The Russians couldn't conquer Afghanistan, and to this point neither have the Americans, but it seems a televised singing-competition has. Afghan Star, the Central Asian American Idol, is, as this documentary of the same name reveals, a wildly popular TV show — the 2008 season finale drew 11 million viewers, or one third of the country.
Is it the Afghan people's lyrical obsession with eyebrows? Or a reaction against the Taliban ban on music and dancing? Either way, Barry Manilow is unlikely to be making cameos on Afghan Star anytime soon.
Still, director Havana Marking's work is quite moving, particularly when it follows two of the three women who compete with nearly 2000 male applicants for the title. When one daring woman, performing her final song, starts dancing and letting her head scarf fall, the tectonic repercussions are chilling. As one enlightened young man on the street notes later, "She deserves to be killed."