When Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf took on his latest film Kandahar, little did he know how much international importance the film would have. In the post-Sept. 11 world, the film could hardly be more relevant.
Set in Afghanistan but shot on the Iranian border, Kandahar is a semi-documentary film on the peasant life in Afghanistan under the now-ousted Taliban regime. While the film’s plot is not based entirely on true-life events, the characters are anything but actors. Instead, the characters are real peasants and refugees living along the Iran-Afghanistan border. The plot itself is based on the true story of the film’s main character Nelofer Pazira, who plays herself in the movie.
Pazira was born in Afghanistan and fled the country when she was 16 yeas old for more freedom. She reaches Canada, where she communicates with her sister in Afghanistan through the mail.
Pazira receives a letter from her sister stating that she was severely maimed in a land-mine explosion and plans to commit suicide during the next solar eclipse. The movie follows Pazira on her journey back into the heart of Afghanistan to prevent her sister’s suicide attempt. With only three days left before the next solar eclipse, time is not on her side.
With the Taliban in full control of the region, women are forbidden to travel alone. At every turn lies poverty, famine and disease. With no direct or simple route to travel, Pazira must make her way by cart and foot through the treacherous desert in her attempt to reach Kandahar.
Pazira is confronted with many obstacles and people who slow her pace. As she racing against the sun and the terrain, everything in the region becomes a fight in a place where the only modern luxury is the machine gun. The viewer is presented with a chilling sequence in a Mullah training camp, where 10-year-old children chant the Koran in unison holding sabers and AK-47’s. “This is the weapon that defends God’s word and kills at God’s will!” chants one child as he is questioned about his weaponry.
This world that may seem unfathomable, where legless refugee victims of land mines beg for aid and race on crutches to Red Cross helicopters as prosthetic legs parachute from the sky. And frighteningly enough, all of it is real, from the people onscreen to the incidents themselves.
The film offers a chilling view of the reality of life under the Taliban. For this reason, it is a must see. Well made and unbiased by recent events, the film offers a truly interesting viewpoint of the terrible conditions Afghans face.
It is this present day realism that even brought President George W. Bush to request a special private screening of the film to enlighten him on the realities of the Kandahar region. Winning the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Kandahar has become an international sensation for its down-to-earth portrayal of a region that until recently has been unknown by the world.
Kandahar is now playing at Visions Cinema Bistro
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