Afghan Star

Rated 4.0

American Idol and its innumerable offshoots have become such knee-jerk symbols for cultural hegemony and intellectual disintegration that it’s amazing to see the format wielded as a revolutionary weapon. In Havana Marking’s documentary Afghan Star, young people who have lived most of their lives under the repressive rule of the Taliban regime sing culturally appropriate pop songs to a television audience starving for escape. Like it or not, this is democracy in action, but it’s also interesting to see how old tribal fissures emerge in such a trivial voting process. The film follows two male and two female contestants—the men Hameed and Rafi are ready-made Afghan stars from opposing regions, but it’s the two women (traditional Lema and spitfire Setara, who inspires public outrage when she includes dance in her farewell performance) who are easily the more compelling characters.