KANDAHAR tells the story of Nafas, a female journalist, who fled the horrors of the Islamic fundamentalists of Afghanistan. As her family fled, her sister stepped on a mine, which blew her legs off. Her father stayed behind to take care of the sister, and the rest of the family sought refuge in Canada. Years later, Nafas receives a desperate letter from her sister, in Afghanistan, who has decided to commit suicide before the next eclipse. Nafas rushes back to her country to rescue her sister. Donning the burga, she finds herself interacting with both friend and foe, some who help and some who hinder her quest. In the process of experiencing the horrors of the Islamic regime first-hand, including imprisonment, her sacrificial love and hope remain strong.
This is a brilliant movie based on the real-life experience of the actress who plays Nafas. There is no foul language, merely a few appeals to God. There is no sex or violence, but there is the constant, intense threat of violence. KANDAHAR is worthwhile viewing for all those who need to understand the truth of Islam and so they can understand the liberating grace of Jesus Christ.
(BB, Fe, FR, L, V, M) Moral worldview with some feminism but not politically correct or anti-morality & very strong inference that Islam is wrong; several appeals to God & discussions of violence; no on screen violence but constant jeopardy, threats of violence, many scenes of people who have lost legs, even arms to mines & other forms of violence, & fear of violence; no sex, nudity, alcohol use, or smoking; and, bandits, liars, thieves, & cheats.
KANDAHAR tells the story of Nafas, a young female journalist, whose family fled the horrors of Afghanistan, which was first ruthlessly occupied by the Soviet Union and then liberated, only to be oppressed by the warring Islamic Afghans and their religious leaders. As her family was fleeing Afghanistan, her sister stepped on a mine, which blew her legs off. Her father stayed behind to take care of the sister. The rest of the family took refuge in Canada.
After many years, Nafas receives a desperate letter from her sister, in Afghanistan, who has decided to put an end to her life before the next eclipse. Nafas decides to rush back to her country to rescue her sister. The movie opens with Nafas dictating these circumstances into her tape recorder as a Red Cross helicopter flies her to the border of Iran. Red Cross tents soon appear in the desert, surrounded by men on crutches. The helicopter parachutes artificial limbs down on the men who run with their crutches to retrieve them.
The pilot arranges for a family to take Nafas to Kandahar. She agrees to pretend to be the husband’s fourth wife, and she must wear the veil (or burga). After many miles of riding in the back of a tiny three-wheeled car, the drivers stop and rob the family. Despondent, the husband decides to turn back to Iran.
Nafas then hires a young boy named Khak to take her further, but on the way, she gets deathly sick from the well water. When they go to a village doctor, Tabib Sahid, the doctor, tells her not to trust the boy, who would easily sell her to the authorities when they arrive in Kandahar. The doctor turns out to be a black American who is not really a doctor and who came to Afganistan to find God by fighting the Soviet troops. Nafas asks him if he found God, and he says no, but he is still looking. He hides his identity behind a fake beard.
The scene in Sahid’s office is incredible. He treats the women behind a screen with a small hole in it. By Islamic law, he cannot talk to Nafas so he speaks to the young child who acts as a go-between.
Nafas is concerned about giving up Khak because the eclipse is only two days away and she does not want her sister to commit suicide. Sahid decides to take her until they find someone else who can help. They arrive at the Red Cross tent hospital where all the legless men are waiting for artificial limbs. The men lie and cheat to get the limbs. The first scene of the parachuting limbs is now seen from the point of view of the handicapped running bravely on their crutches.
Nafas recruits the worst liar amongst the men seeking crutches to take her to Kandahar, and he decides that they should join a wedding party that is heading toward Kandahar. Islamic rebels detain the wedding party and imprison Nafas. Nafas dictates into her recorder that she has always escaped prison, “but now I am a captive in all of the prisons, but only for you my sister.”
Directed by Iranian filmmaker Moshen Makhmalbaf (A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE), KANDAHAR takes a close look at today’s Afghanistan, ravaged by the civil war with the Taliban. The acting, cinematography and sound editing enhance the message of the movie.
Niloufar Pazira is brilliant as Nafas. The movie was inspired by Pazira’s real-life experience. In 1989, Pazira fled her homeland of Afghanistan and later received a similar letter not from a sister, but from a long-time friend who wanted to end her life.
So many wonderful movies like this are being made outside of the United States that Hollywood should start to worry, except that Hollywood controls the screens in the United States and the United States is the major box office in the world. Thus, if a movie does not make it in the U.S., it will have a very difficult time making it anywhere else. There have been exceptions such as THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS, which was a gigantic hit in Japan and the rest of the world before coming to the U.S., but these hits outside the American marketplace are few and far between.
It is interesting that there are so many moral, worthwhile and even redemptive movies such as this coming out of repressive countries. Looking around the Cannes Film Festival, the American distributors often look like visual brothels, while these small distributors from oppressive countries sing the virtues of morality and freedom. Perhaps, the entertainment industry should beg Congress to impose draconian content restrictions on their entertainment product so that they can recapture the moral high ground of opposing tyranny instead of pushing the envelope of licentiousness. In contrast to some of the sleaze issuing forth from the capitol of the movie industry, KANDAHAR is a great movie, which cries out against the former Islamic tyranny in Afghanistan, and which was in the competition for the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
This is a powerful tale of trying to set the captives free. The oppression of the Taliban imprisoned everyone in Afganistan, and, because of the oppressive religious legalism, everyone is at war: women, children and families. Nafas has an expressed feminist agenda in trying to save her sister, but it is morally based. Furthermore, Nafas is willing to die for her sister. Thus, her quest not only highlights the oppression of Islam, but she also serves as a redemptive counterpoint to the self-serving and corrupt, legalistic, false religious system that enslaved her country.
This is a brilliant movie. There is no real foul language, merely a few appeals to God. There is no sex, and there is no on-screen violence, but there is the constant, intense threat of violence. KANDAHAR is worthwhile viewing for older children and up – all those who need to understand the truth of Islam and the Truth of the liberating grace of Jesus Christ.
As Nafas dictates to her sister on her tape recorder in the middle of the movie: “I gave my soul to this journey, traveled roads that I’ve never taken before, so that I can give you a reason to live. I passed through the desert of dry poppies and mine fields . . . and now I’ve brought you a thousand bright reasons to live.”
This is an incredible tale. May there be many more like it.
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