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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Afghan plight jolts Cannes
Samira Makhmalbaf is the youngest director to compete for the Palme d'Or
Makhmalbaf is the youngest director to compete for the Palme d'Or

A film about the aftermath of the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan by a young female Iranian director has premièred at the Cannes film festival.

Samira Makhmalbaf journeyed to Afghanistan in the months following the war as a million refugees poured back into the capital Kabul and surrounding areas.

What she discovered was not the picture of harmony she had seen on television but the desperate plight of the people who had no homes to return to and little food.

The documentary-style film At Five in the Afternoon is one of 20 films entered into the festival's prestigious Palme d'Or competition and received a rapturous reception on its Cannes debut.

There is still a big difference between men and women in Afghanistan
Samira Makhmalbaf

Three years ago Makhmalbaf was the youngest director to be entered into the Palme d'Or for the film Blackboard, and now at 23 she is still considerably younger than her fellow film-makers.

At Five in the Afternoon is the first feature film to made in a post-Taliban environment.


"I wanted to show reality, not the cliches on television saying that the US went to Afghanistan and rescued the people from the Taliban, that the US did a Rambo," said Makhmalbaf.

Children in Kabul
There are continuing problems of food and shelter in Kabul

"When I went there it just wasn't like that."

Makhmalbaf recruited residents of Kabul to take lead and minor roles in the movie and based dialogue on real speech she overheard during her time in the country.

The film focuses on the treatment of women and the failure of the West to avert a humanitarian crisis, following the character Noghreh, an independent 23-year-old woman who dreams of becoming president.

But her fundamentalist father cannot abide women showing their faces and cannot understand the liberalisation of his country.

"Though the Taliban have gone, their ideas are anchored in peoples' minds, in their traditions and culture," said Makhmalbaf.

"There is still a big difference between men and women in Afghanistan."


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