Kandahar (2001)



Director:     Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

Starring:    Nelofer Pazira (Nafas), Hassan Tantai (Tabib Sahid), Sadou Teymouri (Khak, the boy guide), Hoyatala Hakimi (Hayat, the adult guide).

a woman makes a perilous journey through Taliban Afghanistan



Nafas is a Afghani-Canadian woman reporter who left Afghanistan when she was a child.  Her sister was left behind in Afghanistan.  She had lost her legs to a land mine explosion.  When she receives a letter from her sister threatening suicide, she vows to go back to Afghanistan to prevent the suicide. 

Good movie.  The action here appears to be before the appearance of the Taliban, since they are not mentioned.  But whether this is Taliban or mujahedeen, Afghanistan is a miserable place.  Through her sister's letters, Nafas has learned that all schools for girls have been shut down and that women are forbidden from public life. For the past 20 years, an Afghani has died every five minutes from land mines, war, famine or drought.  (One of the big problems of Afghanistan is that it is so divided among many ethnic groups.) 

Nafas travels to Iran by Red Cross helicopter to a refugee camp on the Afghan-Iran border.  She will travel into Afghanistan pretending she is the fourth wife of an elderly man who has been paid to take her to Kandahar.  The man has lost his Ouzbeck wife, but still has two Hazaras wives and one Pachtoune.  He jokes that if he takes Nafas, a Tadjik, that he will have married nearly all Afghanistan. 

The elderly man insists that Nafas keep her face covered in the burqa.  She does not understand the seriousness of the situation.  He explains that even if she is not his wife, the scandalmongers will talk and will risk his honor, if not her well-being.

Nafas begins a journey that will prove much harder than she thought.  Traveling in a small, three-wheeled scooter-pickup, they are robbed of all their belongings and of their means of transportation.  They have to walk through the desert to the nearest town.  There the "husband" has to leave Nafas for he has to go back to Iran since he has no means of support there. 

A young Afghan boy offers to guide her to Kandahar for $50,000 dollars.  (Of course he has no idea of the value of American money, and readily accepts $50 dollars.)  It is a three day journey to Kandahar.  Along the way, Nafas gets ill, probably because of the well water she drank.  At the next village, she and her guide go to the local doctor.  Illustrating just how ridiculous the Afghani ways have become, the doctor can only examine the women through a small hole cut in a curtain behind which the woman is secluded.  The doctor speaks English and he is shocked when he hears Nafas speak to him in English.  He inquires about her background and she trusts him enough to tell him.  It turns out that the doctor is not really a doctor, but an African-American who came to Afghanistan looking for God.  He fought against the Russians in Afghanistan, for the Tadjiks(?) against the Pachtounes, and then vice-versa.  He offers to take her part way to Kandahar.  They arrive at a Red Camp tent hospital for amputees, where they fit the patients with prosthetic legs (they have no prosthetic arms).  Nearly all these men were victims of land mine explosions. 

Nafas searches for another guide.  A man who had been at the tent hospital is scared to go to Kandahar but finally agrees to take Nafas there for $200 dollars. 

Will Nafas ever get to Kandajar to rescue her sister?  And if she does, will she be able to get out of Afghanistan safely? 

The movie kept my interest and made me a little tense throughout.  Like Osama (2003) it shows how terrible the situation in Afghanistan became following the long series of fighting.  And the situation is especially terrible for women.  No wonder Nafas's sister wanted to commit suicide. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


  Historical Background:

see the review for the movie Osama (2003)



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