Archive | November 22, 2010

Movie of the Week: Afghanistan: The Lost Truth

Filmed shortly after the fall of the Taliban, Iranian actress and documentary filmmaker Yassamin Maleknasr crosses the border and does a round trip through the major areas of war torn Afghanistan, documenting the voices of a scarred and battered people. Maleknasr conducts interviews in what I assume to be Farsi, opening up a set of doors likely not available to western journalists. What results is an honest portrait of a powerful and prideful people. The majority of the film is constructed from a feminist perspective, emphasizing the hopes and dreams of young women and old from all over Afghanistan.

Maleknasr presents pictures of multitudes of women, long denied educational opportunities under the Taliban, expressing their greatest wishes to become doctors, lawyers, pilots and journalists. From this film, one can conclude that the hope for the future of Afghanistan, like many developing and war torn countries, lies in it’s women, arguably their greatest resource. Maleknasr does not, however, present only women. She also interviews the head of Afghan TV, the chief of the oldest newspaper in Kandahar (which still presses on handset letterpress), poets, and doctors who relate the travesty of Taliban health care. By far the most powerful scene to me is that of Latif Ahmadi, the head of Afghan film, who tears up when describing how the Taliban burned the entire film library, including a prized print of Tarkovsky’s “Solaris.” Honestly, until I saw this documentary, I wasn’t even aware that Afghanistan has a deep film history, and a vibrant group of present-day filmmakers. There’s even a Afghan monthly film magazine.

This is a fantastic work, that, unfortunately appears to have gotten little press.It is beautifully shot, with panoramic views of the Afghan countryside, interspersed with Afghan musicians from every end of the country. While many of her subjects willingly relate horror stories of the Taliban, Maleknasr conspicuously leaves out any signs of active conflict (the US is non-existent), aside from crumbling buildings and what once was Kabul’s cultural center. Maleknasr paints a human portrait, instead focusing on the incredible cultural riches Afghanistan still has; a wealth of brilliant individuals even the Taliban couldn’t suppress.

The film is widely available online and on YouTube. If you have the time, see it.

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