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Kandahar

Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

(Nelofer Pazira)

Rated: NR

Kandahar begins despondently. The chopping sounds of a helicopter and its shadow crisscrossing the ground below almost resurrects the final scene of Platoon. Within a few seconds, the mood is set. A Red Cross helicopter soars over the mountainous desert of Afghanistan carrying with her Nafas, our leading lady. Through the magic of over-dubbed arration/tape recorder confession, the backstory is whooshed over with surprising clarity.

Nafas fled Afghanistan as a young girl. She wound up in Canada, received a good education, and became a journalist. Her sister however, was not so fortunate and never made it out of – you guessed it – Kandahar. As we hear in Nafas’ tape recorder monologue, her sister is plans to commit suicide and in familial desperation, Nafas is racing back to the home she once escaped just to save her sister. While it sounds soap-operatic, it plays out quite plausibly.

The strikingly beautiful Nafas (Nilofaur Pazira), upon arrival to one of the world’s most unwelcoming cities, always has the tape recorder at hand, and although most of the film is in the lovable language of Farsi, Nafas speaks English into her Sony. Through this avenue, Kandahar acts as much as factual commentary as it does in development of the story. Nafas’s trek is besieged by pitfall after roadblock as the film brilliantly showcases the harshness, the people and its culture, and the forgotten mystique of such a land.

While the acting seems a little wooden, the characters themselves harbor the stale reality not seen in the zealously overdone performances of Hollywood. Nilofaur Pazira, in her first acting role, shares quite a lot with her character. Born in India but raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, Pazira fled the Soviet invasion to Pakistan in 1989 at the age of 16, and settled in Canada a year later. While there’s no “clean-cut answer” in this or any other film, Nafas raises to light the oppression of Afghani women. Kandahar is much more than a CNN story, it’s a deferent and personal expression.

-Sean McGrath

 

Kanadahar opens this Friday at the Uptown Theatre.