BOY WHO PLAYS ON THE BUDDHAS OF BAMIYAN, THE
In 2001 the Taliban destroyed Afghanistan's 1600 year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan. The film examines the lives of refugees in Afghanistan who now lives among the ruins... in particular an eight year old boy named Mir. The film follows Mir's life through the seasons of summer, winter and spring. It also documents, through anecdotal reports by some of the refugees, many of the atrocities committed by the Taliban, who are Sunni Muslims, against the Shia Muslims.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Filmmaker Phil Grabsky says he wants people to engage with Mir and identify with his youthful experience and excitement. "The similarities between people of different nations far exceed the difference." I had read that short statement just as I was about to weatch the film, and was immediately struck by the first images. A young Afghan boy, back to camera and wearing traditional cloth head-dress, is guiding a hoop as he runs along, using a length of wire which is bent into a crook so as to form a rough U shaped guide-track. The image took me back to my boyhood in Budapest, where we kids - who had never heard of Afghanistan - would do exactly the same thing. Grabsky's point couldn't have been better illustrated.
The film takes us to the area around Bamiyan where the world's largest Buddhas - indeed sculptures - had been carved by ancients 1600 years ago, and blasted to smithereens by those guardians of faith, the Taliban, in 2001. The film canvasses the atrocities committed by and the moral bankruptcy of the deluded and destructively fundamentalist Taliban (supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) who, says one refugee, had burned the bazaar and the pharmacies - and stabbed children to death with bayonets. Why? Because they were Shia, not Sunni Muslims. But Grabsky examines this through the subjects of his film, as he documents the lives of these ordinary Afghans living in extraordinary times.
Mir is indeed an ordinary eight year old: irrepressible, cheeky, energetic and playful, his acceptance of life as it is portrayed to him quite humbling. Harsh life or not, he laughs and mocks fate.
His parents, tired of their hellish existence - 20 years of wars and poverty - are like the other adults, doing their best to survive with a fatalistic resignation. What we glimpse in this film is the equality of human existence. We all need food, shelter, security and love. In what measure we are able to experience these things makes the difference to our experiences, but it doesn't alter our parallel humanity.
But there's laughter, too, more than we might expect. And unexpected insights, such as the deal between a young man and an old man; the latter's two previous wives had died, and he offered the young man his only daughter in exchange for the young man's widow mother. The mother gave birth once again - this time to Mir, and the young man became Mir's rather older half brother. Practicalities reign.
Other footage shows the daily lives of Afghans, on the roads, in the streets and at work.
But it's when Grabsky's camera sits in on typical domestic rows (about getting more firewood or getting a job, or washing a baby's hands) that the intimacy of the film has its biggest impact. Or when they tell off a bunch of 'gypsies' who raided an aid truck, the old woman yelling at them top "eat shit!". It's those moments that bring us close to these people, and help our understanding of the human condition, wherever it is found.
Email this article
BOY WHO PLAYS ON THE BUDDHAS OF BAMIYAN, THE (PG)
CAST: Documentary featuring Mir Hussain
PRODUCER: Amanda Wilkie
DIRECTOR: Phil Grabsky
SCRIPT: Phil Grabsky
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phil Grabsky
EDITOR: Phil Reynolds
MUSIC: Dimitri Tchamouroff
PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/A
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Gil Scrine Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: July 15; Melbourne: August 26; Brisbane: September 30; Canberra: October 28, 2004