Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame
Teenage Hana Makhmalbaf, the youngest of the Iranian filmmaking family that comprises famous father Mohsen (Kandahar), mother Marzieh (Stray Dogs) and sister Samira (At Five in the Afternoon), follows in the footsteps of her relations to make a film about life in war-ravaged Afghanistan. Having previously directed the enjoyable documentary Joy of Madness (about her sister’s experiences making At Five in the Afternoon) when she was just 14-years-old, Hana here makes her dramatic debut with a contemporary fable written by her mother.
The simple story revolves around the efforts of a poor six-year-old Afghan girl named Bakhtay (Nikbakht Noruz) to get herself an education. But poverty and male attitudes towards women conspire to keep her out of school, and outside it the wilful tyke is brutally bullied by local boys posing as Taliban fighters and the occupying US Army. The terrible funny games the boys play on the girl – forcing her to wear a bag over her head, digging her grave, etc – are representative of the oppression of Afghan women across their country. This is underlined by the setting of the film – the town of Bamiyan, where in 2001 the Taliban destroyed a number of ancient Buddha statues they deemed to be idolatrous images.
It’s an admirable attempt to dramatise the plight of women and children in Afghanistan, although the script is a bit too didactic and the direction somewhat uneven. Still, it remains a remarkable achievement for the 19-year-old Makhmalbaf.
Cameo, Edinburgh, out now; GFT, Glasgow from Tue 26-Thu 28 Aug.