Sunday, October 22, 2006

'Kandahar' forever?

Long time indeed had to pass until I had the opportunity to watch Makhmalbaf's excellent movie 'Kandahar'. A 2001 movie, 'Kandahar' tells the story of an Afghani-born Canada-resident journalist who decides to penetrate Taliban Afghanistan in order to hinder the suicide of her sister, a presumably victimized resident of Afghanistan. This simplified plot, deprived of sensationalism and intrigues, does succeed however at creating a powerful movie; Makhmalbaf choice to structure the movie around the travellings of the journalist allowed him to tie together a set of seemingly irrelevant stories, which nonetheless encapsulate daily life in Afghanistan prior to the US involvement in the region. His excellent choice of a limited cast supplemented with local population and his skillful use of the camera elevate the movie to another level.

Along with the journalist's linear travelling, what unifies the movie is the notion of pain and trauma. Suffering dominates the film, bridging any differences from any dividing lines that cut accross politics and society. Men and women are both victims of landmines; amputation does not look at one's gender or social status. Save the tiny elite, the film depicts a society caught between many plagues: landmines constituting a legacy of the war and widespread poverty signaling a nation in deep need of aid. This is not to say of course that women are not in the bottom of the echelon: the colorful burkas are what give color to anotherwise grey, desert, rough environment, with rare glimpses of the sky constituting the exception.

As the journalist travels, she records her observations and thoughts on a tape recorder, in a long monologue of hope to her sister: "I am glad that you don't know the truth, that in Afghanistan these 20 years one human being has died every five minutes from mines, from war, famine and drought. If you knew that you would have lost hopt every five minutes, you would have wanted to kill yourself." Coming to grips with reality was a challenge for the journalist; yet it is an even greater one for whichever member of the local, ignorant -to the state of the country- population, decides to embark on such a process of discovery.

But I wish to go no further on extolling a movie, for which I wish not to a write a critique. (If this were the purpose, I would have certainly pointed to some 'lesser virtues' of the movie). What is of interest to me is the relevance of the movie in today's world. For our fast-paced world, 5 years is quite some time. Plus, Afghanistan is no longer in the forefront of news; now Iraq dominates.The abundance of movies that have been produced between then and now in conjunction with the dramatic course of world affairs in the region, might have placed 'Kandahar' in an archive. I am hopping not in any 'upper shelf' yet. Because if this case, then we might as well have a 'ladder' aound: 'Kandahar' proves, today more than any time in the 'post-Taliban' era to be useful. Links to the bottom of the post point to the dramatic escalation of the situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence of Taliban, placing simultaneously a big question mark at the end of every essay that advocated the urgency of war or glorified US presence in the country, particulalry given the way affairs were conducted.

Duration, they say, is a testimony to the success of a film. May 'Kandahar' acquire the fame of 'Casablanca' in the annals of world cinema; may this be because of its cinematografic qualities and not as a consequence of continuous relevance to world affairs.



in english:
στα ελληνικά:
en français:,14-0,39-28582234@7-37,0.html


Pixie said...

Its so sad what haw happened in the land of Afghanistan that they live under the shadow of death.I did not know about this film thank you for recommending it.I will look for it.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the burkas were the only ‘colourful’ sight in
the middle of nowhere. The film is a must-see; makes one realise how lucky we are compared to their miserable existence..

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