Buddha Collapsed out of Shame

The beauty and grief of present-day Afghanistan receive epic, poetic treatment from Hana Makhmalbaf, the youngest member of director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's remarkable family. Set in Bamian, the town where the Taliban's destruction of cultural treasures sickened the world, Buddha Collapsed out of Shame is an exotic and frightening journey into the minds of the children who live in that desolate area-and children affected by violence everywhere. All Baktay (Nikbakht Noruz) wants to do is go to the school for girls that has opened up across the river. But she must overcome Herculean obstacles, starting with her family's extreme poverty and her mother's indifference. The film feels extremely authentic, largely due to the stripped-down neorealist style of the Makhmalbaf family's projects and the fact that they cast local nonprofessional actors for all the roles. But this is not a documentary. The film sneakily reveals all sorts of narrative surprises and political critiques despite its simple exterior.

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