Screening last night at the Liberty Theater (seat A8 yet again) for the Bermuda International Film Festival was a brilliant documentary that had only screened at SXSW previously.
The Network follows the first media group blossoming and developing during the continued growing pains that fill its home country, Afghanistan.
The Mohseni family returned to their home country after growing up abroad in Australia. They’ve come back as smart, savvy business people who hope to help shepherd and mentor their troubled company by creating a radio station, and then a television station.
They use social media to expand literacy (not just among children), to inform the public with news programmes, and to provide much needed entertainment.
Staffed with a core of ex-pats, the company grew from 9 people to almost 900!
They created their own police dramas (designed in part to help foster faith and trust in their security forces, and financed in part by the U.S. embassy) like Eagle 4 (think Flashpoint), stage shows like Afghan Star (American Idol-ish) and even a successful soap opera, Secrets of the House.
The documentary paints an alternately hopeful and dismal portrait of a country that itself can change daily; in a country where women not only have to fight for their jobs, but have to fight for their lives and individual rights – something else that their social media has a chance to change.
Oscar winner Orner brings a quick eye and a deft hand to the subject matter. She illustrates the faces behind the story, introducing us to a likable group of people while dissuading the general viewer of their preconceived notions of the Afghan people.
These are young, earnest people working to change not only their lives, but their country, seemingly in the face of an unchangeable society. But change CAN occur as we see in an Afghan Star segment.
Incorporating a fantastic score by Mark Rivett, the film (shot on location in Kabul over 3 months) serves as a frozen moment in time as Afghanistan teeters on the precipice of change or failure. Not just in the eyes of the world, but more importantly, in the eyes of those living there.
In her Q&A after the film, Eva spoke about the problems some of The Network group were having. Some had to leave the country due to death threats from the Taliban.
Such things must be stopped.
And the TOLO studios created by the Mohseni family while working within societal constraints, are trying to change them. But the sword of Damocles that is the imminent withdrawal of foreign troops hangs over the country…
I can’t recommend this film enough, please seek it out, talk about it, discuss it, but see it!!