Diary-style docu with flashes of self-deprecating humor, “Postcards From Tora Bora” chronicles femme helmer Wazhmah Osman’s return to Afghanistan after more than two decades in America. With co-director Kelly Dolak, she wanders the streets of Kabul pointing out the bullet-ridden ruins of the comfortable middle-class neighborhood that she left after the Soviet invasion in 1979, when she was only 6. Wazhmah’s pilgrimage harbors another agenda, as she visits her doctor/father who abandoned his family in order to save his country. “Postcards” reps a refreshingly wry addition to the growing body of films on the war-ravaged nation.
The sole vestiges of the beautiful, modern city of Wazhmah’s memories are displayed only in relatives’ home movies, liberally sprinkled throughout, and on the back of her plane ticket, still emblazoned with pictures of vanished tourist attractions.
The filmmakers use deliberately abstract, childish drawings to depict falling bombs and low-flying aircraft over ’70s photographs of now-destroyed landmarks. An abstract representation of the 6-year-old Wazhmah starts to materialize also, as an animated cutout with sunglasses popping up all over the countryside.
Wazhmah’s attempt to reconcile the past and the present is fancifully presented through animation and cutouts, since she did not personally experience the transition. Instead, she saw her family flee first to the lawless land between Pakistan and Afghanistan, now known as Tora Bora, and then to the States, where her mother was forced to support the family unaided, her father having chosen to remain behind.
Like other recent films (“Blame It on Fidel,” “Man of Two Havanas”), “Postcards” deals with a daughter’s resentment toward her father for having forsaken his family for a greater cause. The more worthy the cause, the more frustrating the sense of betrayal, because expressing such resentment makes one appear selfish and petty.
Wazhmah’s case is particularly dire, since her father ranks as a great humanitarian, having founded medical clinics all over Afghanistan. In the course of the docu, Wazhmah visits the prison where her father was tortured by the Russians before the family left the country.
As crude drawings distance Wazhmah’s girlish fantasies, so through the camera her real-life aging father, striving to save lives in impossibly primitive conditions, begins to replace the deadbeat dad of her girlhood anger.
Tech credits are commensurate with pic’s homemade feel, while the constantly stressed presence of a co-director/friend behind the camera mirrors Wazhmah’s dual girl/woman perspective.