Kandahar (Safar e Ghandehar) (2001)

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Released 14-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Afghan Alphabet
Trailer-Blackboards; Colour Of Paradise; Molokai; The Circle
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 81:01 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Mohsen Makhmalbaf

Madman Entertainment
Starring Niloufar Pazira
Hassan Tanti
Sadou Teymouri
Hoyatala Hakimi
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Mohammad Reza Darvishi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Farsi Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"Journey into the heart of Afghanistan"

    Nafas is returning home. It is a place she would rather not return to. After escaping the ravages of the Afghan civil war that saw the beginning of the destruction of her homeland, Nafas (Niloufar Pazira)  is travelling back to Afghanistan. In her exodus from the war torn country, Nafas' sister had been left behind. Now, after having lost her legs to a land mine and her freedom to the brutal regime of the Taliban, Nafas' sister has decided to commit suicide on the day of the last eclipse of the millennium. Having received this news by letter in Canada, where Nafas' family had settled, Nafas quickly mounts a one person rescue mission to travel into Afghanistan, find her sister and bring her to safety before any harm befalls her, either from the reign of the Taliban or indeed from her own hand. She has but 3 days before the eclipse.

    However, if there is a definition of difficult, it would be for a single woman to travel alone in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to the city of Kandahar. Make that person a strong-willed female journalist who speaks English and now hails from a Western country and the task begins to look impossible. Difficult odds to be sure, but to Nafas not impossible, and she sets out on her journey. Enlisting the help of native Afghans and posing as the wife of an Afghan man returning to Afghanistan, Nafas tags along while continually enquiring about anyone travelling to Kandahar. As her trip progresses, she and the others she travels with come across many hardships and difficulties. Despite this, Nafas is resourceful and manages to enlist the help of several people, but as the eclipse nears she can only wonder if she'll find her sister in time.

    For those not familiar with the works of director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, this film might come out of left field. His work at times takes on a distinctive documentary feel and in a way, his films are documentaries. A prime example of this is the film Salaam Cinema (1995) where the director put out a casting call for everyday people to star in his upcoming film. What the participants didn't know (but later found out) was that the auditions were in fact the film itself and by merely auditioning for a role they were becoming stars on the screen. It sounds like an odd idea, but director Mohsen Makhmalbaf managed to make it work. While Kandahar follows more of a traditional narrative style, we still have a documentary outside observer feel throughout the picture. The director has purposely chosen real people right out of their everyday existence to star in this film and while the performances are raw, this looks to be the intention as it imparts an almost hyperrealism to the film.

    This motion picture was filmed before the events of September 11 and so we have an interesting look at what may have been the state of Afghanistan before the U.S. lead attacks that brought down the rule of the Taliban. In watching this film, one becomes aware of the fact that even under the most oppressive and difficult circumstances, people all the world over will strive to be individuals, and to proclaim that fact if not to others, then to themselves. Women putting on lipstick under their burkas (titled burgas in the film), knowing that no one will see them. Why put it on in the first place? No other reason than to proclaim their individuality to themselves. This is but a small hint at the different layers that have gone into the making of this most interesting film. For anyone interested in the recent history of Afghanistan before the fall of the Taliban, this would be a good place to start. Just be sure not to expect a typical Western storyline, typical Western action and the typical Hollywood package of beginning, middle and end. Instead, marvel in the stark yet beautiful Afghan landscapes, the fascinating people and a story that could have very well taken place.

    A footnote: One of the stars of this film (who plays doctor Tabib Sahid) is credited as being Hassan Tantai, formerly known as David Belfield. David, born in America, has been indicted in the United States for the assassination of an Iranian diplomat named Ali Akbar Tabatabai in 1980. He had lived in the Middle East including Afghanistan for over 20 years and fought with the Afghans against the Russians for control of the country. The filmmakers have declared that they had no previous knowledge of Mr. Tantai's indictments, but this has not stopped some from calling for a boycott of the film for its supposed support of an alleged assassin and terrorist. It is for every individual to assess whether the past history of a film's star is relevant to the enjoyment and in fact the legitimacy of a film. Where does art end and politics begin? The fact that I have reviewed this film is neither acceptance nor approval of the alleged actions or views of its producer, director or stars. I'm here to just review the movie. You are free to view or not view this film as you see fit.

