Celebrities and friends gathered at Chelsea’s Pier59 Studios for a special screening of filmmaker Sonia Nassery Cole’s “I AM YOU,” a movie about the Afghanistan refugee crisis.
Cole is known for her debut feature film The Black Tulip, Afghanistan’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2011 Academy Awards. She is equally famous for her work as an activist, often using film to advance humanitarian efforts throughout war-torn Afghanistan, a country she fled as a young girl.
Cole on the red carpet, with (from left to right) actress Cansu Tosun, executive producer and model Halima Aden, and singer Aryana Sayeed
“I AM YOU” is a very personal movie for the director, who, in a preamble to the screening, started to choke up while talking about her experiences filming. The narrative, which is inspired by a true story, centers on a young refugee’s dangerous journey from Afghanistan, where ISIS’ reign is spreading like a plague, to Greece and later Germany.
Cole captured the emotional journey of the traveler and audience – one that is both scenic and uprooting – as the film skipped from one scene to the next at a quickened pace. As is often true of a refugee’s trek, each event was more devastating and hopeless than the next.
At times the feature film felt more like a documentary illustrating the perilous episodes of a crisis through the eyes of an activist, and less of a convincing portrayal of a nuanced experience, but there were some notable strong points. Emre Cetinkaya had a moving performance as the film’s protagonist Masoud, his talent shining through in scenes both heartbreaking and joyous to watch. And while shot mostly in Turkey, and featuring a majority Turkish actors, the film’s cinematography closely mirrored that of Afghanistan’s topography, one that features both beautiful valleys and jagged mountain peaks.
Following the screening was a Q&A with the cast and crew, moderated by famous Afghan singer Aryana Sayeed. Cole spoke about the strength of her actors in bringing such an intimate story to light and her passion for philanthropist efforts related to the refugee crisis. Later that evening the audience was invited to bid on a signed photograph of the “Afghan Girl,” Steve McCurry’s famed National Geographic cover. All proceeds went to the Afghanistan World Foundation.
A signed framed photograph of Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” on auction at the event
I AM YOU is an independent feature film that has not yet been set for wide release.