Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Cinema Narrates History | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Afghan story with all its details is still being retold in an attempt to identify the causes behind the rise of movements such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda and others which have emerged out of the womb of the war against the Soviet in the 1980s.

Due to be released soon in the US, two films will attempt to highlight some of the hidden aspects of the convoluted Afghan issue. Bearing the same title as the book “Charlie Wilson’s War” [authored by George Crile], the first film tells the story of the role Charlie Wilson, a Texas congressman, played in the procurement of the required military and financial support for the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan War against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Wilson’s experience is one that is rich in strange and amusing stories and encounters, such as the time when he called upon the Congress to provide the money to purchase 500 donkeys so as to transfer arms to the Mujahideen fighters across the rugged mountainous terrain in Afghanistan!

Indeed; Charlie Wilson is a strange character, not unlike a cowboy, as well as being curious and eccentric. I met him once over dinner in one of the Arab capitals and his conversation brought to mind an admixture of characters: Western Orientalist, Lawrence [of Arabia] and Clint Eastwood.

Thus, the bizarre anecdotes and stories in the film will not surprise many. Famed actor Tom Hanks plays the leading role alongside Julia Roberts who has made a return after three years of absence from the silver screen. The film is expected to be a box-office hit.

The second film, which is of no less importance is based on Afghan-American doctor Khalid Hosseini’s book ‘The Kite Runner’. It recounts the story of two childhood friends in Afghanistan who come from different social, ethnic and class backgrounds who witness the fall of the monarchy at the hands of the Soviets. ‘The Kite Runner’ narrates the story of the Communist coup that followed and the beginning of the Mujahideen war against the Communist regime, after movements such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda emerged. All this history is presented through a dramatic historical narration that is both bold and moving.

The Afghan issue still continues to unravel (in a variety of ways) to reveal hidden details and omitted facts that were concealed by various parties that participated in the “battle”, each with their own reasons and objectives.

Between books and films, history is written in a modern and contemporary manner and through a “vision” that comes from a particular standpoint with the intention of transforming it into a narrative that documents history  provided nothing contests the content of these narratives. The Afghan story, which began with a noble story in which the international community supported the “Mujahideen heroes” in their war against the “evil empire” mutated into a battle against “terrorism and its elements”.

However; first and foremost, the issue of concern are the individuals, communities and certain figures that survived and are still impacted by the events that transpired in Afghanistan. And this is precisely what is depicted in the two movies in a dramatic and compelling manner.

Undoubtedly both films will stir up a controversy, which is what is precisely what is required since the issue still remains to be a thorny one. Cinemas nowadays have become places where history is narrated and biographies are recounted on the big screen.