Afghan Star 2009

Afghan Star

Critics Consensus

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

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 62

77%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,885

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Movie Info

Director Havana Marking dives into the booming, but still young and growing, world of pop culture in Afghanistan. Newly liberated after more than 30 years of stifling Taliban rule, the country is taken with a fervor for expression. This documentary follows four contestants, including two women, as they audition, sing and compete in a countrywide "American Idol"-type competition called "Pop Idol." Marking uncovers a wonderfully vibrant community, which is also surprisingly accepting.

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Critic Reviews for Afghan Star

All Critics (62) | Top Critics (24) | Fresh (62)

  • 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

    David Fear

    Time Out
    Top 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 | Rating: 3/4
  • 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 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • 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 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • One of the most hopeful and heart-rending movies I've seen this year.

    July 30, 2009 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top 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 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Afghan Star

  • Jul 05, 2013
    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.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2011
    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.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 28, 2009
    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.
    Thomas J Super Reviewer
  • May 29, 2009
    Solid, inspiring documentary about Afghanistan's first televised talent competition, a la "American Idol," that for the first time brings music back to the country after Taliban rule and gathers performers from formerly adversarial ethnic groups in what is the first contact with democracy many young people have ever had. What may be throwaway entertainment in America is a cultural watershed moment for a country casting off the bonds of tyranny. Both hopeful and eye opening, "Afghan Star" may lack a driving suspense factor, but makes up for it with compelling human drama.
    Matthew L Super Reviewer

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