by Barbara Black
Nelofer Pazira is a masters student in sociology, but in recent
months, her studies have been overtaken by international fame. CTRs
repeated efforts to talk to the Afghani-born actress and journalist have
met with failure: Sorry, shes in Tokyo, Shes
in London this week, She just left for New York.
Just yesterday morning, she was in Atlanta, Georgia, interviewed live
on CNN by host Paula Zahn.
The reason is that several years ago, Pazira conceived an idea for a film
based on her own efforts to find a childhood friend in Taliban-controlled
Afghanistan. She took her idea to a famous Iranian filmmaker, who made
it into a film and used Pazira in the leading role.
While Kandahar is a fine film in itself, events in Afghanistan
have catapulted it to international stardom, and Pazira is at the eye
of the storm. On CNN, she said that she hoped the film would bring context
that is missing from the general news reporting on Afghanistan and give
viewers a glimpse of a corner of the world that is very much part
Richard Schickel reviews Khandahar at length in the current issue
of Time magazine, whose cover story is about the women of Afghanistan.
He calls the film beautiful and terrifying.
Schickel writes, What we get is a movie that is at once primitive
and sophisticated, a near documentary that tells us much about harsh current
reality, yet also often achieves moments of something akin to aesthetic
When she came to Canada as a teenager with her family in 1990, Pazira
left behind a friend who, like her, was an educated and emancipated young
woman. As time went on, and life for women became almost impossible, her
friends letters indicated that she was dangerously depressed.
In the film, this suicidal young woman becomes the leading characters
sister, and the search through Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is a bleak,
sometimes wildly beautiful exploration of a desperately poor and frightened
society. Pazira made the film on location with Mohsen Makhmalbaf, but
they ventured across the border of Afghanistan only briefly, because of
Pazira wrote a full-page essay in the Oct. 29 issue of Macleans
magazine, not long after the start of the bombing of her native country.
In it, she bitterly recounts how Canadian journalists were uninterested
when she tried to tell them, in her broken English, that the Pakistan-based
mujahadeen forces the future Taliban, supported by the West at
that time were no better than the Communist government. Now, the
West claims to be saving Afghanistan from the people they so recently
supported. There was no need for a war to rid Afghanistan of the
Taliban, Pazira writes in Macleans. Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia could have destroyed the Taliban by cutting off their
financial and military support.
She continues, At ground level, the Taliban are a group of hungry
Afghan refugees, former mujahedeen forces, desperate Afghans who are indoctrinated
with Saudi Wahabbi ideology, an extreme brand of Islam, and know nothing
other than the pathology of warfare that they have experienced for 20
Kandahar was acclaimed at international film festivals in Montreal and
Toronto when it was shown late this summer, and it has been playing here