kabul as a street seller to support her family. The film unfolds seven days of Mina’s life by showing her struggles to secretly attend school, her attempts to release her father from the hands of drug dealers, and her efforts to survive on the streets of Kabul to sell goods. The film, far from political-religious-ethical conflicts within the region, is simply about life and survival.
Farzana Nawabi plays the role of Mina. This is her first feature film. She is a very talented young actress. She gives proper performance throughout the film. She acts very naturally and nails the emotional scenes. Through her outstanding performance, the audiences see the life of Mina and her devotion to her family. In an interview at The Berlinale Palast, Yosef said that he was really lucky to find Farzana for this role. Farzana understood the character. She even challenged him from time to time regarding acting in certain situations and scenes. During shooting, she never complained and never expressed that she was tired. Therefore, the crew could shoot between 15 to 18 hours per day. She is a great young actress that carries the entire film, plays along, and one could see the result on the screen.
To show the chaotic life of Mina, the director decided to choose documentary style of shooting. He intentionally avoided still setups with tripod and slow movements, partly because of the location of the movie (Kabul) and partly because the movie (by its title) supposed to have an active feel. The main character, Mina, supposed to be in constant movement. Mina’s life is a chaos. She doesn’t have time to be a child. She always runs to fulfill her many responsibilities. To create the state of complete disorder in her chaotic life, the camera has to constantly follow her around. The camera is always by her face, over her shoulder, and in close up to bring the audience very close to her character and her situation. This style of filming truly makes the audience feel what it is like to live in Kabul. Following Mina in the movie has given the audience a chance to see Kabul in the way that Mina sees it. Yosef felt that this style of film making would truly bring the audience into Mina’s hectic world, like no other style. The music of the film is the sound of streets of Kabul and the Islamic call to prayer that could be heard five times a day in Kabul.
He continued by saying that he was advised to get security during the shooting, but he did not. According to him without security his film crew could get around easier. Security personnel would have drawn more attention to the film crew. Also he did not have money to hire security due to the budget restrictions. With budget limitation the production included small number of people whom had to wear many hats. The crew was formed of five to six people at any given time. Being a small film crew gave them the advantage of being able to move unnoticed throughout Kabul. To draw less attention and blend even more, Yousef wore traditional Afghan clothing, grow beard, and formed his crew of locals from University of Kabul.
Yosef believes that he wouldn’t be at Berlinale (which is one of his favorite film festivals) if it wasn’t for certain film makers like Abbas Kiarostami or Dardenne brothers. He believes despite attending two film schools and spending seven years of his life learning how to make films, he has learned more from the movies of people like Kiarostami than film schools. What has inspired him to make his first feature film is something that Yosef has read in Kiarostami’s book. In the book he says make films with no expectation about the work that you make. Just go out and make a movie, because that is the only thing that is important. Everything else around it is not important. The more film you make, the better you get in film making.
Yosef’s goal is to show this film to as many people as possible; however, before distributing the film, he would tour the film with many festivals all around the world. After that his plan is to release the film in several countries including Afghanistan.
This film is a combination of smart directing and cinematography with outstanding acting. Mina Walking is a beautiful, pure, and powerful film. Simply a must see movie.