Rare will you see a documentary as long as this 2 1/2 hour piece of magic. George Gittoes is an artist first and foremost, making a documentary, he understands layers of complexity.
Gittoes is also the centre of the documentary set in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The city is in the shadow of Tora Bora, and so you know some very bad people are nearby and war has left no real law and order. The Taliban are around, they make an appearance a few times and you are fearful it could go bad but in its place is a level of lawlessness that permeates to the children. One "Steel", who is the poster boy of the movie is a sociopathic child, who steals and maims other children. Gittoes does not judge him or anyone and you see him lovingly offering him a path to a better life. You know he will not change but the viewer has some empathy afterwards as you get a sense that this is not necessarily his own doing.
The structure of the documentary is unwieldy. Four fine documentaries in a traditional sense could have been made but the longer format gives context for which no explanation is offered directly. Like art, the viewer has their own experience, whereas a documentary is more about the maker's experience. Note: much of the camera-work is done by the children or Gittoes' local friends but they are more than competent.
The last twenty minutes covers a suicide bombing. Harrowing stuff as we see the dead, the dying and mutilated. Powerful stuff which could have been its own movie if explored.
4 out of 4 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.