Joy of Madness

Joy of Madness 1

★★★★

A cautionary note before we start. Don’t watch this unless you’ve already seen At Five in the Afternoon. You need that context to understand the events of this remarkable documentary and to appreciate the results of the hard graft we see here. This isn’t just any ‘making-of’ film. Slightly longer than an hour, it records the efforts of a twenty-two-year-old female (Iranian) director to make the first full-length film in Afghanistan, barely a year after the fall of the Taliban. And it’s filmed on a handheld digital video camera by her fourteen-year-old sister. A tale of frustration, determination and lots and lots of shouting, it’s a testament to the sheer force of will that’s necessary to get a film made, and a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes.

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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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