This film is the reason I am so thankful that the Patricia Theatre has reopened with the Powell River Film Festival. There is nothing quite like watching a movie on the “big screen” and this movie lives up to this expectation.
My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years in Afghanistan is a big panoramic film about survival, family life and geopolitical influences. The story is simple – a family faces challenges of survival in finding food, having heat in the cold of winter, getting medicine when there is sickness and having to find shelter when there is war.
The story starts with a bang, a suicide bomber and death, and, the story ends in oppression and the takeover of the country by the extremist Taliban. But the real story is about Mir, a charismatic and happy child, growing up in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The filmmakers, Phil Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi, couch their point of view of the family with the 911 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by the Americans and NATO, the fight and resistance of the Taliban and then eventually the takeover of the country by the Taliban.
Mir and his family only want to live in peace with the bare essentials of a healthy life. However, they are forced to adapt to the everchanging influences trying to control the country. They are forced to eat grass and work in the coal mines to survive. They become wanderers, adapting and showing resilience to the forces around them. They are not religious nor political but caught in the struggle between western and extreme Islamic values.
The filmmakers started by collecting video footage of Mir and his family living in a cave in the mountains and their filming spanned 20 years from 2001 to 2021. As time moved on, the filmmakers’ POV focused more on the outside influences by the Americans, Russians, Chinese, Indians, NATO, et cetera, and how the Afghan people faced the western world as well as the resistance being put up by the Taliban. There is a fine line that Mir and his family had to walk to stay safe and continue their journey through their country’s turmoil.
The cinematography is stunning – panoramic in all its glory. It is one of the reasons why this film needs to be shown on a big screen. Kudos and awards should go to the filmmakers, the actors and the cinematographers, including the footage provided by Mir Hussain, the boy turned adult and now a photojournalist.
My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years in Afghanistan scratched the surface of family life in Afghanistan. It made me want to travel through the country and experience the culture of its people, however, at this time that will be impossible for westerners.
It is a beautiful film with a story about cultural values, struggles, resilience and adaptation. For all these reasons, I recommend this film with three out of five tugboats.
Show time for My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years in Afghanistan is 7 pm on October 8 at the Patricia Theatre.
Stephen J. Miller is a producer and creative writer in feature films and television, and past owner of repertoire movie theatres.