Kandahar (2001 film)

Kandahar (Dari: قندهار, "Qandahar") is a 2001 Iranian film directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, set in Afghanistan during the rule of the Taliban. Its original Afghan title is Safar-e Ghandehar (سفر قندهار), which means "Journey to Kandahar", and it is alternatively known as The Sun Behind the Moon. The film is based on a partly true, partly fictionalized story of a successful Afghan-Canadian, played by Nelofer Pazira, who returns to Afghanistan after receiving a letter from Dyana, her lifelong girl friend who was left behind when the family escaped, that she plans on committing suicide on the last solar eclipse of the millennium.

Kandahar (2001 film).jpg
Directed byMohsen Makhmalbaf
Produced byMohsen Makhmalbaf
Written byMohsen Makhmalbaf
StarringNelofer Pazira
Sadou Teymouri
Hoyatala Hakimi
Dawud Salahuddin (Hassan Tantai)
Music byMohammad Reza Darvishi
CinematographyEbrahim Ghafori
Edited byMohsen Makhmalbaf
Distributed byAvatar Films
Release date
  • 2001 (2001)
Running time
85 minutes
LanguageDari language

Kandahar was filmed mostly in Iran, including at the Niatak refugee camp,[1] but also secretly in Afghanistan itself.[citation needed] Most people, including Nelofer Pazira, played themselves. The film premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival,[2] but did not get much attention at first. After 9/11, however, it was widely shown. Kandahar won Makhmalbaf the Federico Fellini Prize from UNESCO in 2001, and is one of the "All-Time" 100 Movies by the periodical Time.[3]


Nafas, an Afghan woman living in safety in Canada, arrives in Iran, dons a burqa, and enters Afghanistan posing as a wife in a family of refugees attempting to return to their homeland. Brigands rob them along the road to Kandahar. They decide to return to Iran, but Nafas must continue on her mission to save her maimed sister from suicide. She pays Khak, a boy recently expelled from a Qur'anic school, to be her guide. Khak brings Nafas to a village doctor when she gets sick from drinking unsanitized well water. The doctor reveals himself to be an African American convert to Islam, who must wear a fake beard (which he calls "a man's burqa") because he can't grow one. Out of fear of being found out, Khak is dismissed, and the doctor takes Nafas by horse cart. Along the way, he confides with her that he has no formal medical training and has become disillusioned with the turn the country has taken under the Taliban.

Along her journey, Nafas records her impressions into a portable tape recorder in a country where the only technological progress allowed is weaponry. Nafas learns more and more about the hardships women face; and even more so, how years of war have destroyed Afghan society. She sees children robbing corpses to survive, people fighting over artificial limbs that they might need in case they walk through a minefield, and doctors who examine female patients from behind a curtain with a hole in it.

When the doctor turns back because he is afraid to enter Kandahar, she follows a man wearing a burqa who scammed a pair of artificial legs out of the Red Cross. The pair join a wedding party which is stopped by the Taliban because they are singing and playing instruments which is forbidden by law. Her guide is unveiled and taken away. Nafas is cleared by the Taliban patrol to continue, along with other members of the wedding party. In the end, Nafas is within sight of Kandahar at sunset, but she is now a prisoner of the veil.

Dawud SalahuddinEdit

The film stars Dawud Salahuddin (credited in the film as Hassan Tantai), an American-born convert to Islam who in 1980 assassinated an Iranian dissident and ex-diplomat at the behest of the newly formed Islamic Republic of Iran's intelligence authorities.[4] Makhmalbaf stated that Salahuddin "is also a victim - a victim of the ideal he believed in. His humanity, when he opened fire against his ideological enemy, was martyred by his idealism."[5]



  1. ^ Mario Falsetto, Liza Béar. The Making of Alternative Cinema: Beyond the frame : dialogues with world filmmakers. Praeger, 2008. ISBN 0-275-99941-6, ISBN 978-0-275-99941-4. Pg 227
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Kandahar". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  3. ^ Corliss, richard (14 January 2010). "Kandahar". Time. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  4. ^ Nugent, Benjamin (19 December 2001). "A Killer in "Kandahar?"". Time. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  5. ^ Makhmalbaf, Mohsen (12 June 2002). "The condemned". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2013.

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