National Geographic-Inside Talibanistan (2010)

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Released 10-Nov-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary More…-Bonus Feature - Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha
Trailer-More from National Geographic x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 50:19 (Case: 52)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tresha Mabile
James Barrat
National Geographic
Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Justin Melland
Williams-Biondo Music

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     National Geographic: Inside Talibanstan is actually two documentary films about Afghanistan. As well as the title documentary, included as a “bonus feature” is Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha, each running approximately 52 minutes. For this DVD review I will treat the two documentaries as two “episodes” of a series about Afghanistan, 2010, rather than as a main feature and an “extra”.

     “Talibanstan” is the unofficial name for the mountainous region that straddles the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the Swat Valley, that became the heartland of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In Inside Talibanistan reporters and cameras follow the coalition forces on both sides of the border, Pakistani, American and French, plus various civilian agencies, as they attempt to squeeze the Taliban further into the mountains and win the hearts and minds of the tribesmen. Cameras go on patrol with the soldiers as they attack Taliban strong points, follow civilian “human resource team” members as they travel along roads cratered with IED explosions to meet with villagers, and look behind the scenes of drone missions.

     Narrated by Peter Coyote, with interviews with David Petraeus (commander of the coalition forces), Asif Zardari (currently President of Pakistan), commanders on the ground and security experts, Inside Talibanistan is a reasonable look at the difficulties faced by the coalition forces. The terrain is mountainous, gunfire can erupt at any time and the tribesmen are wary, if not hostile. Good intentions can lead to unintended consequences, such as the road being made with foreign aid that results in the demolition of village houses, having the effect of alienating the villagers not winning them over. One could question some of the claims of success being made in the documentary and the film is certainly not definitive, as it is made from the point of view of the coalition forces, yet this is still a good looking, well presented documentary that is not without interest.

     For many centuries Afghanistan was part of the fabled Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean world. Some of the greatest cities of antiquity were in Afghanistan but as well as merchandise the major religions of Buddhism and Islam travelled along the Silk Road, leaving behind them a mosaic of treasures and cultures. When the Taliban came to power, they systematically destroyed their country’s heritage, including paintings, film archives, sculptures and, more famously, the ancient 55 metre standing Buddha statues that had been carved into the cliffs of the Bamiyan Valley, 150 km north west of Kabul. Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha is a great documentary about the Afghans who risked their lives to save their culture from destruction at the hands of the Taliban as well as those who, with the fall of the Taliban, return to try to rediscover some of Afghanistan’s great lost treasures. As one Afghan observes “A country which has no culture has no history”

     Also narrated by Peter Coyote, Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha focuses on the work of two archaeologists. Afghan Dr. Zemaryalai Tarzi in the 1970s had worked on the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan before the coming of the Taliban forced him into exile in France. In 2001, the Buddhas were dynamited by the Taliban in an act of cultural vandalism, reducing the ancient statues to piles of rubble. They were thus lost to the people forever. However, based on the writings of a 7th century Chinese Buddhist monk who visited Bamiyan, Dr. Tarzi believes that buried under the earth of the valley, in the ruins of an ancient monastery, is a 1,000 foot long reclining Buddha and he has returned to Afghanistan and organised a team of excavators to try to find it. The other archaeologist is the Russian Victor Sarianidi. In 1978 he was working at Tillya Tepe in northern Afghanistan and discovered the Bactrian Hoard – a group of five Bactrian burials from the 1st century AD that contain between them approximately 20,000 gold objects, a treasure trove containing more gold than the tomb of King Tut. This treasure was excavated and moved to the museum at Kabul, but when the Taliban took over the hoard disappeared and was reported to have been sold or melted down. Now a collection of treasures, that may or may not include the Bactrian Hoard, has been discovered in the vaults beneath the Presidential Palace in Kabul and Victor Sarianidi has been invited back to Afghanistan to see if he can authenticate the find.

     The stories of Zemaryalai Tarzi and Victor Sarianidi dominate the documentary, however other stories are also recounted, including the artist who saved paintings in the National Gallery by water colouring over figures and the men who saved the national film archive by creating a false wall behind which the precious rolls of film were hidden. As well as these stories, the film includes fascinating glimpses of Afghan life in cities, villages and the beautiful, fertile Bamiyan Valley, plus stunning images of Afghan landscapes. For anyone interested in history, archaeology or Afghanistan, this documentary makes riveting viewing.

     Taken together Inside Talibanstan and Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha give a fascinating picture of life inside Afghanistan today. They are well worth a look.

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Transfer Quality


     Both documentaries are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which looks to be the original ratio, and are 16x9 enhanced. They are good prints but do vary due to the different source material used. Some of the news footage in Inside Talibanstan is soft and grainy, the location footage shot with the soldiers also lacks sharpness, while brightness and contrast vary which is not surprising. However, the footage is always acceptable, and other interview and base footage is as crisp as one would want. Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha has good contrast and sharpness. In both films, blacks and shadow detail are good while skin tones and colours are natural. I did not notice any artefacts.

     There are no subtitles for Inside Talibanstan although white burnt in subtitles translate non-English dialogue. English subtitles in a yellow font are available for Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha. They are quite small and sometimes a bit difficult to read.

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


     Audio for both documentaries is English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded at 224 Kbps. Dialogue and the narration are clear and easy to understand. Effects in both are limited, as the films consist mostly of narration, although Inside Talibanstan has the occasional gun shot or helicopter engines in the surrounds. In both, music is used sparingly, the sub woofer is not needed. The audio for both documentaries is perfectly acceptable for TV features.

     As interview dialogue is recorded live lip synchronisation is not an issue.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Bonus Feature

     Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha is included in the main review above.


     Trailers for other National Geographic series: National Geographic: Stress – Portrait of a Killer (2:04), National Geographic: Britian’s Greatest Machines (0:43), National Geographic: Churchill’s German Army (2:05) and National Geographic: Herod’s Last Tomb (1:40).

R4 vs R1

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

     As far as I can find, this two documentary package is not available elsewhere. There is a Region 1 release with the first documentary which is called Talibanistan, while there is a Region 3 release of Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddhas. lists as a title Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddhas and states it includes two modern day stories from Afghanistan, but I cannot find any further information. Region 4 looks a winner.


     National Geographic: Inside Talibanstan is actually two documentary films about Afghanistan. As well as the title documentary, included as a “bonus feature” is Lost Treasures: Hidden Buddha.

     The DVD comes with good video and audio. Together, these two features give a fascinating picture of life inside Afghanistan. For anyone interested in history, archaeology or the conflict in Afghanistan, this documentary set makes excellent viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, June 13, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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