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Transfer Quality


    The overall quality of this disc is fair, but could have been better had just a little more attention been paid to the commitment of this film to disc.

    This film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, however, there is no 16x9 enhancement.

    We have a reasonable level of sharpness here, but as expected it is limited by the lack of 16x9 enhancement. Those with standard 4x3 displays may not notice any problems, but if you have a 16x9 enabled display, you will notice the obvious lack of resolution. Again, this doesn't ruin the film, but it would have been nice if the transfer was16x9 enhanced. Shadow detail was fairly good during this picture with the few darker scenes revealing quite a bit of detail one might have thought wouldn't be visible. Low level noise didn't seem to be an issue.

    The use of colour in this film is always natural and never exaggerated. There is some intriguing use of colour that at times contrasts the earthy tones with some bright colours (such as that seen on the cover), but this is always in a natural context. Colour's commitment to this disc is quite good with a reasonably accurate and vibrant range of colours on screen many times during the film.

    MPEG artefacts are visible during this feature, though not to a distracting extent. There is some minor pixelization visible from time to time but outright macroblocking is thankfully absent. This minor pixelization, coupled with the lack of 16x9 enhancement, can lead to some less-than-pristine images such as that seen at 15:48. It doesn't ruin the picture, but better would have been nice. I expected aliasing to be more of a problem here, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It is visible from time to time, but is not a huge problem. Even the Taliban can't stop edge enhancement and it makes its usual appearance at 16:43 around the family and at 23:01 around the woman. Film artefacts were fairly rare with quite a clean print used for the transfer.

    There are English subtitles to accompany the portions of dialogue spoken in Farsi, a language spoken in some Middle Eastern countries including Iran. These subtitles are not selectable, but rather were generated in the production of the disc and are located at the bottom of the screen. As they are not burned into the film itself, they have the look of subtitles that a DVD player would generate. As my Farsi is quite poor, I was unable to vouch for their accuracy although they worked to convey the meaning of the film reasonably well.

    This disc is formatted RSDL, but I was unable to spot a layer change. It is possible that the extras and the short film occupy one layer while the feature is on another.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


      The audio for this film is fairly flat with a 2 channel mix that is almost indistinguishable from mono.

    There is only one audio track available on this disc, that being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Although the disc flags this track to be English, the film is mostly a 50-50 mix of Farsi and English.

     The dialogue quality is reasonable with most of the English spoken word clearly audible. At times I got the impression that some, or indeed all, of the dialogue on this film had been dubbed post production as at times the spoken word sounded too clear and unaffected by the surroundings and location.

     Audio sync was out by quite a bit at times, especially at the start with Nafas dictating her plans into a microcassette recorder (from 2:05 to 2:51) . The lip movements bear little relation to what we hear. This drifting of the dialogue from the actor's lips takes place to varying degrees throughout the film.

     Music for this film is by composer Mohammad Reza Darvishi who imparts the appropriate cultural sound for the film. At times the music is repeated with a song or theme used in one part of the film again used in another, not as a variation on a theme, but repeated as in the same recording. This may seem like nitpicking, but I did notice it.

     As this was for all intents and purposes a mono soundtrack, there was no surround presence. If any is to be derived, one will have to depend on whatever DSP effects are available on one's receiver.

     The subwoofer is seldom called for during the program with little LFE used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     We get a couple of extras worth mentioning here, these being the short film "Afghan Alphabet", a 4 page biography of the director and some extra trailers.


