Afghan girl’s struggle for learning showcased in Spain


SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain — A young Afghan girl’s harrowing struggle for an education in the shadow of the destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas is chronicled in a Franco-Iranian film screened Saturday at the oldest and most prestigious film festival in the Spanish-speaking world. Set in central Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley, where the Taliban blew up the two giant Buddhas in 2001, “Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” is “a very uncompromising film that shows the influence of real life on children,” the San Sebastian festival’s director Mikel Olaciregui told AFP. Directed by 18-year-old Hana Makhmalbaf, who comes from a family of Iranian filmmakers, “Buddha” tells the tale of Baktay, who is convinced by the son of a neighbor that she should go to school. On her way, she encounters a gang of children who, in a reflection of the societal violence surrounding them, threaten to stone her. “I don’t want to play the stoning game,” Baktay says tearfully in the long, drawn out scene. This is Makhmalbaf’s first full-length feature in a career that began with a short film at the tender age of nine. “I wanted to show the influence that adults have on younger generations,” she said.

Makhmalbaf was born in Tehran and she worked as a script supervisor and still photographer on several of her family’s films before she directed her first short film. “As an 18-year-old girl who lives in Iran today and who faces very specific ideological, political and social pressures, I have a lot to say,” she said. “Even though my film was not made in Iran, it shows my desire to speak of collective suffering, in Iran as well as in Afghanistan,” she said. “Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” has not yet received authorization to be screened in Iran. On its third day the festival also showed the only French film in competition for the Concha de Oro, or Golden Shell, prize for best film.

“La Maison” (The House) by Manuel Poirier, recounts the story of a man (Sergi Lopez) going through a sticky divorce who accidentally discovers with a friend (Bruno Salomone) a house to be auctioned off. He decides to look for the owners, two young sisters played by Barbara Schulz and Berenice Bejo. “The house is revealing for all the characters. No character is the same at the end of the film,” said Poirier. Lopez recently starred as the sadistic Franco army captain in Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 work, “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006). San Sebastian is also waiting for U.S. actor Richard Gere to arrive.

On Sunday he will receive the “Donosti”, the lifetime achievement award for his career onscreen. The film festival opened on Thursday with the screening of Canadian director David Cronenberg’s thriller “Eastern Promises”. Winners will be announced on September 29, the last day of the festival.