Australia/Pakistan, 2007, 92 minutes
Sat, Apr 25 / 6:00 / Kabuki / SON25K
Mon, Apr 27 / 8:35 / PFA / SON27P
Wed, Apr 29 / 9:30 / Kabuki / SON29K
Eleven-year-old Niaz is the only child of a widowed Pashtun veteran of the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan of the 1980s, one of those soldiers lionized in the West as enlightened freedom fighters. That is, until September 11, when the West vilified the same people as cave-dwelling, Kalashnikov-toting Taliban. The father, a strict Muslim, insists that his reluctant son help him in the family business of making and testing firearms, a common and humble occupation in their region. Niaz would rather listen to music and go to school. When he’s not being tormented by bullies, Niaz is inspired by a kite-flying poet in a refugee camp who encourages him in his pursuit of learning—after all, the Prophet said, “If gaining knowledge requires you to travel as far as China, then simply go.” Niaz’s uncle, who accidentally shot a playmate and was banished to Peshawar, tries to persuade his brother to sign the school application. But Niaz loses patience and strikes out on his own. This sensitive and beautifully shot directorial debut, made by Australian Benjamin Gilmour in collaboration with Pashtuns from the area, follows its appealing nonprofessional cast through the harsh, lovely terrain of the remote northwest of Pakistan, where the sound of gunfire echoes in the hills. The men’s conversations in barbershops, teahouses and classrooms, as well as a worrisome visit to the dentist, offer a rare glimpse into a community easily demonized by Islamophobia.
In Pashto with English subtitles. West Coast Premiere.