It's hard to dispute that Iranian filmmakers - most importantly the Makhmalbaf family - are leading the way with realist cinema. In Blackboards, Samira followed a group of Kurdish teachers made refugees by the chemical bombing of Halabcheh as they stumbled around the mountainous Iran/Iraq border trying to sell English lessons to a population whose children are mostly smugglers' mules. Here she builds on her father's work, Kandahar, which first visited post-war Afghanistan with a story of woman's return from Canadian exile to save her suicidal sister. In At Five in the Afternoon, Makhmalbaf's Afghanistan could not be more foreign or more bleak, yet her sympathetic portrayals - especially of men who pray at the sight of a woman's face - ensure there's no judgement. Instead, Nogreh's going against her father to become an educated woman plays out naturally, like teen rebellion.
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