Socialist Worker

Kandahar: The heart of Afghanistan

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1777

George W Bush apparently requested a special screening of this film. But don't let that put you off seeing Kandahar, by Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. His concern for the suffering of the people of Afghanistan goes back to at least 1987, with his film The Cyclist, which featured Afghan refugees in Iran.

Kandahar is loosely based on the story of Nelofer Pazira, an Afghan journalist living in Canada whose family fled Afghanistan in 1989. In the film she plays her own character, trying to get to Kandahar, the main city in the south of Afghanistan, to prevent her sister from committing suicide out of despair at her life under the Taliban regime.

The film has a poetic feel. It portrays the cramping of women's lives, forced to cover themselves completely in the burqa. Kandahar shows an already poor society shattered by two decades of fighting. It suggests how devastation allowed forces such as the Taliban to rise.

We see the lethal results of previous bombing and fighting-most of the men we see in the whole film are amputees. In recent interviews Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Nelofer Pazira have both come out strongly against the US war on Afghanistan. They must find it all the more galling that some reviewers have claimed that the women's suffering depicted in this film is some kind of justification for creating a new generation of mangled human beings.

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Sat 1 Dec 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1777
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