Afghanistan's first female orchestra 'inspiring'

Negin Khpalwak
Negin Khpalwak is Afghanistan's first female orchestra conductor

The makers of a documentary about Afghanistan's first female orchestra said the story was "inspiring".

Sisters follows musician Dan Blackwell who travels to the country's capital of Kabul to meet the musicians and conductor of the Zohra orchestra.

It was produced by the Northampton-based filmmaker Tony Klinger, who has made documentaries on The Who, Deep Purple and the film Get Carter.

Klinger said the film featured "the most extraordinary tales of triumph".

Tony Klinger
Producer Tony Klinger said musician and director Dan Blackwell had "remarkable vision"

The film focuses on the two young leaders, conductor Negin Khpalwak and lead violist Zarifa Adiba.

It has been screened at the Colorado International and Chichester film festivals, as well as in the House of Commons.

Klinger said it was made in "some of the most challenging parts of the world".

He praised musician Blackwell, who was also the film's director, saying what the film "achieved through the universal language of music is truly inspiring".

Blackwell, also based in Northampton, said he discovered the group on the internet in 2017.

The musicians had "got together at this sort of secret school and formed an all-female orchestra", he explained.

He told BBC Radio Northampton that some of the members had "faced backlash from their family, some have been rejected by their families, there has been disputes, and there have been death threats".

The musician and filmmaker said the orchestra has played around the world but had not been able to perform in their home country.

After making contact with the orchestra, they invited him to Afghanistan to meet the musicians.

He travelled later in 2017 and went to the school where the orchestra was based which was "walled off and had armed guards".

Dan Balckwell
Dan Blackwell travelled to Afghanistan on his own which he said allowed him greater access to the orchestra

The 25 members of the orchestra fled the country and were living in different parts of the world after the Taliban retook control in 2021, he said.

He began performing with some of the musician remotely, and has met up with orchestra again to play in the US.

"They're still performing music and they're getting their instruments and coming back together again," he said.

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