Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kandahar - Irani Movie

'Kandahar' was made in 2001 by renowned Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. It is a partly true and party fictionalised story that is set in the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the last years of the millennium.

The story is about a Afghan woman who has fled Afghanistan and settled down in Canada. She receives a letter from her sister who is Afghanistan under the oppressive regime of the Taliban. In the letter the sister says she would commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the millennium. With great difficulty the Afghan-Canadian lady Nafas reaches Iran with plans to sneak into Afghanistan. She is taken to a settlement where the children especially the girl children are being told that there are no girls schools in Afghanistan but they must not give up hope. The kids look blank, not knowing what to expect. They are also told not to pick up dolls that could be mines.

Clad in a burqua Nafas is sent with a family that is planning to go to Kandahar for a price. She is to pretend to be the fourth wife of the man. They set off in something like an auto trolley into the desert where they are promptly robbed. The man and his family returns leaving her in the desert near a settlement where there is a madrassa.

In the madrassa there is a boy who is thrown out because he is not learning the Quran. The boy Khak offers to lead her to Kandahar for some dollars and she takes his offer. On the way she sees the boy steal form a corpse, a ring, that he tries to sell to her. That is one scene that does not leave you.

Nafas falls sick drinking dirty water and is taken to an American black who is a war mercenary who has settled down as a doctor there giving out some basic treatments. The way the doctor treats his female patients with a cloth in between, a purdah with a small hole, from where he can see the affected part, and the way he carries the conversation with an interpreter, says it all. Another scene that does not leave you. He offers to take her further on his horse cart. She gets rid of Khak with great difficulty. He finally sells her the ring of the corpse.

The doctor and she make it to a red cross station where they are fitting out crutches and artificial legs to dozens of Afghani civilians who lost their legs in the landmines and suffer so much that they cannot sleep without medication. Some are trying to take limbs in anticipation of losing limbs. In probably the most haunting scene of the movie all the single legged men stumble forward on their crutches suddenly as if a God is coming to them, their eyes full of hope as they hobble on a as group. Then the camera shows what they are looking at in the sky. Parachutes are descending slowly. Only after a couple of moments do we realise that the parachutes do not carry men. They are carrying pairs of artificial limbs that are being dropped off near the Red Cross station. It is chilling to see the legs float down towards the crippled civilians.

The doctor hands over Nafas to a quick witted civilian to take her to Kandahar for a price. They join a wedding party, singing songs, making up a story to tell the Taliban when they catch up, and proceed until the Taliban stops the convoy. Several impostors including the guide are detained. Nafas is allowed to go ahead with the wedding party. The movie closes with the outline of Kandahar in he background.

One can easily see why Mohsen Makhmalbaf is so highly rated. 'Kandahar' speaks more for the state Afghanistan was in than any account you can read of. Those three or four scenes say it all. Brilliant stuff.

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