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Movie Review: Afghan Star

Alternate Title: Afghan Idol

Story: How is it possible that after watching this terrific film I now know more about Afghanistan than watching the news coverage for the past eight years? First time English director Havana Marking has opened a window into Afghanistan's culture for all of us to see. And what a view it is.

In 1996 the Taliban ruled that it was a crime to dance, watch TV or listen to music. The loosening of their grip in 2004 allowed a flood of TV stations to begin to operate. Tolo Tv is the biggest. They produce the very popular TV show Afghan Star that is watched by one third of the country. They vote for their favorite performer by texting. It is the closest thing to democracy that most of them have ever witnessed.

This informative and entertaining documentary follows four of the top contenders for the big prize. The four represent just some of the tribal factions that dominate the Afghan culture and also produce most of the problems. Over 2000 contestants entered (and yes, we get to se some of the very bad tryouts) and they were proud to announce that three of the entrants were woman. Magically, two of the woman make it to the finals.

Afghanistan has a long way to go in its quest for modernity and this eye-opening film helps to understand the problems they have yet to conquer.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DentE2ydnMI

Acting: It is a documentary so this category does not apply.

Trivia: This was the first time an Afghan film had made it to Sundance Film Festival, let alone won both the World Cinema Documentary Audience and Directors award. Congratulations to English director Havana Marking for her brave efforts. Afghan Star' sent TV host Daoud Sediqi (think Ryan Seacrest) to Utah’s Sundance Film Festival in January, where he watched a film in which he starred collect two prizes, including the audience prize for world documentary. Sediqi never returned to Afghanistan.

Predilection: None

Critters: The Kabel Zoo was featured during one of the contestant's close ups. Peacock, lion, coyotes and the only pig in Afghanistan. FYI - The pig, a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, was quarantined because visitors to the zoo were worried it could spread the new H1N1 flu strain, commonly known as swine flu.

Sex Spectrum: You have got to be kidding. One of the female contestants gets death threats for moving inappropriately on stage.

Soundtrack: Ethnic music dominates.

Visual Art: Afghanistan is mostly a pile of rocks.

Theater Audience: About ten other people. We had a short discussion amongst ourselves about how eye opening this film was to all of us.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: The Taliban and zealots make me squirm.

Drift Factor: I was fascinated throughout.

Predictability Level: Moderate.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Hmmmm.

Length: 90 minutes