Film documentary on the lost treasures of the National Museum of Afghanistan

Entrance hall to National Museum of Afghanistan. © Junaid Sorosh-Wali

'Traces: The Kabul Museum, 1988' represents the most comprehensive film documentation of the collections of the Museum before the looting and destruction of war and civil conflict.

In 1988, Japanese filmmaker Noriaki Tsuchimoto directed and produced a documentary devoted to the cultural treasures conserved in the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. The film highlights the museum's vast collections, ranging from artefacts of the Hellenistic period to the distinctive Buddhist sculptures of the schools of Gandhara and Bamiyan and medieval Islamic decorative arts. During the civil war that erupted several years after the film's completion, most of the museum's treasures were destroyed, stolen, or illicitly exported. In light of this historical context, Tsuchimoto's work, entitled Traces: The Kabul Museum, 1988, is significant because it represents the most comprehensive film documentation of the Kabul Museum in existence.

The project was funded by the Government of Japan through the UNESCO Funds-in-Trust cooperation. Moreover, the editing, printing and translation of the film from Japanese into Dari and Pashto were carried out with the assistance of the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan (NFUAJ), as well as the Japanese film production company, Ciné Associé, and Afghanistan's national film company, Afghan Film. The NGO, the Afghan Media and Culture Center (AINA) organized mobile cinema screenings of the film in many parts of Afghanistan, especially in towns where the illicit traffic of cultural heritage is rampant. The documentary was also broadcast on national television and is being used as an educational tool in all of the country's museums, including the Kabul Museum. An English version is also available.

  • Traces: the Kabul Museum 1988: A documentary on the lost treasures of the National Museum of Afghanistan; 28 minutes; in Japanese, Dari, Pashto and English. Contact the UNESCO Audio Visual Department to purchase a copy of this film: studio(at)
  • Contact: Karalyn Monteil, Desk Officer for Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean, UNESCO Museums Section
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