Sunday, August 12, 2012

Look On! Stray Dogs in wartorn Afghanistan

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy productions)

In a previous post, I reviewed Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (2007), directed by the young Irani filmmaker, Hana Makhmalbaf. She developed the film's script, about a young girl's attempts to go to school in Afghanistan, with her mother, Marzieh Meshkini (below right).
It is by coincidence that I selected to watch (as part of my ongoing research on human rights and film) the movie under review in this post, Stray Dogs (2004), on the same day as I watched Buddha – without knowing that the maker of Stray Dogs was Meshkini, mother of Makhmalbaf, the maker of Buddha.
Made three years prior to Buddha, Stray Dogs also focuses on the plight of children in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Indeed, it was the similarities in the movies that alerted me to a possible relationship:
► The cruelty of the young boys as they endeavour to burn a dog to death.
► The touching portrait of children, stoic and self-sufficient against the indifference of adults.
Stray Dogs tells the story of two children and the dog they rescue. Calling themselves 'night prisoners', the children visit their mother at night and sleep with her – in jail. The father of the children had fought against the Americans and been presumed dead for five years, in which time the mother remarried. The mother then found herself in prison for 'adultery'.
The father is also in prison, and is subsequently moved to Guantánamo Bay, leaving the children homeless.
One evening, a new guard informs them that the rules have changed and they can no longer sleep in the prison. The children therefore decide to steal something, so that they can sleep in prison with their mother...
When asked why she made a movie about Afghanistan, Meshkini stated:
I was born in Iran, but the entire world is my home. I have learnt that filmmaking is a way of alleviating the sufferings of human beings. Just as we have doctors without frontiers, we also have artists without frontiers. My compassion is aroused whenever there is suffering. Saadi, one of the greatest Persian poets, has a poem which expresses the same sentiment and has been posted on the United Nations’ portal:
Human beings are members of one another.
As they have been created from one essence.
When one member suffers pain.
The other members become restless.
You don’t deserve to be called a human being
If you are indifferent to other people’s woes.

Food for thought.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

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