Friday, Dec. 21, 2001


Kandahar Before Sept. 11, few knew of Kandahar; few cared about the ravages of civil war and Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Now the world sees the news value in Mohsen Makhmalbaf's tale of a woman crossing the desert incognito to find her sister. Even without the headlines, this Iranian film boasts a visual and emotional magnificence. It has a painter's acute eye for beauty within horror: the gorgeous colors of the burkas that imprison Afghan women; the handsome face of a child in a Taliban school as he expertly assembles a Kalashnikov rifle; the vision of one-legged men scrambling to retrieve prostheses dropped in parachutes from a plane. This is scoop journalism and heartbreaking poetry.