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.
Continue reading: Kandahar Review