Still one thing that seemed to be missing from the equation was the actual Afghan side of things. Not their take on Terrorism, but their own slice of life especially under the mantle of the Thugocrats known as the Taliban. On December 14, 2001, a mere two months or so after the Terrorist Attacks American Cinemas were greeted with just such a film. Because this movie was shot and released long before the atrocities of September 11, 2001 there is no mention of Terrorism or politics at all. Regardless, either way, this is unrelated to "the bad guys" in any real way that might affect the United States. In fact, this film is much more of a fascinating drama (in a semi-documentary format) that gives us a very realistic look into the lives of the Afghan people. It's not pretty, it's not fun, and it's not oriented to Terrorism. But it is something that most Americans should see both for the Taliban-era Past, and for the current state of the people whose lives are hard pressed to be improved by a "regime change!"
It is this character that is the most interesting, and the rich tapestry that this film offers to us in one more of dust and death than self-discovery and exploration. Nafas sporadically narrates our introduction to the character of Afghanistan through her portable tape recorder which has a tendency to separate her from the action she is far too entwined with. Through her re-introduction to Afghanistan she is separated in one other way, by a Dehumanizing Burqa. As a Canadian Citizen, Nafas is a self-sufficient and educated individual. Her practical captivity beneath a featureless Burqua is a disturbing transaction that even she breaks as often as she can.
The Burqa itself plays an interesting character in Kandahar not only as a means of the subjugation of women, but also as (amazingly) the only source of Color in the gray Afghan desert. Imagine a human rainbow of featureless humanity cresting and then flowing over and conquering a colorless dune. The effect is one of breathtaking beauty and repulsive inhumanity at the same time.
It's this duality that makes Kandahar so fascinating. This is an adventure without action, and a horror film without any true horror elements in any classic sense. Make no mistake this is a fascinating and frightening film from bow to stern and port to starboard. The plight of the Afghan Refugees on both sides of the Iranian boarder is shown in an early montage and throughout the first half. As an Afghan family is being robbed by a band of Brigands while the family's patriarch praises both Allah and the robbers themselves the twisted coldness of the character of Afghanistan is seen in deadly spades. Further the very real agony of the life of an Afghan amputee is displayed here by using actual Afghan amputees. We see the airlift of prosthetics from both the perspective of the air, and the ground so that we can see both the providers and the needy. The sight of a flock of disabled men racing on crutches to be the first to obtain the prosthetic limbs before the Red Cross can ration them is as disturbing as it it understandable.
Either by care or by simply holding a mirror up to the real Afghanistan, Kandahar shows how multi-layered this country really is. We see multiple ethnicities, multiple languages and multiple social strata. Many are good people, many are out for themselves, and many, unfortunately are truly bad people. The overall realization conveyed is that there is NO one type of Afghan. Afghanis are human beings!
Possibly the most shining example of this is the American Expatriate that Nafas meets in her travels. Tabib Sahid is portrayed by a real-life American Expatriate named Hassan Tantai (nee David Belfield). Many of the most touching, complex and Poignant moments are his. especially surrounding his words into Nafas' tape recorder.
The ending is not what I was hoping for. On one hand it displays the main character's continuity and dominance, but it also gives a bit of the implication that the producers simply ran out of money. This, coupled with a lack of defined motivation makes me yearn for the sequel (or is it a remake???) called Return to Kandahar. Let's hope it's a great one!
Three and one Half Stars out of Five for Kandahar! It's a well shot and directed movie with good acting and an incredibly compelling story that feels as real as any fictional film I've ever seen! On the other hand it falls short of excellence in the end, and leaves the viewer desiring more. I'd still recommend this film to anyone who is curious about Afghanistan, and most specifically the way men and women are treated in that country. While it's intriguing and impossible to tear oneself away from, it's also more frightening than Hellraiser and more depressing than a Buffalo Subway Car. It still must be seen for anyone with misconceptions about Afghans. Cowboy up and watch it... that is... if you can find it! This is more educational than anything else, and it can blow your misconceptions away.
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