Sunday, January 27, 2002

'Kandahar' paints painful picture

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kandahar is both a fine example of the striking work being done by contemporary Iranian filmmakers and a near-documentary testament to the painful modern history of Afghanistan.

        Shot when the Taliban still controlled most of the country, the film reflects the devastating toll the extremist regime took on personal freedom. Likewise, it shows the hideous price that the ancient civilization paid during two decades of war.

        Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) serves as the audience's eyes and ears, as she sets out from Iran to reach her sister in Kandahar before a fast-approaching eclipse; the sister wrote a letter vowing to commit suicide during the last eclipse of the 20th century.

        Nafas is a journalist living in Canada. When the family fled, her younger sister was left behind in Afghanistan, where she lost her legs to a land mine and lost her hope to the repressive life imposed by rulers who would not allow women to study, work outside the home or travel alone.

        That rule forces Nafas to bargain relentlessly for escorts to help her reach Kandahar; every step is colored by fear of Taliban enforcers who stop anyone anywhere for questioning, and rob them of their belongings.

        Nafas travels with a family, with a little boy (poignantly played by Sadou Teymouri), and with an American Muslim (Hassan Tantai) who acts as a de-facto physician for a small village, and with a small army of veiled women.

        Along the way she encounters immeasurable misery, the result of grinding poverty and a plague of land mines. One of the movie's most striking moments takes place at an overburdened Red Cross station where a relief flight drops artificial legs by parachute into a swarm of mine victims.

        Kandahar ends on a note of despair; its bleak mood may be eased for today's audience by the knowledge that, for the moment, hope may no longer be a stranger in Afghanistan.

If you go
               • What: Kandahar

        • When: Today, 7 p.m.

        • Where: Esquire Theater, 320 Ludlow Ave., Clifton.

        • Tickets: $7.50

        • Information: 281-2803.


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