[ENTERTAINMENT]Behind the burka: an Afghan journey

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Behind the burka: an Afghan journey

"The war in Afghanistan, with all of its bullets and missiles, is over. We have to start a new campaign for love, medicine and food," said Han Bi-ya at a recent local preview of the film "Kandahar." Ms. Han is a former travel expert on remote countries, now working for an international refugee relief agency. Her statement is true to what the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf has tried to show in his recent film, "Kandahar." Kandahar is, of course, well known these days as the home of Mullah Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The movie is showing at Hypertheque Nada (02-766-3390) in Daehangno, Seoul.

The JoongAng Ilbo recently conducted an e-mail interview with the director, whose film on Afghanistan is a sort of hybrid between a documentary and fiction. He previously directed "The Cyclist" (1987), also dealing with Afghanistan refugees. In his latest film, Makhmalbaf presents how desolate their reality is, not through bloodcurdling scenes of bombs and bullets, but through the burka, head-to-toe garments the Taliban forced all women to wear in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is now contributing nothing to the world," wrote Makhmalbaf, who is from Afghanistan himself. "It is making no achievements in science or the arts. I tried to picture the depression of the country in a realistic way."

The director notes the reality of living in a land of war and famine, and appeals to his viewers for humanitarian interest and most of all love. But is he trying to take the side of the Taliban? At this, he firmly says, "This film has nothing to do with being political. The quintessence of the film is definitely humanism. More than 10 million women in Kandahar go without faces. Which can be more surreal?"

The film is simply structured. Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) is a journalist based in Canada, who escaped from Afghanistan years before. One day, she gets a letter from her sister who still lives in her homeland, saying she will commit suicide on the day when the next total eclipse takes place. Nafas decides to go and try to rescue her sister, even though she risks her own life to do so. The film is a record of all she sees on the difficult trek from Iran to Afghanistan.

"The film was shot in a place in Afghanistan, within 2 kilometers of the Iranian border," he said. "I had to change shooting locations every day because the place was tightly guarded. I had to disguise myself as a native of the place, since I could sense the danger of being kidnapped or even being assassinated. On one occasion, somebody came up to me and asked if I knew where Makhmalbaf is shooting."

The film depicts people driven to the edge, but still searching for hope. Men who lost arms and legs from landmines run on crutches to pick up artificial legs dropped from Red Cross planes. Widows try anything to get their children to school because schools provide meals.

"I thought about quitting many times in the middle of filming. Every day I was faced with a different sight of sorrow and tragedy. I once provided food for one month to a refugee camp," Makhmalbaf recalled.

by Park Jeong-ho

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