Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Afghan Star -- Not a Review

Truth be told, I'm no connoisseur of documentaries. If a documentary involves Werner Herzog or Billy Mitchell it's safe to say I'm game, sure, but otherwise I catch two, maybe three such films a year at most. I should watch more, I really should, but I spend enough time in front of the television as it is (video games, reruns of Knight Rider, Steven Seagal, footage of you taking a shower, etc.) so casualties are bound to occur, and thus our friend the documentary takes a hit for the team. Nevertheless, I recently viewed director Havana Marking's breakout film Afghan Star and I have to say it really hit the spot, both as a concept and a narrative.

Granted, this post isn't a review so I'll spare you the verbose summary and analysis you've come to expect from my reviews on Psychedelic Kimchi, though at the same time I want you to check it out, so I guess I should write something about the film, correct?

At its core, Afghan Star chronicles the experience of four hopeful contestants -two male and two female- on a televised Afghan* reality show of the same name. As one may suppose, the documentary is filmed entirely within Afghanistan; a backdrop worthy, perhaps, a film all its own, but Marking instead opted to focus upon the effects pop culture and television have upon traditional Afghanistan (and vice versa) as experienced by four amiable personalities.

To an extent, the narrative is more than a tad predictable. Even before the film begins, one can surmise that Afghan Star will touch upon such topics as gender inequality, juxtaposition of traditional and modern, clash between conservative and moderate, Islamic faith, pop culture, economic disparity, etc. Both experienced and cynical viewers alike will anticipate the aforementioned issues, though the two will most likely differ in their respective reactions; with the former appreciating the story told regardless of predictability and the latter sneering at its supposed banality.

As for me, I believe that although several aspects of the film are indeed predictable, they in no way detract from its efficacy. Like all (good?) documentaries, it exhibits slight bias on the part of the filmmakers in editing and asides, but at the end of the day Marking's film does what it's supposed to do without beating viewers over the head with any discrete agenda.

So you'll see it or you won't. If you're a cynical** viewer, you'll probably spend most of your time wondering why the film portrays everything as you expected it to be and I'd suggest avoiding it. Otherwise, I say give it a go.

If I were to give it a score: 3.5 / 4 *_* (but this isn't a review, so I'm not going to)

* No, not a rug, smartass.
** Just keep in mind that being a cynic doesn't necessarily make you witty, insightful, or charming: it just makes you cynical. Congratulations.

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