by Charlie Crooijmans
Afghan Star is a talent show on Afghan television, like Idols in the West. In the search of the next generation of (pop) stars, over 2000 people from all over the country auditioned, among them three women. Filmmaker Havana Marking made a fascinating movie, Afghan Star, the Documentary (2009), about the situation in Afghanistan we haven’t seen in the daily news. The documentary follows the three months process from the regional auditions to the final in Kabul. The organizers of the popular show believe they can ‘move people from guns to music’. Voting by sms the public can decide which of the singers are going to stay and which one has to leave.
The vast majority of the Afghan people is younger than 45, 60% is even younger than 21! The next generation is very much influenced by what’s happening in the outside world but at the same time they tend to keep their values.
In the movie we get a better view of four the most popular contestants. Rafi, Lima, Hameed and Setara. Rafi is the pretty boy who is not interested in politics. He just wants to entertain. Hameed comes from the Hazara ethnic group and becomes their hero. From the start it’s clear that the two women encounter a lot of trouble. Lima comes from a very traditional and religious area where music is still unwanted. She however feels the urge to go on and secretly practice and learns at home. For Setara things are becoming even more complicated. She dresses like a Bollywood star and she feels free to dance. At one moment her scarf slips from her head. On television! It’s scary how the people on the street, even the young ones, react on her. Most of them think that she deserves to die!
The documentary gives a very good sight of a wrecked and developing country. It’s impressive how close Havana Marking get to the persons she’s following. At the Sundance World Cinema Competitions in 2009 this documentary was awarded Best World Cinema Documentary Director & World Cinema Documentary Audience Award.