Monday, March 24, 2008
Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (بودا از شرم فرو ریخت)
When Iranian director Hana Makhmalbaf was 14 years old, she made a documentary called "Joy of Madness." When she became 18 years old, she made a compelling first dramatic feature "Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame (بودا از شرم فرو ریخت)" (Iran 2007, 81mins), which won the Crystal Bear for the Best Feature Film at this year's Berlin International Film Festival.
In 2001, the Tiliban blew up Buddhas statues in Afghanistan. Like many Afghanis, six years old Bakhtay live in one of the empty caves, with a next cave neighbor Abbas, a seven years old boy who just begins to attend school. Bakhtay is fascinated by the idea of going to school like Abbas does. After her mom goes out to get water from the river, she ties her infant sister's leg to a pole, and begins her incredible journey to get a notebook and a pen, so she can attend school and learn "a funny story about a man sleeping under a walnut tree." However, to complete her mission, she must overcome crude bullies from other boys who do nothing but play violent "war games."
Bakhtay's going to school story is deeply moving and profoundly sad. The living condition and education resources in Afghanistan are shockingly miserable. It's heartbroken to see what Bakhtay has to go through in order to get a notebook. Even she never has enough money to get a pen, she is smart enough to find a substitute — her mom's lipstick. Although the film deals with a very heavy subject, it never steers away from the fact that Bakhtay is just a six years old girl. She is not capable of evaluate the danger around her, she cries: "I don't like war play."
Watching the gripping story unfold in a documentary style, I am frightened by the violence these children are exposed to and learning from, I am saddened by the reality these children have to live in, and I am touched by Bakhtay's innocence.
I hope Bakhtay has a notebook and a pen by now.