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Movie Review: Kandahar

Story: The timing of the release of this film could not have been better for director Mohsen Makhmalbar (Gabbeh, The Apple). An Ecumenical prize winner at last May's Cannes Film Festival, it opened in Toronto on September 8th. It's first round of play did not make a big splash but after September 11th everyone at the festival wanted to see it.

It is based on a true story about a journalist who, now living in Canada, tries to travel back to her birthplace in Kandahar to rescue her despondent sister who claims she will commit suicide during the last eclipse of the millennium. The story is episodic but its real tale is about the plight of Afghan women (that we are now all too familiar with), tribal feuding, poverty, hunger and the devastation of a landscape filled with landmines. It is not a very successful film as it struggles with identifying itself as a feature film or a documentary. There is some powerful imagery that left me thinking this could have been a much better film.

Acting: There were no professional actors used (that was obvious). The most interesting side story concerns one of the actors, Hassan Tansai. In the film, he plays an American expatriate, now living in Afghanistan, who pretends to be a doctor. It seems that in real life he is a wanted fugitive for a murder in 1980 that took place in Bethesda, Maryland. After the shooting, he fled the US to live in Iran, a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the US. He was recognized in the film and reported to the authorities. He is still at large.

Critters: Donkeys and camels.

Food: Too poor to eat.

Visual Art: There were no homes, just huts. The landscape (filmed in Pakistan) looks like a not so pretty Lawrence of Arabia set.

Blatant Product Placement: Too poor to have products.

Soundtrack: Music that one hears in Taxicabs.

Theater Audience: Just us and four other folks. We saw it at that theater I wrote about a few weeks ago that is located next to Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery. My friend has a knish. Hmm, hmm, good, he said. The bakery has some wonderful old photos of the Lower East Side. Worth a visit.

Quirky Meter: 2

Predictability Level: High

Oscar Worthy: No

Nit Picking: I wish there were more to this film.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental would be fine. You could also rent The Circle which has a similar theme but is more powerful.

Length: Too long at a little under two hours.

LOBO HOWLS: 5