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Foreign Films

   Children of Heaven
   Daughters of Afghanistan


National Geographic Films

   In Search of the Afghan Girl

   Lost Treasures of Afghanistan

  Afghanistan Revealed: The Unknown Story of a Land 




United Artists/MGM Distributing Corporation


Written by: Siddiq Barmak

Directed by: Siddiq Barmak

Release: 2004

Running time: 82 minutes, color, subtitles

Origin: Afghanistan , Japan , Ireland

Language: Pastu (with English subtitles)


Awards: Golden Globe 2004,;AFCAE Award, Cannes Film Festival; Sutherland Trophy, London Film Festival (more)


THE FIRST MOVIE made in post-Taliban Afghanistan , Osama is the story of a young girl who must be disguised as a boy in order to earn money for food for her widowed mother and grandmother, who like all women, are forbidden under the Taliban’s skewing of Islamic law to work, even to leave the house. Apprenticed to a shopkeeper, she is swept up by the Taliban and enrolled in a madrassa (a religious school for boys, training ground for the Taliban); but she has not been tutored in how to pass for a boy, and her classmates ridicule and torment her. Events spiral out of control, and Osama lives fears she could never have imagined. The story is true. SB

Osama’s unvarnished vulnerability, along with the director’s combination of tough-mindedness and lyricism, prevents the movie from becoming at all sentimental; instead, it is beautiful, thoughtful and almost unbearably sad. A.O..Scott, The New York Times




Directed by: Majid Majidi

Release: 2002

Running time: 94 minutes, color, subtitles                                        

Origin: Iran

Language: Farsi


Awards: Best director, best screenplay, Gijon International Film Festival; Best film, best director, Fajr Film Festival; Grand Prix des Ameriques, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Montreal World Film Festival; Films from the South Award, Oslo Films from the South Festival.


Baran is a story about the transformative power of love. A young, immature Turkish Kurd named Lateef has a cushy job on a construction site in Tehran that employs a number of undocumented Afghans. When one of the Afghans is injured on the job, the boss allows the worker’s son to replace him; but because the boy is delicate he is given Lateef’s job, and Lateef is expected, for the first time, to perform the backbreaking work he has avoided. Piqued, he takes it out on the boy, tormenting him--until he discovers his secret: “he” is a girl, a very beautiful girl. Lateef’s narrow world opens, and he becomes Baran’s protector, and her family’s selfless benefactor. Though no words pass between them, and Baran’s family returns to Afghanistan , Lateef not only has grown up but has been ennobled. SB


Kandahar : Journey into the Heart of Afghanistan

New Yorker Video


Directed by: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Release: 2003

Running time:  85 minutes, color, subtitles

Origin: Iran

Language: English, Farsi, and Pushtu


Awards: 2001 Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival; Federico Felini Honor, UNESCO 2001; Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival, 2001.


Kandahar is not a documentary. It is the attempt by director Makhmalbaf and Afghan-Canadian journalist Nalofer Pazira (A Bed of Red Flowers) to tell the world about the plight of Afghanistan , a country that has gone unnoticed, perhaps because its tribal culture has had little to offer the world economy. They thought the outside world should know what more than two decades of war has done to Afghanistan; that the lives of twenty million people have been turned upside down; that education has been denied to girls and reduced to extremist religious studies and militarism in the schools for boys; that ten million land mines have torn limbs from members of everyone’s family; that a years-long famine has transformed fruitful fields and gardens to rock and dust and has caused young and old to starve to death; and that women, imprisoned in burqas, have been denied every human right. In November 2000 the film crew set up in a refugee town on the Iranian border and enlisted the people of the town, who didn’t know the word film or the concept of film, to be the actors and actresses, together with Pazira, untrained also, in a film about Pazira’s search for her childhood friend Dyana, left behind when civilization in Kabul was benighted under the Taliban. Determined to tell the story of Afghanistan from a humanitarian, rather than political, point of view, Makhmalbaf and Pazira allowed the stories the townspeople told to determine the film’s development, and each character in the film represents one aspect of the portrait of Afghanistan . The narrative is loose, the cinematography dramatic, the understanding vital. SB


Afghanistan Revealed: The Untold Story of a Land and Its People

National Geographic


Release: 2001

Running time: 45 minutes, color

Origin: US

Language: English


IN 2000, National Geographic somehow sent Sebastian Junger and a photographer into Afghanistan at a time when journalists and reporters were banned--and on top of that arranged access for them to Ahmad Shah Massoud, charismatic leader of the Northern Alliance . As it broadly sweeps twenty-five hundred years of Afghanistan ’s history, the film sweeps the dramatic, harsh terrain of 20,000-foot mountains and the valleys between them and then focuses on Massoud, who has fought the Soviets and fought the mujahedin and now is fighting the Taliban.  Junger is fear itself when the advance guard he accompanies comes under heavy arms fire from the Taliban; but his role is subdued—he is the observer, the journalist.  National Geographic seems to have gambled that it would be Massoud who would emerge to lead the country out of war into peace after the Taliban are routed. But  the heroic Massoud, the Lion of Pansjir, is assassinated two days before      9-11 . . SB                                                                                                                  

The Lost Treasures of Afghanistan

National Geographic


Release: 2006

Running time: 56 minutes, color


The Lost Treasures narrative is suspenseful, the people appealing, and the history fascinating. One comes away in awe of the craftsmanship of the 20,000 pieces of gold in the Bactrian horde (the Bactrians were nomads); the sheer size of the Bamiyan buddhas, not just the two that stood in the niches for fifteen hundred years but the bigger one, much bigger one, known from accounts of Chinese travelers, called the Sleeping Buddha that an Afghan archaeologist suspects he has found underground; the white- collar worker in Kabul who spent months painting with water colors over the images of people and animals in the museum’s oil paintings to protect them from obliteration; and the plucky men in the film archives who let the Taliban publicly burn the positives but hid the negatives of thousands of canisters of film. All of the stories end well--though if this isn’t the end, and the Taliban retake Kabul they’ll make a beeline for the gold, dynamite the Sleeping Buddha, splash water on the oil paintings and seize the film negatives.                                SB


The Search for the Afghan Girl

National Geographic


Release: 2002

Running time: 50 minutes


THE STRIKING green eyes of the Afghan girl on the May 1985 cover of National Geographic made photographer Steve McCurry famous.  An icon for the silent strength of Afghans, young and old, in their struggle to survive in the relentless face of displacement, hunger, and death, the image of the Afghan girl haunted the  photographer. Learning that the refugee camp in Pakistan where he had found her seventeen years ago was about to be demolished, McCurry realized that if he were ever to find her again, it would have to be now. He returned to the camp and began to ask questions.  He was able to pick up a thread and, amazingly, with the help of FBI retinal scanning expertise, he found her in a remote tribal territory.  Shy and hidden in a burqa, granted permission by her husband to talk, she told McCurry she remembered the day he had photographed her.  McCurry set up a fund to help Afghan women and donates his considerable speaking fees to the project. Look for information on his web site: . SB








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