Kandahar is Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s absurd, evocative, though sometimes heavy-handed, ode to the perpetually disguised Afghan woman. Nafas (Nelofer Pazira, re-enacting her own real-life struggle) is a Canadian reporter hoping to reach the city of Kandahar before her sister commits suicide during the next solar eclipse. Nafas is hyper-aware of the country’s female suffrage, recording her observations with a hand-held tape recorder. Crossing the desert with an opportunistic youngster named Khak (Sadou Teymouri), Nafas discovers the extent of her former country’s poverty through a series of comical encounters that take her from an African-American doctor’s outpost to a Red Cross station where limbless men beg for artificial legs and hands. Kandahar becomes noticeably scatterbrained whenever it strays away from Nafas; a scene where a tyrannic teacher instructs young boys on the Koran is as authentic and pure as it is distracting. “They don’t need a doctor here, they need a baker,” says doctor Tabib, an obvious acknowledgement of the nation’s plight; the man’s ruminations on hope and God, though, are considerably more haunting (“For women, hope is the day she will be seen”). The documentary feel of the episodic narrative is organic yet seemingly at odds with the absurdist underpinnings. While it might seem fastidious to fault the unprofessional cast, the film’s performers are considerably less deft at handling the material’s comedy than they are at rendering the horror of their everyday lives; their delivery may be straight-faced but do they get the joke? Makhmalbaf’s visuals are nonetheless breathtaking (a crippled men chases after prosthetic limbs falling from the Afghan sky). The film’s finale is both hysterical and saddening. Men and women hide below female garbs in order to enter Kandahar. The light that seeps in through Nafas’s veil creates a prison pattern on her face, evoking the country’s subjugation of women. Now that Taliban forces have fallen in Kandahar, one can only hope that Afghan women will soon be seen.
- Avatar Films
- 85 min
- Mohsen Makhmalbaf
- Mohsen Makhmalbaf
- Niloufar Pazira, Hassan Tantai, Sadou Teymouri, Hoyatala Hakimi
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