Hard-hitting slice of realpolitik from Afghanistan

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Score 3

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At Five In The Afternoon

OPENS APRIL 16, CERT U, 106 MINS

Another triumph from precocious Iranian cine-savant Samira Makhmalbaf (The Apple, Blackboards). This time arid, rubble-strewn, post-Taliban Afghanistan is the suitably dramatic (and ultimately cinematic) setting. There our feisty neo-feminist student protagonist Nogreh (Agheleh Reszaie?a non-professional, like the rest of the cast) hopes to become president of the new Republic while her infant nephew slowly dies of starvation, her ramshackle neighbourhood gradually fills with bedraggled, malnourished refugees and her fundamentalist father loudly bemoans the everyday blasphemies he sees around him?like music and women. Which, when combined with Makhmalbaf’s gripping neo-realist style and her eye for composition (a crowd of women in blue burqas moving slowly, like a river) is all genuinely compelling in an ‘oh isn’t life awful when the West has bombed you out of existence and you’re a strong woman in a man’s world and everyone’s going to die because of political ignorance’ kind of way. But it’s also kind of obvious, too.