Film Essay: Afghan Star
The film Afghan Star depicts a fantastic story of how one television show began to change the way that a nation viewed their own culture. In the war-torn country of Afghanistan, the progression of art and music has been relatively stalled due to previous Taliban rule. The people there have been discouraged to express themselves in ways that seem completely normal in many Western cultures. This prevention is why the Afghan Star television show creates such a buzz and blossoms into the phenomenon that it is. This paper will delve into the narrative of this film, as well as analyze the challenges faced by both the contestants and the producers of the show. Most ...view middle of the document...
This is especially true because of the clash of singing with Islamic tradition. At one point in the film Rafi mentions how he has asked an interviewer to keep their talk short to minimize the risk of an attack of some sort.
There are many different opinions about the television show across the country. Many people fully support it and have longed for Afghanistan to break out of its cultural rut. They want more shows like it to follow as well as other popular Western entertainment. Others feel that Afghan Star is okay but that the envelope should not be pushed any further. Something such as dancing would be heavily looked down upon by this group. And finally there are those, many in the government as well as religious leaders, who despise what the show symbolizes and do not wish for it to have an impact on Afghan culture. They draw upon the rules of traditional Islam that look down upon music because it is not a part of the religion. However, the resistance is strong and as Daoud Sediqi puts it: “There was music in Afghanistan’s past, there is music in the present, and there will be music in the future.”
The film puts a heavy emphasis on the struggles that the two women, Lema and Setara, face in the competition. Due to their gender, their actions on the program are much more scrutinized by the general public. Lema makes a strong effort to hold true to her conservative upbringing and not step too far out of line. She mentions how she and her family hide the song books, the computer and other things at night in the chance that their home is invaded. She expresses her fear that if the wrong items are found by the wrong people, it could mean death for the family. She eventually receives threats and is later forced to live under protection.
Setara is an even more extreme case because unlike Lema she considers herself to be “open-minded” and thinks that singing and dancing should not only be practiced but should be enthusiastically appreciated. She has very liberal ideas that clash with those of traditional Islam. When she is voted off of the show, Setara gives one final performance where she removes her head cover and performs a dance on stage. This sparks outrage amongst many of the viewers. Even her fellow contestants express disapproval at her actions. Following this performance Setara begins to fear for her life as death threats are made against her. She makes every possible effort to keep a low profile and eventually returns home to her family.
The fact that the contestants are all from different parts of Afghanistan adds another element to the mix. In many cases, the home town or group that the singer is affiliated with becomes the strongest proponent of their cause. They feel like they are being represented by that person and that they are bringing attention to their group. In one specific example, there was a man who began to organize a campaign for Hameed to help him to become the Afghan Star. He purchased thousands of SIM cards in...