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Screening of Afghan Star, a Film Forward documentary portraying pop culture in today’s Afghanistan
October 12, 2011
Director Havana Marking and moderator Isidore Bethel with the audience

Director Havana Marking and moderator Isidore Bethel with the audience

The U.S. Embassy hosted a screening of documentary film Afghan Star, Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, followed by a discussion with British film director Havana Marking and moderated by U.S. cinema student Isidore Bethel. French students, NGO leaders, and government officials interested in Afghanistan, the Muslim world and cinema, engaged a dialogue on today's Afghanistan democratic process and cross-cultural understanding. This program was organized in collaboration with Film Forward, an initiative of the Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Title: Afghan Star
Director: Havana Marking (UK)
Film Location Country: Afghanistan
Film Language: English/Pashtu/Dari
Genre: Documentary (87 minutes)

Synopsis: After 30 years of Taliban and wartime rule, pop culture is creeping back into Afghanistan. Director Havana Marking has captured it in this inspired documentary, AFGHAN STAR. An American Idol-type contest set in Afghanistan? What more intriguing inroad into a region usually represented in our news media by death and violence? To understand the magnitude of this film, we must look at the facts-2,000 contestants compete for a chance to be the next Afghan pop idol. Three of them are women. In an unheard-of precedent, all genders, ethnic groups, and age sectors are equal. More than one-third of the country watches the show and votes with text messages. For many this represents their first encounter with any kind of democratic process. Marking follows the dramatic stories of four of the contestants over three months, from regional auditions to the finals in Kabul. All is not safe for her subjects because they must actually risk their lives to sing. In a larger sense, we get a glimpse into the ongoing struggle of a country trying to segue into the modern world and the dangerous underpinnings its citizens must navigate. Though moving and inspiring, what is really brilliant about AFGHAN STAR is that by observing a people's relationship to pop culture, we get a different, if not more human, look at this troubled part of the world.