Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Afghanistan: Life in the Forbidden Zone(2012) Human RIghts Watch Film Festival 2013

Sometimes while sitting in the dark you end up seeing a film that is truly special and changes the way you see things, such a film is My Afgahnistan; Life in The Forbidden Zone.

Nagieb Khaja‘s My Afghanistan is somewhere past reviewing. A vitally important document, it’s a wonderful counterpoint to all of the media, mainstream and otherwise, depiction of the war torn country. It’s one of the most important films of the year since it shows very clearly that the shadowy figures we see on TV are quite simply like us.

The brilliant concept of My Afghanistan is that Khaja, unable to go into the countryside outside of the city where he was staying, gave cellphones with cameras to six people and asked them to film their lives. He intercuts their stories with what he encounters in the city while he waits for his citizen reporters to return their cameras. The result is a moving portrait of what one guesses is the real situation in the country.

I was moved. Pretty much from the minute the footage started to run I was hooked. I was so hooked that I stopped taking notes and just started watching the film. Rarely have I fallen into a film in the way I fell into this film (especially these days). Part of it was I was compelled to watch by the subject matter, but mostly I was afraid to miss something. I couldn’t look away from the screen lest I miss something. The sequences in the film run anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of seconds. Some things are funny (the kids horsing around), some are frightening (signs of war are everywhere) some are sad (there is a car accident), some things are deeply profound (the man in his field) all of them show you a slice of real life.

This is powerful and amazing stuff.

Early in the film there is a sequence where director Khaja is seen in an airport bookstore lamenting about how all the accounts of Afghanistan are from the point of view of the west or westerners. He says that he wants to make a film that corrects that oversight. He has done that in spades. He has made a film that should be shown to as many people as possible since it removes the abstraction from the conflict and makes it real.

Nagieb Khaja is to be commended for making one of the best films of the year.

See the film when it plays Sunday and Monday at Lincoln Center. Details can be found here.

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