Retro Review: Kandahar

In the grip of our war on terrorism, a little independent film tries to fight to survive and also educate us on what kind of world Afghanistan is.

Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbal’s latest film showcases the plight of Nafas (Nelofer Pazira), a female Afghan-Canadian refugee who is trying to get from Iran to Kandahar to rescue her sister. As Nafas goes upon her journey we are introduced to a many different characters and we begin to see what the life of an Afghani truly is.

To be blunt, Kandahar is pure culture shock. It’s like being transported to a different planet and watching aliens intermingle in a new society. We have our visions of what the world of Afghanistan is but this film really drops it into our laps and we see the war in a whole different light.

The film is as slow and dead as the desert itself. This is the film’s biggest problem because if its purpose is to educate it should have been more interesting to watch. I liked the different places Nafas ends up in and how each one showcases a sliver of Afghani society but her plight seems pointless. She keeps begging and telling people she has to be in Kandahar at a certain time but no one cares because they all have far more intense problems to deal with.

The film explores the implications of what happens to the Afghani people when engulfed by war. The “Red Cross” station and the amputees is the most memorable scene in the piece as it uncovered volumes for me on what landmines do to the innocents. There is one man there who wants to carry around a spare pair of legs in case his limbs get blown off. This kind of struggle and desperation is the main theme of this film.

This main theme does make the film a chore to watch. The film’s ending does leave you frustrated and scratching your head. Kandahar is an experience that is sad, enlightening, slow and hard to sit through. At its core I believe the film may educate us on who the Afghani people really are.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Special Note: Two websites for further incite into the world of Kandahar:

http://www.iranian.com/opinion/2001/june/afghan/index.html
This is a website that features an essay by the film’s director on land-mine amputees and artificial limbs.

http://iranianfilm.com/interviews/hassan.html
This website features an interview with Kandahar star Hassan Tanai who plays Nafas’ friend Ta.

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