Review: ‘View From A Grain of Sand’

As if a resurgent Taliban and an Afghan government in disarray weren't worrisome enough, Meena Nanji's study of the state of women in Afghanistan, "View From a Grain of Sand," adds another problem that deserves genuine concern.

As if a resurgent Taliban and an Afghan government in disarray weren’t worrisome enough, Meena Nanji’s study of the state of women in Afghanistan, “View From a Grain of Sand,” adds another problem that deserves genuine concern. Disputing rosy media accounts of an improved situation for women, docu profiles three females who are barely coping with state of women’s rights in their homeland. PBS-style filmmaking and storytelling makes this a sure item for pub tube airings and widespread international broadcasts.

Like “Beneath the Veil” (reported by Saira Shah and lensed before the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban) and Renee Bergan’s 2003 “Sadaa E Zan,” Nanji’s project greatly benefits from assistance of the Revolutionary Assn. of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), the country’s only organization empowered to shed light on a persistently severe climate where women remain second-class citizens. If pic sometimes feels close to an agit-prop work for RAWA, it’s because the org provides the sole refuge for Afghan women.

Most impressively, Nanji relates recent Afghan history in a way that’s less poetic but more purely informative and emotional than in David B. Edwards and Gregory Whitmore’s recent “Kabul Transit.”

A remarkable treasure trove of archival footage of Kabul in the 1960s-’70s reveals a modern-leaning city with a bustling economy and a thriving intellectual class — and nary a burka in sight. Images underline a key point conveyed by Nanji’s narration — that the Taliban’s oppressive brand of Islam, known as Wahabism, was utterly alien to the country before the 1990s.

More history passages demonstrate how U.S. support of Islamic fundamentalist rebels opposing invading Soviet forces in the 1980s actually planted the seeds for the Taliban’s rise. Pic then shifts to a study of three contempo women — Shapiray Hassan, Wajia, Roeena Mohmand — all of whom want to help improve their homeland.

Hope, though, eventually seems quite slim as the women realize that their anticipated emancipation is far from reality. Nanji doesn’t hesitate to lay considerable blame for the current problems on entrenched, medievalist warlords and the lack of U.S. efforts to dislodge them.

Filmmaking in PBS mode will unfortunately lessen docu’s chances of inclusion in top-tier fests, which have proven to be the best platform for launching topical docus set in Middle East hot spots to a wider public. However, Nanji’s work is tailor-made for group screenings and discussions.

View From A Grain of Sand

U.S.-Afghanistan

Production

An Ecesis Films production. Produced by Meena Nanji. Co-producer, Amie Williams. Directed, written by Meena Nanji.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Ann Kaneko, Denise Brassard, Nanji; editors, William Haugse, Tchavdar Georgiev; music, Andrew Hagen; sound, Jim Watson, Ezra Dweck; sound designer, Jon K. Oh; associate producers, Libby Horne, Jessica Croxton. Reviewed at REDCAT, Los Angeles, Nov. 13, 2006. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Shapiray Hassan, Daoud Hassan, Wajia, Roeena Mohmand. Narrator: Meena Nanji (English, Dari dialogue)
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety

Loading