In the year 2000, Nafas (Niloufar Pazira) a 29-year old Afghan-born Canadian journalist travels back to her homeland in search of her sister. The sister was maimed by the long war, and her life under oppressive Taliban rule is no longer worth living; she has resolved to commit suicide on the last solar eclipse of the century.

Dependent for her travels on the uncertain help of men, Nafas encounters many other charismatic women hiding under the seclusion of the burqas. The inquiries she makes to find her sister raise the veil just enough to reveal the torment of Afghan women, deprived of rights, education, and basic health care. A doctor must question his women patients, who are hidden from him by a canvas wall, through a child intermediary; he does not touch them. The ending is inconclusive.


A much acclaimed film, based on the true-life experience of the striking actress, Pazira--who plays herself, this film poses as a documentary. Apparently, the articulate Pazira did go back to the Afghan border in 1999 looking for an unhappy friend whom, sadly, she never found; all Afghan women are her sisters, she claims, and their pain is hers.

The premise seems contrived, the tone is at times preachy, the dialogue is unnaturally exalted and the staging, stiff. For example, Nafas has a penchant for pronouncing poetic platitudes and a roadside robbery seems clumsy and banal--perhaps intentionally.

The great strength of Makhmalbaf's film is in the cinematography and in its timing. He plays skillfully with light and colour to make the dreaded burqas stunningly beautiful, even as he exposes the tyranny that they represent. It is difficult but important to remember that this film was released before 11 September 2001.


Some subtitles. This film won several awards: Cannes Ecumenical Jury Prize (2001); Federico Fellini Honour of UNESCO (2001); Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival (2001).




Makmalbaf Filmhouse,Bac Films

Running Time (in minutes)