×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Camp Victory, Afghanistan

Carol Dysinger's excellent, thought-provoking "Camp Victory, Afghanistan" observes the passing American parade from a fixed Afghan vantage.

With:
With: Fazil Ahmad Sayar, Michael Shute. (English, Dari, Pashto dialogue)

Carol Dysinger’s excellent, thought-provoking “Camp Victory, Afghanistan” observes the passing American parade from a fixed Afghan vantage: At a barren army outpost in Herat, a revolving door of National Guard soldiers arrive, “teach, coach and mentor,” then leave. A clear-eyed look at an irretrievably messy situation, the docu seems miles away from the life-and-death tension of a combat-centered film like “Restrepo” and will probably attract less notice, though as this timely chronicle demonstrates, the war to win the hearts and minds of Afghan soldiers carries its own perils and paradoxes.

Dysinger opens her film with an ominous Taliban proverb: “You have the clocks, we have the time.” Indeed, impatience rules the day for American advisers, easily frustrated by the impasse at which they find themselves; the situation is outlined with rare perspicacity by the pic’s de facto protagonist, Afghan Gen. Fazil Ahmad Sayar, a basset-faced veteran of three decades of war (he joined up at age 13). Vivid establishing shots of the Afghan recruits accompany Sayar’s concise assessment of the prevailing conditions: Eighty percent of the army is illiterate; the officers are clueless; the soldiers’ loyalty extends no further than their paychecks; and the government is rife with corruption, commands no respect and appropriates American millions earmarked for development, thereby sending jobless, unprotected Afghans over to the Taliban.

Popular on Variety

Dysinger picks up the action in 2005, during the last months of the Vermont National Guard’s tour, as Americans grapple with local troops who arrive late for maneuvers and fail to show up for literacy classes, as well as those who covertly sell ammo to the enemy and radio their positions to the Taliban. The fly-on-the-wall presence of Dysinger’s intently observational camera records the soldiers’ inflexible by-the-book commands, the new recruits’ nodding incomprehension and the seasoned commanders’ weariness.

Also captured are flare-ups, such as when a beloved medic is felled in action; though Americans are prohibited from direct fighting, they accompany Afghans on missions, and Dysinger films one such foray with handheld immediacy. The Americans’ anger is palpable and openly admitted, one Vermonter confessing his desire to kill every Afghan in sight.

A changing of the guard brings a contingent of Oregonians headed by Col. Michael Shute, an Army lifer from New Jersey, with a radically different approach. He refuses to mentor Sayar, a man whose war experience surpasses his own, instead patiently building trust and mutual respect. The quietly appreciative exchanges between Sayar and Shute provide fleeting glimpses of what a genuine American-Afghan alliance might produce and allows Dysinger, who accumulated more than 300 hours of footage over her three-year stint, to structure her docu from a subtly dualist point of view.

Tech credits are above average. Dysinger, who also served as d.p., contrasts the claustrophobic disarray of the army camp’s interior, where soldiers grin at the camera but disappear when things get tough, with the timeless vistas that stretch unbroken beyond the camp’s gates.

Camp Victory, Afghanistan

Production: A Bolo Prods. and Independent Television Service production in association with the Sundance Documentary Film Program. Produced by Carol Dysinger, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Dallas Brennan Rexer. Executive producer, Sally Jo Fifer. Co-producer, Lindsay Washick. Directed by Carol Dysinger.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Dysinger; editors, Mary Lampson, Mary Manhardt; music, Sasha Gordon; re-recording mixer, Tom Efinger; sound designer, Eric Gitelson. Reviewed at Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York, June 17, 2010. (Also in SXSW Film Festival.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With: With: Fazil Ahmad Sayar, Michael Shute. (English, Dari, Pashto dialogue)

More Film

  • The Day is Long and Dark

    Francisco Barreiro Cast in Upcoming Julio Hernández Cordón Project (EXCLUSIVE)

    Julio Hernández Cordón, one of Mexico’s most-awarded independent filmmakers over the last decade, has found the leading man for his next feature “The Day is Long and Dark (My Friends are Vampires),” in Fantastic Fest best actor winner Francisco Barreiro, star of Adrián García Bogliano’s “Here Comes the Devil.”. Barreiro’s casting was shared with Variety from Buenos [...]

  • Macabre

    Rio Fest’s Compact Edition Opens Amidst Sectorial Crisis

    RIO DE JANEIRO  — The 21st Rio Intl. Film Fest opens Monday Dec. 9t with the screening of Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” in the Odeon landmark theater. The smaller than usual edition, which was almost cancelled due to the lack of municipal backing, reflects the crisis of Brazil’s film sector, involved in a battle with the administration [...]

  • Papa-YouTuber

    Peru’s ‘Papa YouTuber’ Goes Global (EXCLUSIVE)

    Argentine sales agency FilmSharks Int’l label The Remake Company has sold remake rights at Ventana Sur to Peruvian family comedy hit “Papa YouTuber” (“YouTuber Dad”) to Mexico’s Cinepolis and Italy’s Colorado Films, with several other territories pending. Advanced discussions are underway in Germany, with Spain, France and the U.S. also pending. “The U.S. deal will [...]

  • Elia Suleiman attends the screening of

    'Pleasure Is Extremely Political,' Palestinian Filmmaker Elia Suleiman Says

    In a freewheeling masterclass held at the Marrakech Film Festival on Thursday, director Elia Suleiman offered as concise a mission statement as can be, defining his guiding beliefs in four short words. “Pleasure is extremely political,” said the Palestinian director, whose films have approached the fraught nature of life in the occupied territories with a [...]

  • Panel-Ventana-Sur-2019-1

    Ventana Sur: Industry Luminaries Converge, Talk Women In Cinema

    BUENOS AIRES – Ventana Sur’s Opening Windows conference series welcomed an esteemed line-up of women in film to Buenos Aires’ UCA campus on Wednesday afternoon for a panel that sought to familiarize the audience with the enormous weight of breaking into a male-dominated industry throughout the years. Among the panelists was Argentine Producer Lita Stantic, [...]

  • ALMAMULA

    Eurimages Winning Project ‘Almamula’ Stands Out at Ventana Sur’s Proyecta

    Juan Sebastian Torales arrived at this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase for Latin American projects as one of the event’s most buzzed up debutants with his upcoming semi-autobiographical feature “Almamula.” In September, Torales and producer Pilar Peredo, from France’s Tu Vas Voir, pitched the project at San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum, where it won the Eurimages [...]

  • Leila Kilani's 'Joint Possession' Questions the

    Moroccan Director Leila Kilani on 'New Type of Hero' in 'Joint Possession'

    Moroccan director Leïla Kilani presented the rough cut of her second feature film, “Joint Possession,” in the post-production section of Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops. She spoke to Variety about the film, which she describes as a “war film, inside a family.” Kilani’s debut feature “Sur la Planche” (“On the Edge”), about two women flirting [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content