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Afghan Star (2009)

tomatometer

100

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 60
Fresh: 60 | Rotten: 0

An enlightening and sobering documentary on Afghanistan's very own X-Factor.

100

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 20
Fresh: 20 | Rotten: 0

An enlightening and sobering documentary on Afghanistan's very own X-Factor.

audience

76

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 7,626

My Rating

Movie Info

When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1996, among their many edicts was banning popular music, considering it a corrupting and sacrilegious influence. Though Taliban was swept from power in 2001, Islamic militants still regard music as sinful and have targeted Afghan musicians in assassination plots. Into this repressive culture comes a television show that has taken Afghanistan by storm -- Afghan Star, a talent search modeled after American Idol in which aspiring singers perform for

Mar 30, 2010

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June 25, 2009:
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All Critics (60) | Top Critics (20) | Fresh (60) | Rotten (0) | DVD (1)

While its style and structure conform to the well-worn template established by docs like Spellbound, its success lies in creating an accessible, fun way into serious issues.

November 17, 2011 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Of all the films to come out of the conflict, Afghan Star is the most provocative, because its message that people are essentially the same is a dubious, double-edge sword.

September 17, 2009 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like The Kite Runner novel and movie, the documentary Afghan Star succeeds at dramatizing the lives of Afghans, but those we see on screen are real flesh-and-blood characters -- people who let their true feelings emerge.

August 21, 2009 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An informative documentary revealing how decades of war and years of Taliban repression have fallen to the wayside, however briefly, as Kabul's answer to American Idol seduces a violence-weary Afghanistan.

August 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most hopeful and heart-rending movies I've seen this year.

July 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This eye-opening film reveals that even systems as dubious as the Idol format mean dramatically different things when transferred to radically dissimilar cultures.

July 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Timely and intriguing docu was the winner of the Directing and Audience Awards at the Sundance Film Fest.

June 22, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

For all the dramatic pull of the competition and insight into current culture and politics in Afghanistan, it's a bit of a shame that the film itself is such a dry affair.

June 13, 2010 Full Review Source: DCist

... more than a popular phenomenon, this documentary shows how a simple, completely apolitical piece of entertainment crosses ethnic, regional and cultural borders...

April 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Seanax.com
Seanax.com

For once, the McDonald's-like spreading of American culture abroad seems to have actually been a good thing.

March 18, 2010 Full Review Source: Projection Booth | Comment (1)
Projection Booth

The film is both optimistic and depressing. This film is about a real war with real deaths that is going on in Afghanistan and one of the battlefields of that war is a pop music contest on television.

March 16, 2010 Full Review
rec.arts.movies.reviews

Afghan Star is an engaging and important film and what it lacks in depth, it makes up for in cultural impact. Worth seeing.

January 14, 2010 Full Review Source: ViewLondon | Comments (3)
ViewLondon

An inspiring, fun documentary.

December 15, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

One of the more surreal docs to come down the pike in some time.

October 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Afghanistan's version of American Idol shines a spotlight on a culture in transition. Fascinating -- especially when it comes to the experiences of the woman who's risking her reputation and social standing in order to sing.

October 6, 2009 Full Review Source: About.com
About.com

It's an upbeat film, though hardly a convincing one, that shows there's more to the popular TV show than entertainment.

September 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The filmmaking itself is pretty much by the numbers...But there's some genuine tension as the competition field narrows.

September 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

The film's essential fascination and integrity swamp any qualms about its pacing or all-around moviemaking.

September 18, 2009 Full Review Source: Baltimore Sun
Baltimore Sun

...by the end of the 88 minute journey you'll learn more about contemporary Afghanistan than you will from a month of watching television news in the United States.

September 18, 2009 Full Review Source: Playback:stl
Playback:stl

Marking has a good eye for capturing the contradictions of Afghanistan.

September 5, 2009 Full Review Source: KPBS.org
KPBS.org

This documentary about the Afghani version of American Idol is good and worth a look, but I was never swept up by it emotionally.

August 12, 2009 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) | Comment (1)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Afghan Star

Interesting to see how a knock off of a western television show is made in a country with such strict laws regarding music, dance and even television in general make everything more difficult. What I enjoyed seeing most was how some people live with the fear instead of backing down on their "progressive" ideas. Americans need to be reminded how lucky we are and even what we are fighting for when we try to expand democracy. They feel voting for a singer is exercising democracy, but also live with fear they can lose their favorite new tv show at the same time.
August 11, 2010
Tomassgringo

Super Reviewer

As televisions make a return to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, so too should remote controls that can change the channel, so those easily offended can watch something else and mind their business, especially as it concerns the musical competition, Afghan Star, where the winner gets $5,000. "Afghan Star" follows four of the finalists, Hameed, Rafi, Lima and Setara, who is also the most outspoken of the group, on and off stage to get a sense of how the contest is affecting their own lives and any resistance they face. Now, a singing competition might on the surface seem like a strange place to explore the changing state of freedoms in the country, but with any nation emerging from a repressive state, there has to be a first step(in this case, it is a dance step). In other times and places, it has been artists like Elvis Presley and Pedro Almodovar that led the charge.

So, while I agree with this moderately entertaining and insightful documentary that this television show where men and women occupy the same stage can lead to inspiring greater freedom, other conclusions concerning democracy and unity I am less sure of. While the contestants do run political style campaigns, this really should not be confused with the ballot box. Also, I bet that each ethnic group votes for their own primarily.
March 9, 2011
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Far better than the original American or Pop Idol, Afghan Star depicts people erupting after having their collective expressions put under the boot of the Taliban. The idols are unique and terribly fun to watch.
July 5, 2013
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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