The Beauty Academy of Kabul

A few weeks ago I saw the documentary The Beauty Academy of Kabul and wanted to recommend it as I thought it was a very interesting film. It’s playing now in a few U.S. cities and will continue to show up in a few others over the summer. (Just click on “Where to see it” on the flash page.)

A small group of American women (a couple of them immigrants from Afghanistan) decided to open up a beauty school in Kabul to train local women about their craft. (It turns out that most of these Afghani women had already been pursuing this line of work previously, but they had not received any training in a while.)

The film does a nice job of giving some historical context starting with footage from the 70s about life in Kabul and the introduction winding up with images of all the destruction on Kabul’s streets today. It is really fascinating to see the transformation. The focus is mainly on day-to-day life, a perspective we don’t usually get to see much.

The movie seems to be very honest about portraying various sides of the parties involved. Although the American women go into all this with a reasonably open mind, not surprisingly they remain naive about the local women’s lives. This comes through clearly in the footage, there does not seem to be any attempt at making them seem more sophisticated or in-touch than they are. The toughest parts, for me, were the heart-wrenching realizations about the situation of women in Afghanistan today, regardless of certain changes.

It’s a bummer that films like this don’t get wider distribution. If you happen to be in one of the few towns where it’s playing, I recommend checking it out.

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