A Flickering Truth

Pietra Brettkelly

New Zealand, Afghanistan , 2015 / 91 min / English and Dari original version with English subtitles / Documentary

In the presence of the director Pietra Brettkelly.

A dizzying journey through dust and rusty film cans in one of the most challenging countries to rebuild a film archive.

As Afghanistan teeters on an unpredictable future, “A Flickering Truth” unwraps the world of three dreamers and 8000 hours of film covered by the dust of 100 years of war. Can these men who risked their lives to protect this vessel of culture, restore the record of Afghanistan’s colourful and diverse past? Following three men – Isaaq, Mahmoud and Arify – what surprises emerge from the cloak of time?

As the caretakers thread old projectors with film from unmarked reels, the country’s history comes alive with images of former leaders, beloved actresses, and landmarks that have since been destroyed. “A Flickering Truth” is a testament to the urgency and necessity of film preservation. (tiff)

Tue 01/03 21:00 Ciné Utopia English and Dari original version with English subtitles Public
Fri 04/03 19:00 Cinémathèque English and Dari original version with English subtitles Public

“The movies can reach through borders, through turmoil, and across history—they can touch every part of the world. That’s what we see here, and it’s a delight.” Vancouver Film Festival

 “A documentary not just for archivists but for those who see film as a vital part of local culture, A Flickering Truth traces Ibrahim Arify’s tenure as head of the Afghan Film archives in Kabul and his vigorous attempt to reorganize the place in the post-Taliban years. Pietra Brettkelly is a sure-footed New Zealand writer and director (Beauty Will Save the World, Maori Boy Genius) who communicates her passion for the subject to the viewer,(…). It's the challenging context of war and instability that makes this unusual look at film preservation so watchable.” Deborah Young,, 20.09.2015

“….their project is to restore the archive and save the thousands of hours of film revealing cinema from the time of King Amanullah Khan in the 1920s, the invasion of the Russians, and the days when women wore miniskirts.  A Flickering Truth unwraps a world literally frozen in time and dust.” (

“With turmoil in the Middle East at the center of international headlines more than ever, "A Flickering Truth" complicates that narrative with an intimate look at some of the passionate warriors at the center of the struggle to keep one country’s culture alive.” Eric Kohn,, 21.09.2015

  • Best International Documentary Award – Honorable Mention, Bergen International Film Festival 2015 (Norway)
Cast & Credits
Ibrahim Arify, Isaaq Yousif, Mahmoud Ghafouri
Pietra Brettkelly
Jacob Bryant
Dick Reade
Benjamin Wallfisch
PKB Limited
The Film Sales Company

Born in Whakatane in New Zealand, Pietra Brettkelly is a director and producer of documentary films. She travelled the world as a journalist before  directing her first documentary  “Beauty Will Save the World“(2003) about the first ever beauty pageant in Lybia Her second film “The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins” followed the excentric artist Vanessa Beecroft in her obsessive quest to adopt Sudanese twins.  The film won the prize for best editing at the Sundance Film Festival and was invited to several major festivals throughout the world. In 2011 she directed two TV documentaries “Outward Bound” and, “Maory Boy Genius” about the rise to success of a young Maori boy.

  • 2015 A Flickering Truth (documentary)
  • 2011 Maori Boy Genius( TV documentary)
  • 2011 Outward Bound ( TV documentary)
  • 2008 The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins ( documentary)
  • 2003 Beauty Will Save the World (documentary)