Afghan Star

"Excellent"

Afghan Star Review


A fascinating glimpse into Afghan culture reveals that young people there are pretty much exactly like everyone else, except for the huge issues they cope with. While exploring pop culture, filmmaker Marking cleverly keeps the big issues churning underneath.

After the Taliban took control in 1979, music was forbidden. So after restrictions were lifted in 2004, Afghans have sought ways to express themselves. Afghan Star is an X Factor-style reality show that gets a huge number of applicants at auditions around the country. Women can participate and winners are selected by a public vote, which for many is their first experience of democracy. Contestants hold political-style campaigns, with posters in the streets and public appearances. It's all very controversial, but programme host Sediqi believes that he was born to rebel against oppression.

The film follows four contestants: The boys Rafi, 19, and Hameed, 20, are great friends despite being portrayed as archrivals by the press. Lema is a happy 25-year-old woman who feels that music should never be hidden. And Setara is a 22-year-old who scandalises the nation by dancing during her performance.

Despite a huge public outcry, including death threats, she says, "It's not new to be afraid; it was worse with the Taliban. This is my path and I will continue."

Within this structure, Marking examines Afghanistan's tribal culture, which is bridged by this TV show as people support participants across ancient feuding borders. And as politics threaten to undo the show altogether, the cameras catch some remarkable events that are scary, emotional and extremely hopeful.

Most of all is the sense that these young people want their country to move forward without the continued threat of tyranny.

The film also makes a mockery of the West's variations on this show. These people are competing in order to use their musical gifts for the first time, to escape poverty and to stand up for freedom of expression in a still fairly oppressed nation. Marking's approach is witty and engaging, vividly showing off the bright personalities and raw realities as well as the free-spirited atmosphere on the streets. And as things crank up, the film is buzzy and suspenseful. There's a lot more at stake here than a popularity contest.



Afghan Star

Facts and Figures

Run time: 87 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th January 2009

Box Office Worldwide: $101.5 thousand

Distributed by: Zeitgeist Films

Production compaines: Aria Productions, Roast Beef Productions, Roastbeef Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 60

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Havana Marking

Producer: Havana Marking

Starring: Habib Amiri as Himself, Setara Hussainzada as Herself, Rafi Naabzada as Himself, Lima Sahar as Herself (as Lema Sahar)

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