byron bay international film festival: love marriage in kabul
Numerous arrests and a slap in the face from border security guards could not contain Amin Palangi’s Love Marriage in Kabul from finding its audience. The documentary is set to screen in March at the Byron Bay Film Festival.
After the drowning of her six year old son, Mahboba Rawi made a promise to save all of Afghanistan’s orphans. The Australian-born Afghani is the founder of Mahboba’s Promise, a charity established to educate the women and children of her homeland. Palangi’s forthcoming documentary brings Mahboba back to her birthplace on a mission to arrange a marriage for Abdul, the first orphan she and her brother Siddiq rescued and housed in their shared project, the Hope House Orphanage. Abdul’s love is Fatemeh, a local girl confined to her bedroom at her father’s orders.
The couple’s excitement to wed is halted by Fatemeh’s father, who as a man of strict tradition insists that their marriage only proceed if a $10,000 dowry is paid, or a wife is found for his son. Now, Mahboba’s negotiations are Abdul and Fatemeh’s only chance to find peace.
Her courageous quest to unite the couple was brought to the attention of director Amin Palangi and his wife Sanaz Fotouhi in 2006, while they were preparing for a documentary set to detail the increase of women’s suicide by self-immolation as the Taliban fell in 2004. Palangi wanted a film project that could convey the human side of Afghanistan’s struggles to a Western public in a sympathetic manner. Mahboba’s compassionate pursuit to unity Abdul and Fatemeh and her generosity towards Kabul’s orphans was the right remedy to represent another side of a country beset by unwarranted hate.
This film is exceptionally brave. Notably, it presents Mahboba as a successful individual without qualifying her achievements in terms of gender. Mahboba’s determination to better the lives of others is never reduced to an impressive achievement for a woman; she is simply portrayed as a person with the courage to lead.
Love Marriage in Kabul insists that gendered incompetency remains a mere fallacy of tradition. The countless examples of female oppression documented throughout history are bested, and the religious edicts that label woman as lesser become obsolete as Mahboba never gives up, even when failure seems imminent. To watch her as she journeys through Kabul, organising and assembling care packages for the poor and collecting donations to sustain the orphans is nothing short of inspiring. Even so, her confrontation with Fatemeh’s father is a momentous occasion, not only for the couple’s future but for the sake of a belief system based on the total submission of an entire gender.
Palangi pits tradition against the present. His is an Afghanistan that wishes to progress beyond it’s old limitations. To continue with prejudice deprives the world of a legion of leaders like Mahboba, women who could lead with confidence and bring positive change.
Palangi’s steady camera captures Kabul’s charm as the Hope House orphans dance around the huge pot that boils in preparation of the night’s meal; Palangi equally shows the dark side of city, as mothers and their children beg in the wet mud along roadsides, distressing scenes that eloquently express why women like Mahboba are necessary.
Byron Bay International Film Festival runs from March 6-15. Program and tickets available on February 23. www.bbff.com.au