Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

“Afghan Star”

Here’s a good way to get some insight into Afghanistan and also have a good time: As soon as you get a chance, go see the Afghan Star, one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a long time. The documentary is about the Afghan version of American Idol -and the revolutionary impact that ...

584448_090624_star2.jpg
584448_090624_star2.jpg

Here's a good way to get some insight into Afghanistan and also have a good time: As soon as you get a chance, go see the Afghan Star, one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in a long time.

The documentary is about the Afghan version of American Idol -and the revolutionary impact that the show had on Afghan culture. It provides unexpected insights into tribal conflicts, into the Afghan sense of nationalism, and most of all, how Taliban rule felt to so many Afghans. The four leading contenders in the film are a Tajik man from the north, a Hazara man from the center (I think), a Pushtun woman from Kandahar, and a woman whose ethnicity I didn't catch from Heart. The film is especially strong in showing the reaction to the provocative actions of this last participant. The host of Afghan Star, Daoud Sediqi, had to flee the country, and recently was granted political asylum by the United States. He spoke after the showing I attended Friday at the American Film Institute's annual documentary festival. "I was the Ryan Seacrest of my country," he said, but had to flee it because of credible death threats. Despite that, he said, "I am happy. I need freedom."

In the film, Sidiqi angrily declares, "Taliban is FINISHED." The director, Havana Marking, who spoke alongside him after the showing, noted that in the current Afghan security environment, "It's not safe to say things like that anymore."   

Here’s a good way to get some insight into Afghanistan and also have a good time: As soon as you get a chance, go see the Afghan Star, one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in a long time.

The documentary is about the Afghan version of American Idol -and the revolutionary impact that the show had on Afghan culture. It provides unexpected insights into tribal conflicts, into the Afghan sense of nationalism, and most of all, how Taliban rule felt to so many Afghans. The four leading contenders in the film are a Tajik man from the north, a Hazara man from the center (I think), a Pushtun woman from Kandahar, and a woman whose ethnicity I didn’t catch from Heart. The film is especially strong in showing the reaction to the provocative actions of this last participant. The host of Afghan Star, Daoud Sediqi, had to flee the country, and recently was granted political asylum by the United States. He spoke after the showing I attended Friday at the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival. “I was the Ryan Seacrest of my country,” he said, but had to flee it because of credible death threats. Despite that, he said, “I am happy. I need freedom.”

In the film, Sidiqi angrily declares, “Taliban is FINISHED.” The director, Havana Marking, who spoke alongside him after the showing, noted that in the current Afghan security environment, “It’s not safe to say things like that anymore.”   

Bonus fact: In the film, the final round of competition takes place in the same hotel ballroom in Kabul where my high school’s junior prom was held in 1971. 

Anyone deploying to Afghanistan would benefit by watching this film (and also by watching the far grimmer Osama, about the days of the Taliban). It’ll be opening at small theaters around the country all summer, and eventually will be released on DVD. 

Speaking of movies and the military, I also see Peter Chiarelli wrote the new Sandra Bullock hit movie The Proposal. This isn’t the vice chief of the Army, but his son.

qbac07/Flickr

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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