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Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) returns to Afghanistan via Iran from Canada, where she fled with her family as a child - except for her sister, who was left behind, and is now suicidal. And legless, having stepped on a mine. Nafas's perilous journey across the Afghan country, voice recorded in hand, is made urgent by her sister's deadline - the final eclipse of the 20th century, just days away. With the help of young guide Khak (Sadou Teymouri) and enigmatic doctor Tabib (Hassan Tantai), Nafas witnesses the
terrible effects of sustained conflict as she makes her way to Kandahar.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There is a scene in Kandahar that in a nutshell demonstrates the fanatic imbalance of the fundamentalist regime; it also displays the classic methods for socio-political brainwashing. Rows of young boys sit on the ground as a stern teacher walks between them. The boys, all between about 6 and 10 years old, are reading their koran, swaying rhythmically forward and backward over the books. The teacher stops them and asks a boy at random to answer a question, like 'what is a Khalishnikov'. The answer expected is learnt by rote and contains the heebeegeebie of hate and dogma. Even when the question is religious in nature, the answers are no more than postures inflicted on these children in an atmosphere of harsh discipline and fear. Scenes like this give the film a documentary feel, and so does much of the camerawork. It's a fascinating insight behind today's and yesterday's headlines through the eyes of a lone woman on a desperate journey, inside a culture we can only gape at in amazement. For a film that looks like a documentary, the performances are startling - especially the young boy Sadou Teymouri, who takes $50 (to start with) as a fee for guiding Nafas to Kandahar - and doesn't quite make it.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
When the world changed on September 11 so did the commercial prospects of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film. Kandahar became one of the best known cities on earth, George W. Bush requested a special screening of the film and it has since been revealed that a key cast member shot dead an Iranian dissident in America more than twenty years ago. The hype will help the film enormously at the box-office initially but what will sustain it is the heartwrenching story it tells. Canadian broadcaster Nelofer Pazira more or less plays herself as a journalist returning to Afghanistan to stop her sister commiting suicide and it's through her saddened eyes we witness this damning indictment of Taliban rule. Her only means of crossing the border is beneath a burqua, pretending to be one of an Iranian trader's many wives. From that moment Nafas encounters life as she may have lived it had she not been taken away at a young age. Scene after scene leaves an indelible impression as Nafas witnesses schoolboys being punished for not remembering the Koran or design specifics of a Kalashnikov rifle, a helicopter dropping artificial limbs to land mine victims in a Red Cross camp and her young guide Khak (Sadou Teymouri) prising a ring from a skeleton half buried in the desert. Nafas' visit to a doctor is perhaps the most telling. Separated by a blanket with only a small hole in the middle, she may be dying but all the medico is permitted to do is ask her to say "aah". The doctor, with whom Nafas later travels, is played by Hassan Tantai who was born David Belfield and admits to the murder of an anti-Ayatollah Khomeini exile in 1980. Makhmalbaf staunchly denies he was aware of this at any time before or during shooting. Tantai and most of the other actors are far from impressive but they do not really need to be. The sound quality is also poor and the dubbing is terrible at times but the power of its images in which real-life victims of the Taliban play themselves is where the power of the film lies. The destination is not as important as the harrowing journey presented by one of the world's great humanist filmmakers.

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(Safar e Ghandehar) (M)

CAST: Niloufar Pazira, Hassan Tantai, Sadou Teymouri

PRODUCER: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

DIRECTOR: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

SCRIPT: Mohsen Makhmalbaf


EDITOR: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

MUSIC: Cliff Eidelman, Bruno Coulais (French version)

PRODUCTION DESIGN: [Art Direction] Akbar Meshkini

RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 28, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne); October 17, 2002 (Brisbane)


VIDEO RELEASE: November 6, 2002 [Also available on DVD]

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