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Kandahar Review


Very Good
Paved with humanistic intentions, Kandahar can't quite see beyond its literal depiction of Afghan horrors. Prolific Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf documents an annihilated nation blown into the stone age by war, more interested in social reform, cultural education, or presenting a bleak travelogue than attaining the pure cinema his contemporary Abbas Kiarostami has been honing for over a decade. (Kiarostami is best known for his haunting suicide parable A Taste of Cherry; his sublime semi-documentary Close-Up features Makhmalbaf himself as a heroic figure/motorcycle driving screen icon.)

As Kiarostami entrenches in esoteric philosophical questions, wrapped in poetic imagery and near-mystical iconography, Makhmalbaf aims for realism (poorly filmed, but on the front lines) and political point-by-point dogma. Kandahar is the culmination of those interests, for better or for worse. As a former Islamic fundamentalist, he's slowly been rebelling against formalistic film technique and even Iran's popular art-house auteurism. In breaking down those conventions, Kandahar seems to be about what's happening in front of the camera more than the operation of the camera itself. A book of photographs may have been just as effective, but Makhmalbaf sticks to what he knows.

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Kandahar Review


Weak

The timely and Taliban-topical Iranian import "Kandahar" could have been an absorbing, penetrating and undiluted portrait of frightful oppression in pre-Sept. 11 Afghanistan. But it's woefully subverted by pretentious directing, unmistakably amateur performances and an ending so vague it erases any power the picture might have had and replaces it with the question, "What the heck just happened?"

Written and directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf ("The Silence," "A Moment of Innocence"), the story follows an Afghan-Canadian journalist (Niloufar Pazira) smuggling herself into her native land in an attempt to rescue a suicidal sister who can no longer bear her smothered, browbeaten existence under the nation's extremist regime. It's also based loosely on a similar journey made by the lead actress -- a real Afghan-Canadian journalist who is clearly not an actress by trade.

The film offers strong symbolism and valuable insights into the Taliban's tyrannical culture of fear, in which song and dance are outlawed, men must sport long beard or be beaten, and women are not allowed even to leave their homes without a husband, father or brother as an escort. It's stocked with stark but stunning imagery -- from limbless peasants to almost surreal desert landscapes to Pazira's Westernized face peeking out from under her burqa, the head-to-toe covering women were forced to wear under the Taliban.

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Kandahar Movie Review

Kandahar Movie Review

The timely and Taliban-topical Iranian import "Kandahar" could have been an absorbing, penetrating and undiluted...

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