Review by Michael Jacobson
Niloufar Pariza, Hassan Tantai, Sadou Teymouri, Hoyatala Hakimi
Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: New Yorker
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: May 13, 2003
day, the world will see your troubles and come to your aid.”
the above quoted line was spoken in the movie Kandahar, neither director
Mohsen Makhmalbaf or his star/subject Niloufar Pariza could have envisioned how
prophetic the words were. Very few
in the Western world seemed to give Afghanistan so much as a passing thought as
they were making the picture they only hoped would call attention to the
on September 11, 2001, a fanatical terrorist organization issued an attack that
left thousands of people in my country dead, and millions more asking why.
Suddenly, this poverty stricken Islamic nation was in the international
spotlight…not because they instigated the attacks, but because those who did
found shelter within its borders. A
new vocabulary was entering our culture. It
included words like Taliban, jihad, and al Qaeda.
while we were learning about these new words that concerned us, we were also
learning about a people and a way of life that was almost beyond belief.
A world where women were oppressed, forbidden from public life, and were
now being denied education. A world
where young boys were given over to fanatical schools by parents who couldn’t
afford to feed them, where they were painstakingly brainwashed into becoming
bloodthirsty warriors for a peaceful religion.
A world so ravaged by war and poverty that even Westerners with nothing
more than common sense about health issues were revered as doctors.
was a world that Pariza tried to call attention to when she convinced Makhmalbaf
to make the film. She was an Afghan
woman who had fled her country for Canada many years prior, where she became a
vocal spokesperson about her homeland’s conditions, particularly for women.
The picture is loosely based on her own story of when she tried to return
to Afghanistan in an effort to save an old friend whom she believed had become
suicidal. Her mission failed…plan B turned out to be this movie.
again, the irony of 9-11 comes into play…as a critic and movie lover, I see as
many films as I can, but I have to admit, I can’t see them all.
Would I have ever seen Kandahar if not for the terrorist attack?
In truth, probably not…and it would have been my loss, both politically
and as a film fan. But I, like many
Westerners searching for answers, any answers, found this to be a source for
some. The experience was a real
chronicles Nafas (Pariza), a Canadian journalist and former Afghan who tries to
re-enter her old country to save her sister.
Under the oppressive Taliban regime, where women were reduced to nothing
in society and were even losing their schools, her sister has abandoned hope and
plans to commit suicide during the last eclipse of the millennium.
only three days to go before the event, Nafas tries desperately to get into
Kandahar. It’s almost impossible.
In the first place, the roads have become so treacherous with bandits and
soldiers, and fighting almost so constant, that no man seems willing to take the
risk of going there. And in the second place, being a woman, she can’t go
without a man.
her journey is really just a means to an end…the real purpose of the film,
which was shot along the Iran/Afghanistan border, is to show the Afghan people
and their lives. Amongst the sights
we see are a male doctor forbidden by law to see his female patients; he has to
speak to them via a third person and only examine them through a veil with a
also see a boys’ school where the Koran is chanted from rabidly, and a young
student is expelled for not doing it properly.
He becomes a guide for money, where money is so scarce he actually takes
the ring from a rotted corpse’s hand to sell.
also come across a Red Cross camp whose specialty is artificial limbs.
Land mines and booby traps are a way of life in Afghanistan…early in
the movie as the last of the girls’ schools are being shut down, the students
are simply warned never to pick up dolls they see in the street as they are
often wired to explode. At this
camp, we see dozens of individuals who weren’t so lucky.
Helicopters fly over, dropping prosthetics via parachute, and the
crippled masses literally fall over themselves trying to catch them.
is an exceedingly sharp documentary of the misery of the Afghans under the
Taliban rule, yet so few of us even knew anything about it prior to that fateful
September. As Pariza mentions in
the commentary, Afghanistan was poor, and had nothing to offer economically to
Western nations, who in turn, showed no interest in the country.
Sad, but undeniably true.
one could argue that the film isn’t perfect, and seems to meander a bit from
its central story line, none can dispute the power of the images and the
suffering they convey. This may be
a feature film, but it’s no slice of entertainment…it’s a horribly real
look at a country and its people living in miserable conditions.
may have been the beginning of the end for the Taliban, but who knows what the
future holds for the people of Afghanistan?
One can only hope that one of the lessons learned from our recent tragedy
is that desperate situations find drastic solutions.
One day, the world will indeed see the trouble and come to its
aid…let’s only hope it won’t take another horrendous event first.
is a quality anamorphic offering from New Yorker, particularly in the coloring
department. The world depicted in
the film is both barren and bright, with blue skies and golden sands, and every
tone in between in the clothing. Detail
levels are very good from foreground to background, and images are generally
sharp and crisply rendered. One or
two lighter scenes show a bit of flicker as from chroma noise, but these are
quickly passing and not much of a distraction.
soundtrack seems to be a simple stereo mix, as I couldn’t tell anything
emanating from the rear stage. Dialogue
is mostly English, and it renders very well, despite the thickness of some
accents. The voices are most of the
attraction here, creating dynamic range between quiet exchanges and large crowd
scenes. Overall, a good
presentation…the subject matter simply keeps it from being a more impressive
solid features package on this disc begins with a 24 minute Canadian featurette
“Lifting the Veil”, which talks about this movie, its star Niloufar Pariza
and her story, and the impact both have had on the world since 9-11…it’s a
good piece. Even better is
Pariza’s commentary track, which is loaded with insights on Afghanistan and
the difficulties filming there, her own stories about her first failed attempt
to return and her second return with film crew, and much more.
She is an excellent speaker…listening to her talk is as much of an
eye-opening experience as watching the film.
There are bios for herself and for Makhmalbaf, an international trailer, and a stills gallery.