Three Boys Made of Light
"Twelve years ago film director James Longley released his Oscar-nominated documentary Iraq in Fragments. With the same appreciation for the human spirit and deep respect for the vulnerability and resiliency of those living in war zones, this MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award-winner shot his latest film in Afghanistan. In a Director's Statement, he explains that he wants to give audiences an "opportunity to think about Afghanistan from an interior, civilian perspective." To do so, he decided to film at a school:
"A school provides the kind of neutral territory that allows extended filming without putting too much social pressure on any one individual or family. A school is a place of learning — it’s also a good place to learn about a country. The job of a school is to instill the foundational ideas of a society, ideas which — in Afghanistan — have been the subject of much disputation. Because children’s education impacts the future, it is also possible to learn something about the future of Afghanistan by spending time in its schools."
"Angels Are Made of Light paints a picture of civilian life in Kabul today by filming at the Daqiqi Balkhi School, focusing on students ranging in age from 8 through 13. One of the teachers, Fazula, has three sons. We hear from them and others through voice-over commentaries. Honest, stirring, and occasionally sad, these texts are drawn from unscripted audio interviews with the boys.
Angels Are Made of Light encourages us to follow the lead of these three boys and try to make sense of the world around us. It offers us opportunities to practice empathy."
-- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The Future is not Yet Written
"The future is not yet written, and the brave young souls at the heart of the film offer promise that it may be less bleak. Maybe.
...Among the compelling ensemble, we meet Sohrab and his brother Rostam, who represent different paths within one family, the former seeking escape through study, the latter through mechanical labor. A third, younger brother, Yaldash, yearns to study, as well, but is compelled by his father to work as an apprentice tinsmith. And then there’s Nabiullah, another studious boy whose friend was killed by a suicide bomber. He aches for an Afghanistan with neither Taliban nor Americans. We also meet young girls learning to read, taught by women like Hasiba, whose voice we also hear; she firmly believes that female literacy holds the key to a better tomorrow.
Indeed, the teachers here are heroic in their efforts, holding classes in bombed-out buildings, as well as tents, with little to no supplies. We open with the image of dust swirling in a beam of light through a hole in the roof of one such location, immediately evoking the movie’s title; the line actually comes from the students’ religion lessons, taught as a core belief of Islam...Mature beyond their years, the youth of Afghanistan internalize all that is wrong now to avoid repeating the same mistakes."
What difference will such changes make in the lives of ordinary citizens?...Angels are made of light, and politicians of money; same old, same old. Perhaps this time, with the rising generation of angels, things could be different. We’ll know eventually. For now, we have this beautiful movie to give us hope."
-- Christopher Llewellyn Reed