     After the usual copyright warnings and distributor's logos, we are taken the the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:

     The Main Menu is animated with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

     By selecting the Explore Extras option, we are offered the following:

Short Film - Afghan Alphabet - 45:34

     This interesting short, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, is a look at the state of the education system on the border of Afghanistan and Iran. After many years of civil war, foreign occupation and the rise and fall of the Taliban, many Afghani families have travelled to the border areas where some semblance of calm and order can be found. While the conditions are not ideal, the people there make the best of a bad situation and the children are no exception. With learning at a premium, many children are more and more eager to attend school. However, this is more than a little difficult for some children. I.D. cards have to be obtained before school attendance and for some people without the proper identification, the I.D. cards are not available. Some get around this by sitting at the rear of the class and in some instances outside the school room door; out of sight but within ear shot of the class where the invalid child can still hear the schoolmaster and learn something.

     We get a look in at both boy's and girl's school as well as religious training for the boys who study the Koran with fervour. One thing that stuck in my mind that I was unable to understand was the apparent preoccupation with water (or ab as it's called). This word is repeated a zillion times in the classroom by the teachers and student,s both boys and girls. Perhaps this is for some cultural reason, but it looked very repetitive to me.

     The one thing that particularly impresses is the thirst for knowledge from the children here. You can see in their eyes that they want to learn. We can only hope that this generation of Afghan children can receive the education they desire and deserve.

     This short film is presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0. The language is probably Farsi with generated English subtitles that are non-removable.

Bio - Text Biography For Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf - 4 Pages

    This is a simple text life and work history for the film's director.

Madman Propaganda - 4 theatrical trailers

    Blackboards (Takhté siah) - Theatrical Trailer - 1:17

     The theatrical trailer for the film directed by the daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Samira Makhmalbaf. It has won several international film awards including the Jury Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. This trailer is presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Colour of Paradise (Rang-e khoda) - Theatrical Trailer - :59

     What looks to be a beautifully filmed motion picture, this film from Iranian director Majid Majidi has been nominated and has won several international film awards. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Molokai: The Story of Father Damien - Theatrical Trailer - 1:28

     With a cast of heavyweights including Sam Neill, Derek Jacobi, Peter O'Toole, Leo McKern, Kris Kristofferson and David Wenham, this film tells the story of missionary efforts in the Hawaiian Islands. It is apparently a true story. The trailer is seen in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement and audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    The Circle (Dayereh) - Theatrical Trailer - 1:10

     The theatrical trailer for the film by Iranian director Jafar Panahi that follows the struggles of today's women in Iran. Presented in 1.85:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is due for release in Region 1 in April 2003. It is available in Region 2 UK in a similar package that we have here, although the UK disc features the original theatrical trailer for the film plus 2 more trailers for the films The Kingdom and A One and a Two. However, the real winner of this DVD race seems to be Canada, whom gets a stellar version of this film with far more extras available that either the Region 1 disc or the Region 2 U.K. disc which is, as stated before, very similar to the one made available here in Region 4.

     In comparison to the Region 1 Canada disc, Region 4 misses out on:

     The Region 1 Canada version misses out on:

    The overwhelming win would have to go to the Region 1 Canada version, but one thing that they do miss out on is the excellent short film Afghan Alphabet. This is countered by the inclusion on the Canadian disc of the featurette Lifting the Veil along with the commentary by Niloufar Pazira. Couple this with a proper 16x9 transfer and you have your winner. Region 1 Canada, hands down.


    For those interested in foreign cinema, this is something interesting. You have to throw out any preconceived notions of normal film narrative. Don't expect a neat, simple formulaic package because you won't get it. This film is raw, earthy and very real in its depiction of life from the border of Iran into the heart of Afghanistan just before the fall of the Taliban. Fans of Mohsen Makhmalbaf will know what to expect, but if you haven't seen one of his films, then this may be a good place to start.

    The video is adequate for the film, but a slightly pixelated image compounded by a lack of 16x9 enhancement means that we could have had better.

    The audio is flat and almost mono.

     The extras are not stacked and racked, but we do get the interesting Afghan Alphabet short which is a real treat.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Friday, February 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RA-61, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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Comments (Add)
The Region 1 has been released for ages!. The Details: - Bradavon REPLY POSTED
Afghan Alphabet -