Friday, October 11, 2019

A Kandahar Away Is Must See TV

A Kandahar Away is a complete surprise --a compelling but beguiling documentary about one man's decision to honour his home town of Kandahar by building a war memorial in another Kandahar --a Canadian prairie hamlet so small the entire population is 15 people.
This is one of those must-see productions we can still occasionally catch on Canadian TV.  The premiere is on Documentary Channel Saturday October 20 at 9 p.m.
It's a true life exploration of the emotional gulf that divides generations and was beautifully directed by Canadian filmmaker Aisha Jamal.
She also co-stars in the true life saga of her  articulate  and sensitive father  Abdul Jamal who remembers the days in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he grew up before being forced to migrate with his family to Canada.
Somehow Abdul discovered there was a second Kandahar in Saskatchewan and his heart ached so much for his home town he planned a trip with his family to explore this hamlet --it was named by Canadian soldiers returning from the war but in recent decades has deteriorated into a few habitable homes and nothing else.
The Jamals journey to this place with their five children who have grown up in Canada and have Canadian sensibilities.
All are surprised he wants to build a war memorial to the fallen Canadian soldiers --158 soldiers have died in the conflict which seems never ending. But he also wants to honour Afghan civilians who died in the war.
What do the few residents of Canada's Kandahar think of this? Some seem surprised or even bemused --they rarely see tourists at the best of times.
Aisha is such an accomplished filmmaker she makes us care for Abdul and his quest.
She also appreciates the skepticism of her siblings who wonder why build a monument in a place tourists never visit.
There are wonderful portraits drawn of the local Kandaharites -the mayor, the old man who spends winter snowed under in his tiny cabin and  the coffee shop waitress among others
We see the townsfolk  kicking up their heels at a local dance--they seem so accepting of the newcomers in their midst.  Abdul even gets to propose his plans to a surprised Canadian general Rick Hillier.
See, nobody wants to discourage him. Most of his children are silently opposed to the plan. They figure Abdul must discover reality of the situation for himself.
What Aisha has done is paint a vivid portrait of generational conflict --we all come from other countries and retain a vivid if misleading image of what it was like back then.
Abdul must confront reality for himself. His children must respect his deep wishes.Aisha has caught all the ups and downs of their journey beautifully.  The theme is universal --one man's dreams and home sickness confronting the harshness of  reality.
Says filmmaker Jamal: "I started this film without knowing how it would end. There were endless surprises particularly the wonderful way the Canadian residents of Kandahar took to my family. And it's a voyage that still continues."
As of air date Adbul Jamal remains determined to build his war memorial in the Canadian hamlet of Kandahar.
MY RATING: ****.

No comments: