This is not a film I normally see. And this is good. Yes, that good.
I went in to this film not knowing what to expect. It was this or "Goosebumps" movie. As much as I loved Goosebumps Book Series growing up and I did R.L. Stine, I did! This lured me in many new ways.
I took my beer and popcorn and went into the show.
No ads- very important, of course.
Sitting next to a retired couple from Cleveland Park in Washington DC (who may come speak to my Girl Scouts, woot) and many ambassadors, UN people, and other film reviewers.
The movie started. I sat behind one of the producers of the film.
As someone who felt less regarded in some ways, I felt privileged to view this movie.
There was not a moment that was boring or left in misunderstanding.
As someone said the Q&A, it has comedy but with the restrained laughter. To appropriately laugh at the moments but never ever at the people portrayed in the movie. This was such an important and amazing distinction.
Another viewer, who happened to be sitting next to me, (and offered to come talk to my girl scouts, always I pull double duty), asked about how many of the people who were hired for the film were actually Afghanis and how much they were paid. They responded saying they had a lot that were not actual Afghanis, but some were and that they were paid well. (A definite plus).
It is amazing-- apparently, they have places, within Morocco and within Afghanistan that are used in the film and that is all these areas are use for.
One of the speakers at the q&a was a gentlemen who started a TV station, Tolo TV, that feature Afghan Star, equiv of American Idol, and took out 250,000 to start a business in television.
If you know history of Kabul and Afghanistan, there is a lot of moderation of what is shown. It is not normal to have a woman sing or be on TV. In fact, women and their families/villages can be killed for allowing this. Yes, you read that right, if they "allow it".
A girl, the daughter of the head of the village, loves to sing. To do so, she has to go to a cave- where no one can here her. It's the law, she is not suppose to sing. But she does. She has the voice of an angel. Every night she watches Afghan Star on her TV, with her TV attached by a car jumper cable to a battery for power. The songs she learned are not in her native tongue. They are in, you guessed it, English.
When Mr. Richie Lanz goes out on one last gig with his opener (Zooey Deschanel), she steals everything from him and runs. His money, his passports, everything. He is left trying to figure things out for himself with nothing in a place that does not fancy Americans.
He somehow ends up in the Pashtun village, after teaming up with a US Army Soldier (Taylor Kinney), a hooker (played by Kate Hudson) and a mercenary (Bruce Willis), where the head (Fahim Fazli) has raised his daughter right. He does not want war, but he can't ignore his neighbour enemies. He loves his daughter but can't afford the expense to have his daughter sing and is not only offended but threatens Mr. Richie if he even dares to bring it up again.
That beautiful voice belongs to a teenage girl named Salima Khan (Leem Lubany).
She does end up going on stage, you have to watch to see how, but sings in English- a song, by Cat Stevens, called "Peace Train" that centered the movie and turned it to a new direction. She does end up in the top three. Does she win a contract and $5000?
Where does it go from there? Well you have to watch the movie!
This is an amazing movie-- honestly and truly. It shows the humanity of the Afghanis. They show that they dream just the same that everyone does. We are not all so different in our wants and dreams.
I was immensely impressed by this movie and I was very moved at the humanity that was kept within the movie. You felt that you were there and experiencing them as humans not just "people" of war. It stayed true to the culture, to the want and need of doing better.
In listening to the Q and A after, you learned that this movie took 7 years to make. As many studios, in good ole fashion Hollywood tradition, all turned it away many times. One of the studios on this, started in Afghanistan and really has a major impact on the every day life of Afghans, as you can imagine.
More and more girls are starting to try to make their way... in ways that are taken advantage of in other parts of the world.
Social media presence, as we know, always have a huge impact on us and our children growing up. It is that much greater and full of impact for the children, women, and dreamers in Afghanistan and this movie really shows that. Is it the American dream they seek? Maybe, maybe not. They just seek finding themselves, like we all do.
The dramaturgy behind this movie, in my opinion, is well done. I really appreciate all that was put into and think it was genuinely a great movie.
My only critique is that it ended too early. Seriously. What happens in the end? What becomes of Salima? Maybe my want to know how it ends is the point- relating is more important than how it ends. Maybe it is that is more about relating to their lives and as they said in person, having a "happy ending, you know, because that is what people want."
Either way, I think it could be longer and more real. I want to see it in totality, including the ending. America is and should be ready for that. Maybe, add as an "extra" after the movie for those of us that want to see the full ending.
I would overall give it an A-/B+ because of the ending. Otherwise, I loved it.
I leave you with the trailer(s)!