Wednesday, November 04, 2009


My subscription to Netflix continues to be my salvation on rainy days. I would ten thousand times prefer walking outside. (On second thought, make that twenty thousand times.) But sometimes, when the rain is coming down sideways, propelled by a 40 mph northwest wind, common sense tells me to go down the basement and have some quality time with my treadmill instead. That’s where the Netflix subscription comes in.

I have become a huge fan of foreign films. They work perfectly for the treadmill because with all the noise the treadmill makes, I have to run subtitles anyway. It doesn’t matter if a movie is in English or Babylonian Akkadian—I just read the dialogue on the bottom of the screen as I trudge along the conveyor belt, whittling my thighs and expanding my mind.

The latest exceptional foreign film I ran across was a movie made in Afghanistan in 2002, the first movie filmed after the Taliban government (in power from 1996 to 2001) was ousted by NATO forces.

If you can’t figure out why Barak Obama won’t just bring American troops home from Afghanistan, well, you might want to watch the movie, Osama , to understand one reason why. (Click the link to watch the movie trailer.)

I think history will show that in addition to its other evils, the Taliban’s oppression of women is every bit as immoral as the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews and America’s 200-year history of slavery. The Taliban forbids a long, long list of activities we take for granted (and enforces with punishments including arrest, torture, and death in the famous soccer stadium executions). Included in this list are major taboos for women, most importantly bans on education and employment. In addition, any public appearances by a woman must be in a traditional head-to-toe burqa, escorted by a male relative.

Osama tells the desperate story of a household of widowed women (a grandmother and mother) along with a 12-year-old daughter who, because of Taliban laws, are living in poverty and starvation. The writer/director of the film points out that women under the Taliban are not so much protected as they are repressed, powerless, and abused.

All events in this low-budget movie are based on real-life events related by newspapers and personal interviews to the Afghani writer/director, Siddiq Barmak. The “stars” in this movie are like those in Slumdog Millionaire: Afghani children found in refugee camps and the street and asked if they wanted to be in a movie.

This movie doesn’t give a black and white answer to the question of what role the United States should play in Afghanistan. But it certainly gives a face to the enemy—the Taliban—and the perverted, radical interpretation of Islam ideology that sentences women to lives of hopeless desperation.

It's surprising what you can learn on a treadmill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

saw that movie and can't get it out of my head . . .