Have you ever watched a film or a TV show and thought -- What were they thinking, that would never happen?
Well, in my newest video, Misrepresenting Afghanistan on Screen, I will show you some of those cringe-worthy moments in movies and vlogs about Afghanistan that made me wonder -- What were they thinking?
I’ll walk you through a few scenes from Rock the Kasbah, a Bill Murray movie directed by Barry Levinson, to show how the costume choices and makeup clashed with the reality of how an Afghan girl from a remote village would live and —wait for it, wait for it — she also happens to sing Cat Stevens song, Wild World, in flawless English. Don’t get me started.
Then there is The Kite Runner movie. What could go wrong with that beautiful book, written by an Afghan author? The book laid out everything for the director, or so I thought. I cringed every time Baba, played by Homayoun Ershadi, slipped into the wrong dialect of Farsi -- can you imagine the Queen of England speaking with an American accent? It totally ruined the movie for me.
My fascination with cultures, dialects, and religions probably stems from living in five different countries before I turned eleven -- apt training grounds for a future cultural authenticity zealot!
Lastly, I’ve included a few clips (with witty commentary, of course) from the movie Lone Survivor, directed by Peter Berg, which irked me so much that I wrote this post, Lone Survivor Misses The Mark, back in 2014.
I also cover two adventure travel bloggers, Drew Binsky and Indigo Traveller’s, trips to Afghanistan along with a quick review of the audiobook of A Door In the Earth.
I’m glad that the world is intrigued by Afghanistan which has inspired many books, movies, television shows, and theatrical productions, but, more often than not, Afghans and Afghanistan are mis-portrayed. Cultural authenticity imbues the character’s name, motivations, dialect, and backstory, and juxtaposes them against the backdrop of historical events, with proper costume, body language, and setting. Don’t get me wrong, most production teams want to get it right and they try, but it’s when they don’t know what they don’t know that cultural misrepresentation and appropriation sneak in.
Since my first Cultural Advising gig ten years ago, I’ve worked on inspiring productions ranging from JT Roger’s Blood and Gifts to renowned composer, Sheila Silver’s opera of A Thousand Splendid Suns. In the past four years, I’ve had the good fortune of working closely with playwright Gabriel Jason Dean on developing his award-winning play, Heartland. To learn more about cultural authenticity in the movies and theatre, check out my blog post: What the heck does an Afghanistan Cultural Consultant Do?.
If you have a project—book, movie, manuscript, teleplay or opera—relating to Afghanistan, go ahead and drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk.
I hope you enjoy my video. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the portrayal of your people, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity affects you. If you like this post, go ahead and share it with your Hollywood producer, theatre director or best-selling author friend. You never know when they’ll be in need of an Afghanistan Cultural Advisor.
Here are two other articles that you might be interested in reading: