Phil Grabsky’s “The Boy Mir” catches up with the protagonist of 2004’s “The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan,” whose refugee family was then living among the remains of the giant statues destroyed by Taliban forces three years earlier. Offering an interesting peek at everyday rural Afghan life in circumstances still unstable but past immediate crisis, the helmer’s follow-up feature (which won the docu prize at Santa Barbara) should follow its well-traveled predecessor’s route to international fest play and tube sales.
The irrepressibly cheerful Mir, met as an 8-year-old in the first pic, grows to the brink of adulthood here as episodic progress checks in with him roughly every year since. When his family is one of 100 left in the cold by too few foreign-aid houses being built at Bamiyan, they decide they’ll return to their home up north. Life is better in their native village, particularly since two things that had chased them away — drought and the Taliban — are no longer issues, at least for the moment.
Apparently unable to work since a mining accident years earlier, father Abdul is of two minds about Mir’s continuing education: Staying in school is the only way the boy can better himself, yet that choice leaves long-suffering brother-in-law Khushdel as the family’s only breadwinner. Even when Mir does full-time labor mining coal, grazing livestock and so forth, finances remain tight. As a result, his parents are forever at each others’ throats.
The scarcity of educational resources, mixed feelings about foreign intervention, occasional modernizing upgrades(as when a collectively bought generator brings the village electricity at last) and other larger issues surface. But the focus stays primarily on Mir, who’s retained the positive outlook that had once seemed sure to fade with childhood, as well as soulful-eyed Khushdel, who uncomplainingly continues to shoulder the family’s financial burden and is seemingly taken for granted by its shriller if less productive members.
Shot in spurts over several years, the pic is technically a bit more variable than “The Boy Who Plays,” with handsome landscape shots alongside more rough-‘n’-ready lensing.