Travis Beard: A Rockabul Story

February 24, 2019
Seven years in the making, and travelling to film festivals around the world, documentary Rockabul – following the turbulent journey of 'the only fucking metal band in Afghanistan', District Unknown – will finally screen in its filmmaker’s home town as part of the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC).

Rockabul is screening as part of AIDC, what do you hope to achieve there?

I hope to show a part of Afghan culture and life (particularly life in Kabul) that the audience wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see – a side of life that is not often portrayed in the Western media. I want to demonstrate what it is like being on the inside, being a local in a war-torn country and trying to achieve your passion; for these guys it was music. We really captured a scene and a moment in time – it doesn’t exist anymore.

Personally, I worked on the film for seven years and this is the first screening in my home town – so I really want to show my work to all my friends and family, as well as the film industry professionals in Victoria that have supported and nurtured me through the process.

Travis Beard rocking out

Does the film have an Australian distributor, and if not, why do you think that is?

We carved out our Australian/ NZ rights from our international deal because we were hoping that we could manage distribution ourselves in our home territory. It is common for producers to hold onto their home territory, form direct connections to make life-long mutually beneficial relationships with the platforms. We’ve found it to be a really disappointing process as we have not had any support from the local broadcasters, which I think says a lot about the future for Australian documentary. If we don’t have home grown, award winning content being supported locally – what chance do we have? We are now in discussions with distributors to help us with the next stage which will hopefully include a boutique cinema release and online sales – we just want as many people to watch it and get something from it as possible; it has a lot to say. Watch this space!!

What about overseas?

We have an international sales agent, Ben Bassauer from Monoduo Films – which is a Berlin based company. We went with him because he represents “the best in music documentaries”. He has a passion for and works hard in the niche of music documentaries, he’s also been thinking about opportunities within the political space for us – reaching out through various International Embassies which is great because it may lead to real political change in approach to working with developing nations and in considering the nature and implementation of cultural programs. We had huge support from the Cultural Ambassador to Kabul in the Netherlands when we were in Rotterdam as part of the International Festival – and these are the relationships that are key to my work.

District Unknown

Can you speak about what has happened to the subjects of the documentary since you completed the film?

All of the band members are now outside Afghanistan. Three of the band members are now in America – they are in arts, science and tech careers now, Yosef is in the UK (and just finished a computer science degree) and Lemar is in Australia (and is a security guard). There was a state of emergency in 2014 but they all left when they could – Lemar in 2011, Pedram in 2013, Qais in 2015, Yosuf in 2015 and Qasem in 2016. Some sought asylum, others left through different routes such as scholarships and Lemar found love and migrated to Turkey originally with his Afghan/ Australian wife. Interestingly, I believe this film has helped them with their cases for immigration because there is actually the possibility of retribution if they stayed in Afghanistan and continued making music. So, the film has assisted them in ensuring they have safe futures and can work towards the next chapter of their lives. Most of them want to go back to Afghanistan to help rebuild it, but the timing is not right yet – it is still too dangerous for them.

Are you working on any other project?

I am currently working on a multi-platform project called The Afghan Bug. There are three parts of this project: one is documentary that will look at a foreign presence in Afghanistan over the last 18 years; the second part of the project is a podcast that will expand on the characters and the community who lived in Kabul between 2001 and 2018 and explore why they “caught the bug”; the third part is a photo/text book about my travels in Afghanistan by motorcycle – showing the Afghan country in a way I don’t think has been seen since the hippie bus times.

Rockabul is in cinemas May 16, 2019


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