Martin C. Evans

“Afghan Idol”

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

"Afghan Star" is a wildly popular reality show among younger Afghans. But religious extremists say you had better sing good.

With America in a multi, multi-billion-dollar war to build democracy in a country  Americans know virtually nothing about, an Oscar-nominated film offers the possibility of learning about the scope of the challenge while munching on overpriced popcorn.

The British documentary Afghan Star tells the story of an Afghan must-see-tv reality show of the same name that is both widely popular among younger Afghans, and hugely controversial among the country’s opinionated and often dangerously-armed religious conservatives.

Think “American Idol,” only the Taliban get to behead the contestants if they don’t like their songs.

The film, running now in Los Angeles theaters but expected to soon hit screens in New York, is an entry for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

A Los Angeles Times review raved about the film’s examination of the Afghan reality show as a marker of the potential change American troops have spent eight years trying to bring about in Afghanistan.

“The show also makes a huge statement for Afghans by bringing together contestants of different tribal ethnicities as well as allowing the participation of several female contestants, a big deal in a country that is essentially run by a male-dominated tribal elder system.”

But with America about to send 30,000 more troops and spend another $100 billion there next year, the film also demonstrates how difficult it has been and will be to bring change to a largely illiterate Afghanistan of ethnic division, xenophobic suspicion and geographic isolation.

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