A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
In the United States, television no longer brings us together as it did in the 1950s and 1960s when there were just a few networks giving us common cultural experiences. Now viewers are divided by hundreds of cable stations. As described in the documentary Afghan Star, the situation is far different in Afghanistan where watching television is a pleasure recently restored after years of Taliban rule. Viewing is a political statement that defies the radical Islamic clerics who want to dictate morality, and performing on television is an act of courage.
Like its model American Idol, Afghan Star is a televised talent show that lets the viewers vote to decide who wins. In the documentary by the same name, we follow four contestants through one tension-filled season. For the two men, being on television is risky behavior that wins them fans from viewers who reject the Taliban past but are still cautious about offending conservative forces. The two women, on the other hand, have literally made themselves into targets for censure and possible assassination for appearing unveiled with men. Viewers of this documentary see how thirty years of war has wrecked the country. As tense as the situation is, however, the message of the documentary seems upbeat, as there are brave Afghans who want to enjoy music. Watch Afghan Star and root for your favorite, too.
–Reviewed by Rick