The Cinema, My Mother’s Dream

In Afghan culture it is often considered inappropriate for a woman to go to the cinema, even if she goes with her family. My mother was born to a very conservative family of Kabul city. She spent her childhood at school or at home doing chores. But she had a few classmates from moderate families who told her they always spent Fridays going to the cinema. My mother was disappointed that she couldn’t go. When she married, she was so busy she had no time, even though my father loved the cinema and might have taken her.

I was about twelve years old when my mother told me of this dream to go to the cinema. She emphasized that if some day I wanted to watch a movie but was forbidden, she would stand by me. She said it was an unfulfilled dream and she hoped I would not face the same situation. Fortunately for me, I was born to open-minded and supportive parents. Unfortunately my generation has spent all our life in the war and insecurity so I never thought about the cinema; I only wished for a peaceful country.

When I moved to Australia for school I found that all my new classmates went to the cinema on the weekend. Their passion sunk me back into my mother’s desire. One day my friends asked me to join them to watch a new film. At first I didn’t accept and said I preferred to be at home. The next time they asked, however, I said, Let me try. The movie they chose was called Crazy Stupid Love.

When we all went inside the cinema, I found a very different environment. I saw all the couples and groups of friends in the lobby carrying popcorn, snacks, and drinks. Everyone was happy and anxious to watch the film. We three friends chose a middle row and waited. When the lights went off and the screen turned on, hundreds of eyes turned toward the screen. I was astonished.

It was very exciting. From the beginning until the end we laughed. The film was about a family where the man had no time for his wife and was always busy with his business. When the wife wanted to ask for a divorce, he suddenly wanted to practice love, but he didn’t know how to do it so he went to a club where he met a man who promised to teach him what to do. It was very funny.

After the opening, when the movie finally started, I remembered my mother.  I wondered why she had not been able to fulfill such a simple desire. I wished my mother could be there at the movie. When I returned home, I phoned her in Kabul to tell her about the cinema. She was happy. She said now she does not need to dream because I was able to give her a real picture of the cinema. It was as if she had seen the movie herself.

By Asma

Photo: Jonathan Saruk/Getty


  1. Kemba Seidu says:

    It is mind-blowing how one culture can deem something inappropriate and another culture will deem the same thing as ok. I believe I was about 4 years old when I was able to take my first trip to the cinema. If I remember correctly it was my mother that took me and I believe it was to see the movie E.T. It is funny how parents put their dreams and aspiration to the side for the children and how parents always want their children to be able to do the things that they were not able to do. It is unfortunate that your mother was unable to go to the cinema but through you she lives. Although she was not able to go herself, your narrative of it will be as if she was there with you. Her dream came true through you and that is probably one of the greatest gifts that you will give your mother and perhaps one day she will be able to go to the cinema on her own

  2. Patrick says:

    For an American reading this piece it is very enlightening. One always hears about the violence and extremism in Afghanistan, but never about the cultural side. I for one can not imagine being forbidden to enter a cinema. Its this side of the society that is often hard to grasp when reading books or articles on Afghanistan, but is necessary if we are going to be able have a peaceful and understanding world.

  3. How wonderful Asma! Your story was so captivating. Thank you for sharing it. How do you like Australia? I would love to hear your story. Will you write it?


  4. It is truly astonishing to find something so simple put in such a different light. Thank you for sharing your story and helping us remember that the simple things in life can make us the happiest. It is unthinkable for some of us to not be able to go to the cinema, yet now I understand how much more everyone needs to appreciate what they have. Its so wonderful that Australia has opened up doorways that could fulfill your dreams as well as your mother’s. Thank you for helping everyone remember what really matters, and to be aware of the differences in our two different societies. It is vital for eventually reaching a peaceful world when maybe you and your mother could go to the cinema together one time.

  5. I was deeply moved by your piece. Teardrop City over here!

    There is just so much that is touching in this story. Thank you for sharing this with us.


  6. Michelle says:

    What an interesting story. It is hard to imagine not being able to go to a movie just because you are a female. It is sad that what some take for granted others are never given the chance to experience. I am glad that you got the chance to go to the cinema and share the enjoyment with your mother.

  7. Movies are my favorite thing and the world and it shocks me that you are not allowed to watch them! I would kind of understand if they were like X-rated but there is nothing wrong with most movies. Can you not even go if you are with a male relative? Are you able to see movies online with your laptop? If you could maybe you could show your mother. I think she would like that.

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