Projections - Movie Reviews



Kandahar is a memorable, poignant film from Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, probably more so because of the atrocities which have recently occurred in Afghanistan.

Playing like a documentary, this fictionalized tale concerns the hardships endured by Nafas, acted with intensity by Nelofer Pazria.  Nafas was born in India but raised in Afghanistan and became a TV journalist after her family fled to Canada when she was sixteen.

The contemporary feel of the story comes in a letter from her sister who was maimed during the frantic escape from a landmine explosion.  She remains in Afghanistan.  That's where the Taliban is dominant, even if currently the stronghold has fallen apart.  A suicide is certain in three days during the millennium's last solar eclipse unless Nafas can find a way to stop it.

Why Kandahar, which was shot close to Afghanistan's border in Iran, becomes moving is how Makhmalbaf gets one involved in the misery of women in the stark existence that engulfs them.  Amid the hellish milieu, lighter and surreal elements come to the forefront as Nafas is smuggled into her native, devastated land in a burkas (a dark garment worn by women so as not to be noticed).

A ring taken from a corpse by a young tour guide will come in Nafas' path as this journey packs a lyrical wallop in a nation of pain.  When prosthetic limbs are flying from a Red Cross plane, people on crutches rush toward them to get there first.  Kandahar really opens our eyes to oppression as well as those crippled from mines.

Nafas keeps an audio diary as this dark, indelible film conjures up a kind of wicked Wizard of Oz.  Deception comes in the form of a man behind a curtain who figures in an ordeal which is grounded in events which actually happened to Pazria.

Maybe some will view Kandahar as a bit unusual, but it unfolds with heartfelt realism from the subjugation of women.  And as is the custom of many Iranian films, mostly non-actors are used and they have presence along with rich lensing and a subject which has the strength to make the tragedies in a faraway land piercing.


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