THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED
FILM REVIEW - THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED
Running Length: 87 minutes
Release Date: 11th November 2016
Directed by: Pieter-Jan De Pue
Cast: Gholam Nasir, Khyrgyz Baj, Koko Ewas, Koko Mullalih
Written by: Pieter-Jan De Pue
``Hard to say that the result was worth all the effort``
You know that disclaimer that says, “No animals were harmed during the making if this motion picture”? Well, that’s nowhere to be found in the credits of The Land of the Enlightened, and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from children settling a dispute by forcing a pair of feral cats to fight, there are numerous lurid instances of goat throat slitting and a very literal demonstration of where the term “drug mule” came from (spoiler: the donkey doesn’t look too happy). I couldn’t say what PETA will make of this, but suffice to say that Morrissey wouldn’t be pleased.
The Land of the Enlightened is a re-enactment of real events during the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2014. The makers are calling it a “hybrid documentary”. In layman’s terms, this means that it is a dramatization of past events using non-actors (very Italian Neorealism). It has taken first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue seven years to complete; a protracted production that was undoubtedly the consequence of filming in some of the world’s most dangerous and inhospitable environments.
Animal cruelty notwithstanding, the brutality is interspersed with moments of exquisite natural beauty. Opium poppy fields look beautiful, regardless of what lies beneath. A couple of time-lapse sequences of starry skies above barren landscapes take on a near-magical feel, and The Land of the Enlightened is a visually stunning spectacle.
No doubt it was De Pue’s intention to represent Afghanistan in all its conflicted beauty and violence, but the film fails due to a lack of any coherent narrative. Flitting from a gang of child soldiers to another group of mine workers to another troupe of US Marines, the film doesn’t follow any of these threads long enough to sustain interest. Add a poor sound mix (thank goodness for subtitles) to a weak narrative, and it’s hard to say that the result was worth all the effort. Land of the Enlightened doesn’t amount to much, but if you want to see Afghanistan then it’s probably best to do so from the safety of the cinema.