Monday, January 18, 2010
Warning: Some spoilers in this review
Afghan Star is the Afghan-take on the hit popular television shows like American Idol and Pop Idol. In a country were power is limited and cell phone use is rising but still limited as well, the show is immensely popular. The third season in 2007 had eleven million viewers per episode. That equates to slightly less than forty-percent of the population! The show is primarily a hit because it combines many elements of diverse Afghanistan. Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazara men and women sign modern traditional and pop songs in Dari and Pashtun. Afghans both inside Afghanistan and in neighboring countries are eligible to tryout in one of the many recruiting sessions.
It is this initially surprising television sensation that has lead to the creation of the documentary Afghan Star. The documentary is about the third season of the television show. After watching the film I have gained a better understanding of the stunningly optimistic Afghan culture. It, like all cultures, wants to be modern while keeping its traditional ways (polls show the Taliban is very unpopular and most Afghans still think that the current will get better and not worse). This is a problem all cultures expierences, just think about terms like "family values" and alike. What truly is surprising is how this conflict erupts in the film. No one but the Taliban seem to have an issue that a woman competes on the show. She sings and even takes off her head veil. The straw that breaks the camels back is that she "dances" by moving back and forth while singing. When this occurs the show disowners her and she has to go into hiding. Even when she returns home a month later many locals want to kill her and harm her family.
Afghan Star is a fun movie to watch. It will leave you feeling good and slightly optimistic for the Afghan people. It will also remind you to expect the final result of Afghanistan to be something that a liberal, western democrat would reject.