Last year I reviewed the film Afghan Star, a documentary that showed the Afghan version of American Idol (or other such competition shows). The documentary was eye opening, showing the people of Afghanistan in a way I had never considered. With this singing competition, televised across the country, people there got the opportunity to participate in a democratic process of voting for their favorite performer, someone just like them.
Several of the contestants were women, who really risked their very lives by singing on stage. One young woman, Setara Husseinzada, braved the scorn of the public and would move to the music as she sang. In fact, on the night she was voted out, her headscarf slipped from her hair and she continued singing. Her behavior shocked and angered some in the public, and in her hometown of Herat, the leading clerics openly criticized her for her behavior.
In the follow up documentary, Silencing the Song: An Afghan Fallen Star, HBO films returned to see how she was faring. Fearing for her life and now married and pregnant, they follow Setara in Kabul, showing the harassment and fear she faces on a daily basis.
The follow up is essential if you have seen the first documentary, as you can't help but wonder what happened to this brave, brave girl after the competition ended. Although short, this seeming news-report style film shows the prejudice, fear, and superstition present in Afghanistan, and those who not only oppose that fear, but battle it.
If you get a chance, both documentaries are well worth your time. Below is a trailer for Silencing the Song: An Afghan Fallen Star.