The Buddhas of Bamiyan once stood tall and majestic, a pair of statues residing in central Afghanistan. In March of 2001, the Buddhas were reduced to rubble, bombed and destroyed by Taliban forces. To an outsider, the once awe-inspiring landmark was nothing but remnants of what once was. To Mir, the ruins were home, a representation of his troubled upbringing, and the appropriate introduction to a life molded by the terrorization of the Taliban.
“One day I saw a foreigner and an Afghan holding what I now know is a camera. I looked at this strange machine and this strange machine looked at me and kept looking.”
My Childhood, My Country is a fascinating documentation of Mir, at first a young boy thrust in front of a camera at the age of just eight years old. With a smile and a flair for show-and-tell, young Mir was numb to the reckless turmoil developing all around him.
The juvenile naivety didn’t last long. Mir’s smile faded as he aged, recognizing the dire circumstances he was born into. Forced to grow up much earlier than any child should, he shared the happenings of his life in war-torn Afghanistan until he himself was the one handling the camera, married with three children in his late twenties.
MY CHILDHOOD, MY COUNTRY Captures Key Turning Points in a Boy’s Life
The viewer gets the opportunity to grow up with Mir, watching as he climbs through the caves of Bamiyan as a child, suffers through the sudden death of his father as a teenager, and scampers through the big cities of Mazar and Kabul in search of a steady income as a husband and father. All the while, Taliban forces continue to terrorize the country, shaping the direction of Mir’s tumultuous life. Never in the 20 years of filming is Mir in a comfortable and secure place, despite promises from numerous countries (namely the United States) of eventual safety.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the documentary crew’s meticulous capturing of Mir’s life, never mind the constant turbulence of a nation in near shambles, is a remarkable feat. Before the viewer’s eye evolves not only Mir’s progressively stoic demeanor, but even the personalities of his parents, wife, children and others through countless interactions, seemingly tracking Mir’s every step.
A scene shows Mir, approaching his teenage years, directing a pair of donkeys up a hill. In a commanding manner foreign to his character to this point, Mir scolds the donkeys, who had begun to veer off-path. “Go, you lazy donkeys,” Mir exclaims. His father accompanying him observes Mir’s harsh demands. “Don’t beat them,” he instructs his son. As his father ages, Mir is asked to pick up the slack, prompting his increasing absence in school. Reality begins to set in for Mir, who seems to realize that his life will never be harmonious, evidenced by suddenly serious and grave mannerisms.
MY CHILDHOOD, MY COUNTRY Depicts the Realities of a War-Torn Upbringing
My Childhood, My Country is not a rosy success story of a young man who escapes a life of hardship for riches and fame, but instead an up close and personal depiction of life for a regular civilian of Afghanistan over the past 20 years. The documentary provides inside footage of an upbringing dominated by fear of the lingering Taliban, a childhood led to believe empty promises by outside forces, only to watch them fade as troubles accumulate.
This documentary, especially due to its timeliness, is a must-watch for those keeping up with the happenings in Afghanistan. The details of this boy-turned-man’s survival should entice anyone interested in the War in Afghanistan.
Written, Filmed and Directed by Phil Grabsky, Shoaib Sharifi, and Mir Hussain
Produced by Phil Grabsky and Amanda Wilkie
Edited by Clive Mattock
For more information on this film, visit the Seventh Art Productions website.
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Images courtesy of Seventh Art Productions