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Marina: Afghanistan Shoujo No Kanashimi Wo Toru

Marina: Afghanistan Shoujo No Kanashimi Wo Toru

Film Review By Sonia Nettnin

On Thursday, the second annual Chicago International Documentary Festival opened with the international premiere of "MARINA: AFGHANISTAN SHOUJO NO KANASHIMI WO TORU" (2003). Director Naofumi Nakamura of NHK-Japan Broadcasting Corporation captures the life of Marina Golbahari, heroine of Siddiq Barmak’s OSAMA.

Senior producer of Nakamura’s film, Yoneno Masaru, was in Chicago for opening night of the festival. Moreover, he shared Nakamura’s thoughts with eloquent expression:

“When I think of all the Marinas in the world . . . there are millions of children like Marina.”

The documentary, 52-minutes, is in Urdu, English and Japanese. The English narrator reveals that in winter 2002, leading Afghan film director, Siddiq Barmak, begins filming the life story about a young, Afghan girl in the post-Taliban era. At that time the film, titled RAINBOW, would be the first film not proscribed by the Taliban regime. Afghanistan - a country ravaged by 23 years of war with the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. - is home to 50,000 orphans. In this country, one out of ten Afghans has been killed in extended wartime conditions; and the orphan children have lost their parents and/or homes. Nakamura’s film is about Barmak’s exploration of war’s side effects. The lens within a lens creates a multi-layered framework for an examination into the lives of Afghan youth subjected to war.

During the film, Barmak investigates a destroyed movie theater in Kabul. Amid concrete rocks and rubble are broken filmstrips. In a camera close-up, the dust-covered, photographic emulsions are people frozen in time.

“Do we make things only to destroy them?” Barmak asks.

For two months, Barmak interviews over 3,000 girls. He states he needs a girl who has experienced bitterness and sorrow -- she must emanate these feelings in front of the camera. In Kabul he spends time in Aschiana, a center for street children. As he listens to their wartime experiences, he cannot find his heroine.

One day, he walks in front of a restaurant. Children beg him for money.

“Your charity,” one girl said.

Her sad eyes draw in Barmak. She is on the verge of tears . . . Barmak retells his discovery to the camera . . . Nakamura relives the beginning of the relationship between Marina and Barmak.

She is from the Somali Plains, north of Kabul. It has been one of the worst, warfare sites in Afghanistan; and now it is filled with landmines. After two of Marina’s sisters are killed in wall collapses of their home, the family flees to Kabul. The father, who was imprisoned and tortured, now longer has use of his left leg. Since the age of five, Marina begs for money and rummages through garbage for her eight-member-family.

At 13, Marina’s bleeding heart wells in her eyes and shakes her body. The lines on her face are etched with generations of pain and despair.Now that Marina’s life account permeates the set, how does Barmak work with the theme of his tale? RAINBOW is based on an Afghan legend that conveys the passage under a rainbow is freedom.

As Marina jumps rope under a rainbow, Barmak films her. According to his script, she will reach freedom. Then, shots of Barmak’s script are shown by Nakamura. Suddenly, red Xs cover sections of the script. First-hand, Nakamura shows how these elements converge throughout Barmak’s film. Marina’s life revises the story, which makes this documentary so emotional and moving. Another lens has been added to the film’s framework, thus individual epiphanies are realized throughout the film.

Nakamura’s film shows Barmak as he shoots scenes from OSAMA. As women in burkas flee Taliban men who shower acid into the air, Nakamura films Barmak’s feedback. Throughout the film, Barmak is shown in director’s gear.

Since Marina learned her lines orally, her relationship with the director is enhanced by their interaction. Through Nakamura’s lens of Barmak’s intended lens for Marina, people see how Barmak’s relationship with Marina changes the film’s direction. The original script had objectives that were revised to mirror Marina’s life account.

She represents the millions of children like her; and Barmak’s tale was supposed to symbolize the freedom gained in a post-Taliban time. “Before, my clothes were ragged,” Marina says. “I never want to go back.” Her memories are so engraved in her soul that she relives them in front of the camera post-traumatically.

During an American aerial bombardment of Kabul, the narrator explains, Marina relives her experience. “We hid in the basement hugging and crying,” she said. Post-filming begins Barmak’s production for the final depiction. How does he resolve the climax of his tale? Where does the rainbow go?

What does Barmak say about Afghan’s dreams? The dialog and images answers these questions. Moreover, it depicts the socio-economic conditions of a war-torn country. It shows the children who have no food or homes. Also, it illustrates the psychological effects produced by war.After the last bomb is dropped, what are the consequences? Nakamura shows the behind-the-scenes in Barmak’s film. His clarity draws viewers into Marina’s heartbreaking world beyond the screen.

His filmography as director includes: MARINA (2003); IRAQ SENSE (2003); AFGHANISTAN (2003); and AFGHANISTAN’S NATIONAL BROADCASTER (2002).

“I will devote myself to you,” is one of the lines sung by Barmak in the film. Marina sings a song as well. Also, Marina is interviewed six months after post-film production of OSAMA.Out of actinic rays of light, Nakamura illustrates the life of the documentary.


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