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Friday, September 29, 2006

To See or Not To See: The Beauty Academy of Kabul

"Palawasha, beauty school student, on graduation day"

By Jan Stetter

If you blinked you may have missed this documentary. The Beauty Academy of Kabul briefly premiered at The Mariemont theatre. It will be worth your time when it comes to DVD.

The documentary is about the efforts of several women worlds away from Afghanistan who influence a generation their counterparts. Those counterparts have lived lives of repression and countless indignities.

Amongst the aftermath of living under unimaginable social constraints for years, a group of Afghan women in the city of Kabul are offered an opportunity. This opportunity presents itself as a chance to be educated in all the new techniques and styles of beauty, massage therapy, hair cuts, and makeup of today. Several women from America and England volunteered to teach these women the current trends in beauty management. What they gave in instruction surpassed their objectives of dispensing knowledge; these women offered hope and confidence. Working under a tag team approach, a shoestring budget, and within a culture of political distrust, these women triumphed. They transcended the language and cultural barriers to be able to embrace their differences and offer dignity and value.

The Beauty Academy of Kabul is a documentary offering an intimate expose of the lives and times of women in Afghanistan in the 21st century. In particular this film tells the story of the women who lived through the uncompromising command of the Taliban and its dictates enforced upon them. This film actually begins in the present and offers a story of bringing Afghan women into the 21 century through a common bond: beauty.

Surprisingly this film is not depressing or heavy handed in showing the circumscribed life of these people. In fact, in director Liz Mermin’s competent hands, this is a film about hope, about fortitude and about the strength of the human spirit. Mermin’s choice of profiles and cultural narratives exemplify the tenacity of the females in the tiny town of Kabul—worlds away from our civilized western freedom.

Expect to see a documentary of a rich true story of struggle, survival, kindred spirits and strength in adversity by all of the women involved. A spirit of optimism, of patient acquiescence, of fortitude and surrendering to circumstances prevails; with the hope of change and the dream of a new generation for the future of women and their children in Kabul.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact jans@queencityforum.com


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