At Five in the Afternoon

At Five in the Afternoon

★★★★

A year after the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, the young Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf arrived in search of a story. She knew she wanted to make a film about the country, as a way to give a voice to its people. Afghanistan was visible to the wider world only through news broadcasts and politicians’ speeches: it was defined by outsiders who frequently represented themselves as ‘saviours’ who’d gone in to ‘liberate’ its people. Makhmalbaf wanted to tell the story of the people left on the ground: to show, frankly and compassionately, the ruined lives and hopes of the people of Kabul. It’s a very slow film, but beautifully made with an entirely amateur cast, and it gets under the skin of a society on the brink of recovery from horrific trauma, in a way that earnest western journalists never could.

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