by Mohsen Makhmalbaf 

Review of the film and Seville DVD  by Gary W. Tooze


In recent years Iranian cinema has emerged as somewhat of the "darling" of the Art House circuit with directors such as Abbas Kiarostami being re-discovered with retrospective festivals and many other Persian auteurs gaining exposure with the advent of Digital Versatile Discs. Directors such as Jafar Panahi (Mirror, The White Balloon, The Circle) and Dariush Mehrjui (Leila, The Pear Tree) are finding a new appreciative audience once again proving that repressive cultures can often contribute to allowing the emergence of some great insightful artists. Bundled in with this fine group is Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who, although having been around for over 20 years has been discovered by many with "Kandahar" an award winning film from 2001 with a DVD release by Canadian distributor Seville Films.
Packed with stunning photography, the bright colors come out in vibrant hues when in contrast to the muted, pale grays of the surrounding dessert landscape. "Kandahar" has gained exposure and has benefited from the unfortunate incidents of 9/11 that continue to be thrust into the current events spotlight. Regardless of which flavor of the month our illustrious media positions its focus, "Kandahar" deserves a wide audience if only for its educational factors. This film helps shed light on many misinterpretations by the public and further can contribute to decreasing the wide gap of cultural fear and hostility that surrounds our present climate. I like the phrasing that "this film takes us to a place where the news does not go".

The topic of this film is based on a true story with links to the lead actress, Niloufar Pazira. Nafas (played by Pazira) fled Afghanistan with her family during their civil war to emigrate to Canada. Her sister had been left behind in Kandahar because of her injuries sustained from a land mine.  Receiving written communication that this impediment and the surrounding climate of the country have become too much for her to bear, her sister divulges that she will commit suicide on the date of the upcoming solar eclipse. The film is Nafas story about the journey to reach her sister in time. Her journey starts near the border of Afghanistan/Pakistan and with difficulty, Nafas manages to reach Iran, where she seeks assistance.  Heavily veiled, with a confining "burka" and disguised as a peasant, she is led across war-ravaged, mine-strewn wastelands by a boy she encounters in a cemetery. The boy, Khak (played by Sadou Teymouri) was recently expelled from school for his inability to recite the Koran correctly.  To save her sister Nafas must brave illness, thieves and border guards if she is to reach the town of her birth before the eclipse. 

She meets interesting characters that all help to divulge the dysfunctional societal shortcomings of Afghanistan. Although she remains calm , there is always a strong sense of urgency to the task at hand. Nafas records her events and thoughts on a tape recorder. This helps fill in many of the details of the storyline. Through her trek she comes across many pertinent moral dilemmas expressing the dire needs of a country tormented by decades of war. 

"Kandahar" is a documentary-style film with a dream-like aura. The images we see are so vivid and clear that its failing may be that it becomes too easy to dismiss as fiction. The social awareness factor of the film leans a shade too heavily on the viewer, but regardless its message and impact are extensively effective. I believed much of what I saw as being real life circumstances for many Afghanistanis.

Through each potential pitfall that Nafas encounters we become more subtly aware of her self-sacrifice. The plight of the people and the conventions surrounding their religious beliefs can cause almost a similar reaction to Luis Buñuel's film; Las Hurdes- absurd detachment. With each passing scene our greatest struggle is to believe that what we are seeing could actually exist in the same world that we are living in... at times it seems impossible. To say "Kandahar" is an eye-opener would be understatement.

Makhmalbaf's film reminded me quite a bit of director Michelangelo Antonioni works. It could have been the barren landscape that I recall in "Il Grido", or the detachment of the characters in L'Avventura, but there is something else that gave me sense that the styling was similar. 

Perhaps slightly heavy handed for my personal tastes, I was none-the-less riveted by the events transpiring onscreen. It was a fascinating education within the backdrop of a story with melodramatic elements... but reflecting back now, I doubt there would be any way to tell this story subtly. Many should see it, but unfortunately many will not.out of

More information can be found at: http://www.kandaharthemovie.com/


The anamorphic DVD quality is as good as any I have ever seen. It rivals the best from the Criterion label with crystal clear imagery and brightness and a multitude of insightful extra features. I was so ecstatic viewing this. I would even suggest that it extends beyond the best I have ever seen. The quality of the film is absolutely perfect, as is the sound. This is the first example of Seville Pictures SIGNATURE SERIES that I am aware of and it bodes very well for DVD collectors with future releases.


The commentary of Niloufar Pazira is wonderful and insightful as is the "Lifting the Viel" news segment from CTV - W5. There is a stills photo gallery as an option in the extras menu as well as trailers both international and domestic. Included with the DVD disc is a booklet with an interview with Mohsen Makhmalbaf and more images from the film.  We have a choice of English and French (for the DVD menus as well).  There is no reason to give this DVD anything except out of . The DVD can be purchased from http://www.videoflicks.ca .

Credited cast overview: 

Niloufar Pazira .... Nafas 
Hassan Tantai .... Tabib Sahid 
Sadou Teymouri .... Khak 
Hoyatala Hakimi .... Hayat 
rest of cast listed alphabetically 
Zahra Shafahi 
Safdar Shodjai 
Mollazaher Teymouri 


Awards and Nominations for KANDAHAR

Winner - Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Cannes Film Festival 2001

Winner – UNESCO Fellini Gold Medal 2001

Nominated – Golden Palm – Cannes Film Festival 2001

Also Known As: 
Kandahar (2001) (International: English title)
Sun Behind the Moon, The (2001) (International: English title) 
Runtime: 85 
Country: France / Iran 
Language: Farsi / English / Polish 
Color: Color 
Certification: Argentina:13 / Finland:K-7 / France:U / Germany:6 / Portugal:M/12 / Sweden:7 / Switzerland:12 (canton of Geneva) / Switzerland:12 (canton of Vaud) / UK:PG 


·         16x9 Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1)

·         Exclusive commentary track by Nelofer Pazira

·         Documentary about the film produced by CTV’s W5

·         English/Farsi Audio with English subtitles or Optional French subtitles

·         Bilingual Menus (2 full and separate sets of menus)

·         International Trailer

·         Stills Gallery

·         Cast & Director Bios

·         Booklet insert featuring: “Refuge in the Dust” essay by Nelofer Pazira; Interview with director Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Hit Counter