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Godfrey Taylor Jr.,
"Afghan Star" is a TV show modeled on the UK's "Pop Idol." We join the 2008 contest when it's down to nine contestants, and we focus on two women, Setara and Lema, and two men, Hameed and Rafi. We watch the two women in particular: Satara sings with emotion and includes dance in her final performance, an action that puts her life in danger; Lema is traditional, but her very appearance brings death threats. The three finalists are from different tribes, and each makes a plea for Afghan unity. The camera visits families watching the competition, there are comments from people in the street, and we return home with a nervous Setara. In Afghanistan, singing is an expression of freedom. Written by
After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,and the resulting take over by the Taliban in the early 1980's , the Afghan people suffered the loss of their culture (music,dance & most everything that represents joy was taken away by the religiously overwrought Taliban). Flash forward to several years later,where the country was (somewhat)liberated from the Taliban,certain aspects of Afghan culture made a comeback (television & radio stations began to pop up through out the country,as well as the ban lifted on most music). A new form of entertainment began to appear on Afghan TV. That show was 'Afghan Stars',patterned somewhat after American Idol, where contestants vied for public exposure,singing their songs before an adoring public. Havana Marking directs a well put together documentary dealing with the contestants (four of them,three men & one woman),and their hopes & dreams. Along the way,we see the trials & tribulations of trying to make a career out of music in a society that still hasn't quite shaken off the brutal dictatorship of the Taliban (some women still wear Burkah's,possibly out of fear that the Taliban could make a comeback at any given moment),not to mention government sanctioned censorship (we see one female contestant deal with governmental,as well as societal scorn over her choosing to dance during her performance on Afghan Stars,as well as her head scarf being removed and considered exposing too much of her hair---go figure). This is a documentary that will cause rage among some (especially those who are watchdogs for human rights concerns). As this documentary is shot on HD video,rather than film stock,distribution will be somewhat limited to cinemas that are equipped for that format. Spoken in Pashtu & Dari with English subtitles & English. Not rated by the MPAA, it serves up a rude word or two,and some harrowing descriptions of brutal treatment by the Taliban.
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