Afghan Star (2009)



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

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Movie Info

After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, "Pop Idol" has come to television in Afghanistan. Here, we follow four contestants as they risk their lives to sing in competition.
Art House & International , Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts , Special Interest , Television
Directed By:
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Critic Reviews for Afghan Star

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (19)

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 16, 2011
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
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top 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.

Full Review… | August 21, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
Top 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.

Full Review… | August 21, 2009
Seattle Times
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | July 30, 2009
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.

Full Review… | July 24, 2009
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Afghan Star

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 Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


The movie reveals a slice of Afghanistan that isn't shown in the news. The documentary seemed a little rushed and seems to skip over some subjects. But, regardless, the subject was fascinating as it was insightful. Even with the available cameras they used to film this documentary, the story kept me drawn in all the way to the end.

craig downing
craig downing

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.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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