out of Five
Running time: 88
A revelatory and eye-opening film, this harrowing documentary documenting the shocking dangers of daily life in Afghanistan is ambitiously directed and wholly absorbing to watch.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Nagieb Khaja, My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the daily life of Afghan civilians. Because Khaja and his team would not be able to move around safely outside the Lashkar Gah district in Afghanistan, the journalist and filmmaker hands out mobile phones to the Afghan people living in rural areas in the hope of capturing an accurate portrayal of what life is really like in a war zone. Compiling all this footage (which include everything from children seeking shelter from fire-fights to a farmer mourning the loss of his 400 fruit trees), My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone provides a rare glimpse of Afghan daily life, as well as a documented journey of Khaja’s own experience of taking dangerous risks for the sake of his project.
From the opening scenes, which show the understandably nervous filmmakers as they prepare to travel from the director’s home country of Denmark to Afghanistan, My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone is straight away involving and utterly engaging. Having tolerated almost 35 years of local armed violence, it’s compelling to see the Afghan’s side of the story for a change, as opposed to the stories from Western soldiers’ point of views. On that note, Nagieb Khaja’s ambitious and selfless journey to provide a voice for the Afghan community despite the dangers involved (which is documented through merged footage of the director and his team agonising over the potentially lethal consequences of their filmmaking) is also admirable and inspiring to see.
The Equally Good
The graininess and candidacy of the videos are themselves a little chilling to watch, as they provide rare and revelatory glimpses into what life really is like in a war zone. In particular, the palpable sexism towards women and girls (whose futures are worryingly uncertain) is a little unsettling to see, thanks to this documentary’s strong communication of the issue. Of course, the viewpoint with a documentary like this relies an awful lot on the editing, but for now, Khaja’s vision makes for an engrossing and informative watch in so many ways.
With its compassionate direction and eye-opening video footage depicting life in a war zone, My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone is a harrowing documentary but is engaging, enlightening and definitely worth seeking out. Recommended.