Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 May 2015 12:26
Saeed Taji Farouky - Michael McEvoy, Afghanistan
In 2012 the United States and NATO forces pulled out of Afghanistan. What was left behind was the nominally trained Afghan National Army (ANA) who must clean up the mess. Tell Spring Not to Come this Year
follows these soldiers in their first year of deployment in Helmand as they face the overwhelming job of trying to counter the Taliban forces.
What is truly fascinating about this documentary is that it is purely from the perspective of Afghan soldiers. The directors are an almost invisible presence throughout and without any NATO forces around; it becomes clear that all that is left are the Afghans in their native land. We watch as they deal with the opium trade, interrogate locals, and fight gruesome battles with the Taliban with no backup. It becomes clear that just because NATO has left, that doesn’t mean the battle is over for the people of Afghanistan.
While the film is enlightening on a visual and emotional level, there is a distinct lack of practical information to inform the audience of what is going on and that proves to be its ultimate weakness. Perhaps it would not have won the Panorama Audience Award if one of the directors, Michael McEvoy, had not attended the screenings. It was his consummate knowledge of the situation in Afghanistan and the ANA which complemented the film and made it more effective and understandable. Without his presence, the film lacked depth, but after he answered questions it became truly fascinating.
McEvoy spoke on a number of subjects ranging from explanations about finer points of the film to cultural explanations of the actions of the documentary’s participants. Particularly interesting was when he was asked about the general feeling the populace of Afghanistan had about 9/11. McEvoy mentioned that there are a lot of conspiracy theories about 9/11, which stem from the fact that many Afghans don’t know much about the event or its importance. One such theory is that America is secretly supporting the Taliban in order to have a reason to stay in Afghanistan. While this may seem patently ridiculous to westerners, a majority of Afghans believe there is truth to this. These conspiracy theories stem from a lack of understanding, which is an example of how the NATO troops failed to educate. Another interesting question that was asked was why there were so few women throughout the film (there were maybe only two women briefly shown in the whole movie). McEvoy was quick to say that he was trying to document reality, and in Afghanistan the reality is that you rarely ever see women. They tend to live their whole lives in compounds. He mentioned that during the war the Americans created female engagement teams with the hope of getting information from local Afghan women, but the mission was a failure because the vast majority of women there know little outside of their homes. The general understanding that came from the question and answer is that what was set up by NATO forces has failed to properly bring stability to the region or help the ANA create that stability itself. In this sense it was fascinating to see a documentary highlighting the lack of positive results of thirteen years of war. (RF)