Documentary Review: Afgan Star

Thanks for checking out our Afgan Star review

Afgan Star is a 2009 Sundance Film Festival Winning documentary tkaing the Cinema Audience and Cinema Directing award. And now the film will be on HBO tonight at 9:30.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy thanks to HBO and it was a thought provoking and enjoyable if not disturbing at times.


After 30 years of war and Taliban-rule, pop culture has returned to Afghanistan. Afghan Star – a Pop Idol-style TV series – is searching the country for the next generation of music stars. Over 2000 people are auditioning and even three women have come forward to try their luck. The organizers, Tolo TV, believe with this programme they can ‘move people from guns to music’.

But in a troubled country like Afghanistan, even music is controversial. Considered sacrilegious by the Mujahiddeen and outright banned by the Taliban (1996-2001), music has come to symbolize freedom for the youth. While the conflict still rages many of those taking part are literally risking their lives.

Being a documentary review, I have to approach this differently, as it is a presentation of opinions – something that cannot be wrong. I wont lay out a good/bad of this as much as an overall review, with my rating settling how good or bad it does at delievering its message.

This is a brutal and harsh look at how people are being moved by this entertainment. Its a dramatic sway to both sides of the pendulm. While some are expressing that these contestants should be murdered for singing on TV (literally) others are so enthusiastic and it represents a shining light in their otherwise unhappy lives.

I can’t help but think that this is a big part of why there is no peace. (Not the show – but a bigger picture) The people are at war socially as well as with other countries. While their leadership is taking a political stance based entirely on their religious beliefs, within their own country they have their own people, professing to share those beliefs but then actively participating against it. I imgine that is very frustrating.

And this is not just a look at what is happening in Afganistan, as we can see a parellel of what is going on with this and our own North American culture. This is not just a “what’s happening there” but there is a bigger subtle message for our own lifestyles. We teach our kids that drugs, sex and violence is inappropriate for them to watch, but enjoy music, films and TV that glorify it somewhat openly, making them curious about that which we try to shelter them from.

The documentary makes you THINK, and it makes you feel. There is no greater compliment for a documentary than to have it spark ideas, thoughts and emotions.

So in closing, I give Afgan Star a 9 out of 10.

The film will be presented TONIGHT on HBO. Check your local listings for times and channels.

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11 thoughts on “Documentary Review: Afgan Star

  1. Saw it and really liked it!

    People need to see this stuff from time to time to realize how good we got it, no matter how bad you think your situation is, theres always something worse..

    Love the beats coming from this section of the world
    very Darbuka/Dumbek friendly

  2. I think you should do a semi-regular article series on here Rodney, where you review a different documentary every time, possibly once every week or two weeks or something like that. I pay much more attention to documentary reviews that i do to movie reviews for some reason. Maybe its because movie reviews mean jack shit to me cause everyone has a different opinion, but documentary reviews seem to be more universal, so to speak. Or maybe its just because I love a good documentary but find it hard to find reviews for them outside of imdb, which I don’t like going to for reviews.

    Speaking of such things, I watched The Cove the other day and absolutly loved it. One of my favorite documentaries in recent years, second only to Cocaine Cowboys I believe, but that’s just off the top of my head, lol. If I took more time to think about it, I’m sure there could be a different order there. But point is, I loved it.

    1. I typically am not a big fan of Docs just because a big part of movies for me is the escapism. Most docs make me think too much and some even depress me about just how fucked up some people can be (watch Jesus Camp)

      But once I sit down I get sucked in and typically find myself enjoying them or at very least getting all thoughtful and thinking about stuff … which is not always a bad thing.

      I will be doing more docs though.

      1. I can see where you’re coming from. As much as I love docs, I do have to be in the right frame of mind and mood to watch them. Normally its shortly after I wake up in the mornings on my days off work, when I’ve got a cup of coffee brewing and nothing to be at for a few hours, with the sun shinning in brightly through my window, lol.

        But during days I work I want nothing but brainless fun movies that require little to no thinking, lol

  3. Will set my tivo for sure.

    I really didn’t know that MUSIC was outlawed, I cant even begin to imagine a life without it, it’s a basic human necessity IMO.

    if I read your review correctly, they can even be killed for this.

    Jesus, that’s a heavy thought.


    1. You have to understand that music isn’t just against federal law there… is banned by the Holy Quran, the doctrine of Islam… is against Islamic culture to create music. That’s just the way it is.

      And yeah, life without music sucks monkey balls.

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