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Afghan Star [Import]

Habib Amiri , Setara Hussainzada , Havana Marking    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

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Afghan Star, the Sundance-award-winning documentary by Havana Marking, provides powerful evidence of how pop culture succeeds despite repression. The film chronicles the American Idol-like television show that premiered in 2005 on Tolo TV, an independent channel in Afghanistan that has capitalized on the restrictions lifted on music throughout the country in 2004. Afghan Star, as a television phenomenon, attracts up to 11 million viewers per episode, making it clear that it symbolizes more than a superficial pop music competition. Marking does a wonderful job of splicing political facts in among footage following four exuberant final contestants, Setara, Rafi, Hameed, and Lema, who range from ages 19 to 25. Footage of urban ruins, tattered flags, and life in poverty are carefully woven in with interviews and profiles of these singers that each explain how music is a sign of freedom to their people. Tender personal moments, such as Lema in the salon getting her make-up done, or Rafi wondering at a gorgeous tiled mosque, provide real glimpses into a mysterious world. While the focus is on the television show, many scenes unfold on the streets abroad, such as one at the Kabul Zoo, where the "only pig in Afghanistan" resides. Humor abounds throughout to illustrate a human resilience that transforms a simple pop-song competition into a political race. Each contestant, as a resident of differing regions, campaigns with posters and more to not only garner votes but unite the warring peoples of their countries. In one segment, the Tolo TV head of production explains how high the stakes really are in a country where people are finally allowed to vote with their cell phones, in relative safety. Moreover, there is added drama when one singer shows her hair and dances on stage. Straying slightly off course to follow her story, one learns of the life-threatening dangers she faces for what Americans would consider a basic right. Once one eventually begins to understand how controversial Afghan Star is, it's astounding that this documentary was made at all. Not to mention, the music throughout this startling movie is fantastic. All the more reason to support Afghan Star and the freedom it symbolizes. --Trinie Dalton

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pop Culture Shows Us the Daring Search for Democracy in Afghanistan April 1 2010
By David Crumm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Is peace and some semblance of democracy possible in Afghanistan? Is there any value in American popular culture?

Filmmaker Havana Marking's startling documentary, "Afghan Star," grapples with both Big Questions and---along the way---she shows us scenes we'd never imagine here in the U.S. The documentary covers the debut season of an Afghan network TV clone of "American Idol." You can chuckle at the quality of make-shift Afghan pop culture---such as it is after years of the Taliban and warfare. This new pop culture often is pretty basic stuff. Before one "Afghan Star" production, for example, the documentary cameras take us back stage to show the Afghan network-TV crew toggling together what looks like a jumbled pile of scrap electrical components they've found to run their lights and cameras.

But ... You'll sit there through the whole thing fascinated by the window it opens into this mountainous country where we've been at war for so many years. I came away from the film deeply worried for the future of women and young people in Afghanistan. But I also came away greatly encouraged at the bravery and creative spirit of these young men and women delivering "Afghan Star" into families' living rooms whether they own big Kabul homes---or they're wiring a makeshift aerial on the roof of a mud hut in the mountains.

Maybe Americans could learn a few things from the grassroots campaigning Afghans eagerly wage for their stars on this hit TV show! Unlike "American Idol," there's very serious campaigning underway in Afghanistan. One reason is that the entertainers are chosen from across the country and represent many different ethnic groups. So Afghans from children to old men crisscross their regions, handing out simply made posters and handbills--urging Afghans to pick up their cell phones and vote for regional singers. It's amazing footage. Every American civics class should show "Afghan Star" to teach our youth something about the infectious power of democracy.

We're not alone in recommending it. The film already has received praise from Oprah, Jon Stewart and the Sundance film festival among others. Enjoy it with friends.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Jan. 30 2010
By P. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Don't miss this incredible window into a citizenship's hidden spirit emerging
to embrace democracy through the simple act of voting for the forbidden right
to sing. It seems the nation finds its courage through supporting the brave
hopeful performers. Simply wonderful and inspiring.
4.0 out of 5 stars Afganistan's version of "American Idol" May 25 2013
By JMcBee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Initially I found it really fun to watch plus it confirmed my preconception that most people are pretty much the same no matter where they come from. The quality of the acts was much less than that of the American brand but their enthusiasm was infectious. I was really getting a kick out of this documentary, until a woman contestant defied tradition. And the results wiped the smile off of my face immediately. As much as I would like for it not to be so, there are very serious differences between our societies, and very serious consequences to defying traditions in some of these third world countries.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Sept. 8 2012
By Timegoesby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I was interested in this film because I wanted to see a different side of Afghanistan besides the war-torn country seen in the news. This film presented a more relatable side to Afghanis through their enjoyment of pop music and the popularity of Afghan Star. I learned Afghanistan has different tribes and nations - such as Pashtuns, Hazara etc. I learned that when the Taliban ruled, dancing, music, and TVs were banned. During that time, men could not shave their beards or comb their hair.

I can see Afghanistan is still a very conservative country. Poor Setara, her life is in danger just because she uncovered her hair a little bit and danced to music!

This is a good film. I like their music ~ the secret of my heart is coming ~

How come some of the Afghans can speak good English? I thought the education system was lacking there.
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic, Powerful and Inspiring April 4 2012
By Ranjan Chari - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This movie provides a good reason why the US should not leave Afghanistan before getting the country organized - at least to the point of controlling the Taliban. Yes, its not really a U.S. problem with what goes on in Afghanistan but who else is going to come along and help the Afghan people if not the U.S.A.?

The Afghan people are a strong bunch who have survived way too many years of wars. A lot of their hardship could have been avoided if foreign powers had not meddled so much with the country and used it as a battlefield for a proxy-war.

This film shows us how the Afghan people want music and desperately wish to express themselves democratically. The bravery of women participating the Afghan Star contest is astounding. In a country where people think its o.k. to kill a woman just because she danced a bit on a stage, I found this movie remarkable.

The film is very honest, shows us exactly how life is in Afghanistan and is very accurate in expressing the feelings of its people towards this new 'American Idol' type contest.

Just a few decades ago, Afghanistan was a not-so-bad place. A lot of Western backpackers used to go there...

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