The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan Reviews

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Super Reviewer
September 4, 2011
The film describes the harsh life of Taliban-era refugees living in the caves around the destroyed, 1,600-year-old Buddhist shrine of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

THE BOY WHO PLAYS ON THE BUDDHAS OF BAMIYAN focuses on smiling eight-year-old Mir, camera-cute but pugnacious, and his family who live among the ruins of the 'Buddhas of Bamiyan', one of the tallest stone statues of the world destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Mir's acceptance of life as it is portrayed to him quite humbling. Harsh life or not, he laughs and mocks fate. His parents, tired of their hellish existence -- 20 years of wars and poverty -- are like the other adults, doing their best to survive with a fatalistic resignation. What we glimpse in this film is the equality of human existence.

The film captures the startling contrasts between the beauty of the surroundings and ugliness of these people's poverty, but its decision to present the political and historical context mainly through the family's (sometimes uninformed) words and snippets of World Service news, while leaving footage of visits by ministers and aid agencies without comment, makes for a finally unsatisfying result. It is an incredibly poignant documentary and captivating viewing as you follow the extraordinary story of Mir and his family's struggle.

The landscape is stark, the winter is harsh, the refugees' stories are harrowing, Mir's school is crowded and ill equipped, helicopters move across the sky, and the roads carry mostly military vehicles, there's no question the situation is grim. But the personalities are engaging, while occasional intrusions by the outside world into this remote spot offer both rays of hope and bureaucratic absurdism. Two decades of upheaval may have left them calloused and battle-scarred, but their hope in the feisty, almost blissfully oblivious Mir goes a long way in explaining their unflagging willingness to survive.
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