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DVD Review: The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan

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We all know that Afghanistan is at war. But the country has been at war for over 30 years, during which time hundreds of thousands of men,women and children have died, many at the hands of the former Taliban leaders. What has life been like for those living in Afghanistan in recent history?

Released in 2003, the beautifully shot documentary The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan follows one little boy — Mir — and his family through one winter, summer and spring.

In 2001, the Taliban destroyed a UNESCO World Heritage site, the “Buddhas of Bamiyan,” which for thousands of years were the tallest stone statues in the world. Mir and his family live in caves nearby, barely eking out an existence. “If you brought a donkey here,” says Mir’s father, “it would run away. We stay because we have to.”

Yet despite constant hunger and deprivation, Mir is incredibly cheerful, nearly always with a huge smile for the camera. He and his friends scuffle and play like 8-year-olds anywhere. He’s no angel — he gets into fights with the other boys and tries to get out of going to school — but he is a charmer, nonetheless.

As Mir moves through the year, so does his family and their friends. Their condition is desperate, and they have come through unimaginable trials, yet they remain hopeful that their future is going to be better.

With this film, Phil Grabsky has put a very human and unforgettable face on the Afghanistan people. You will care about Mir and his family. The beautiful cinematography contrasts the magnificence of the landscape with the harshness of human conditions, and finding Mir to be the center of the film was a stroke of genius.

There is a follow up to this film now in general release, titled The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan. You can find out more about both films at theboymir.com, and there is also a link there to make donations to aid Mir and other Afghan families.

About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.