The local PBS channel (KIXE) didn’t carry Señorita Extravigada, Lourdes Portillo’s haunting documentary about the “disappeared” young women of Juarez, Mexico, when it was broadcast nationally on Aug. 20. But another noteworthy film in the P.O.V. series, the Italian-made Afghanistan Year 1380, is on the KIXE schedule for next Monday night (Sept. 9).
Afghanistan Year 1380 (the title refers to the Persian calendar) gives us some rare glimpses of what was happening on the ground in Afghanistan after Sept. 11. It follows the efforts of the “Emergency” human-rights group, and of Dr. Gino Strada and medical coordinator Kate Rowlands in particular, as they struggle to reenter Kabul and reopen a hospital that the Taliban had previously forced them to shut down.
In the events shown in the film, Dr. Strada and company have more to fear from American bombs than from the Taliban, but the filmmakers seem less concerned with taking sides than with showing the legacy of human suffering, across the board, in Afghanistan’s recent history.
Rowlands’ weary pontificating speaks volumes about humanitarian compassion worn down to the nub, but Strada emerges as a lucid, illusionless standard-bearer in the dogged struggle to heal at least some of the wounds of the convulsive, indiscriminate violence of contemporary Afghanistan.
Graphic images of wounds and intermittent images of children screaming make parts of this hard to watch. The Italian team—which also made Jung (War) in the Land of the Muhajedeen—is generally discreet and restrained in its presentation of such moments. But like Señorita Extravigada, this is a film much committed to addressing painful realities that occur outside the United States but frequently have lethal ties to this country.