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The Network is a documentary set behind the scenes at the largest television network in one of the most unstable and dangerous places on earth, Afghanistan.

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The Network is a documentary set behind the scenes at the largest television network in one of the most unstable and dangerous places on earth, Afghanistan.

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27 September 2013 (USA)  »

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A Positive Story from a Troubled Afghanistan
13 March 2013 | by (Austin, TX, United States) – See all my reviews

The Network was well-received at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film offers a slim ray of light into the ugly mess that the United States is leaving behind in Afghanistan. Amidst all of the chaos or war, the drug trade, and oppression. The Network offers the story of a brave group of Afghans and expatriates who are trying to begin a process of building a new Afghanistan by creating the country's first free media. In the days after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, they began with radio and eventually expanded to develop Afghanistan's largest TV Network – NOLA TV. In a country with a very high rate of illiteracy, television can be a particularly powerful social force. The film offers a behind-the- scenes look at the difficulty of training a new generation of professionals to produce news and entertaining programming. The film makes clear that NOLA TV has become a portal for bringing positive social attitudes and modern ideas to a country that has been torn apart by violence and fundamentalism for decades.

While the film does point to many flaws in Afghan society, it never seems to be self-critical about NOLA's own work. The vast majority of the interviews are with NOLA's own staff with only very few voices from the outside looking in. The film feels like one where director Eva Orner has become too close to her subject. For example, they admit that they are producing cop shows that encourage Afghanis to respect and obey the police force. But that force is widely known to be highly corrupt. Does such a message truly benefit Afghanistan? The Network certainly provides a useful lens to expose Westerners to some of the problems of modern day Afghanistan and offers a somewhat positive angle on an otherwise bleak landscape where so much of the news seems negative. Still a more self-critical examination might have strengthened the portrait.


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