As news of the US ending its two-decade-old war in Afghanistan gains traction, it’s time to look at the impact of the 20-year conflict on the people of Afghanistan and those who fought against it. Not just on the ground, but also on the screen and page after pages of literature.
US President Joe Biden announced the removal of approximately 3,000 US troops from Afghanistan, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that led to the first US invasion of Afghanistan.
“It is time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home,” Biden said in a televised address. “I am now the fourth US president to chair a US force in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
Movies have come a long way in shaping the perspective of these two decades — from the cranky Hollywood fare that seemed only to care about American lives and pushing the country’s agenda to a more nuanced view that really looked at the human being. costs of the conflict. Here we look at cinema that presented the conflict in a somewhat balanced and nuanced way.
This is a heartbreaking film about the Afghan people from the Afghan perspective. Trying to live a normal life when nothing around you seems normal can be frightening and panic-inducing, as the pandemic has taught us so well over the past year. However, living in a war-ravaged country, where you fear for your life every day, is an entirely different scale of abnormality.
Osama is the story of such a young girl and her mother, where the daughter has to live under the disguise of a boy named Osama. The why and how of it is what keeps you busy, almost breathless.
Zero Dark Thirty
We’ve seen many movies about the American perspective on war. Kathryn Bigelow’s direction, Zero Dark Thirty, is much more balanced than most. The Jessica Chastain starrer sheds light on the torture methods used by the US forces to get to the “truth.” But it’s more important because it takes us on a hunt for the most wanted in the world, Osama Bin Laden.
Directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, this war documentary is deeply rooted, and effective. The creators haven’t paid much attention to how the story unfolds on screen, giving up the narrative tricks for the emotional punch. The film chronicles the years the two journalists spent in Afghanistan on a Vanity Fair assignment.
The Tillman Story
Aided by Amir Bar-Lev, The Tillman Story revolves around Pat Tillman, a soccer player turned U.S. Army Guard who was killed in Afghanistan. However, the circumstances under which his death took place were covered up at the time. People were told an inspiring story about a war hero, but what really happened was that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Disturbing and introspective look at how war plays out beyond the battlefield.
The road to Guantanamo
What happens when cheerful British Pakistani Muslims decide to go to Pakistan to attend a wedding? Unfortunately nothing good. The group decides to visit Afghanistan on the way, and then all hell breaks loose. Everywhere they go there are things against them. Whether it is a Taliban stronghold or an American military base. This docu-drama is deeply disturbing and heartbreaking to watch.
Taxi to the dark side
This 2007 documentary won the Oscar, and for good reason. The film focuses on the Bush administration’s use of torture on everyone they suspected was on their “list.” It’s an intense, well-crafted film about how futile it becomes on either side of the battle line, and what the US government did at the time to “teach their enemy a lesson.”