Three Songs for Benazir review – award-winning Afghan documentary affects us all

January 25, 2022
Romey Norton 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service
4

Summary

All Shaista wants to do is improve his life, but his options are the poppy field or the battlefield.

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4

Summary

All Shaista wants to do is improve his life, but his options are the poppy field or the battlefield.

Netflix documentary short Three Songs for Benazir was released on the streaming service on January 24, 2022.

Netflix has released the documentary short Three Songs for Benazir, which is directed by Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei. The Afghan documentary film follows the story of Shaista and Benazir, a married couple who live in one of Afghanistan’s displacement camps in Kabul. With a running time of 22 minutes, I highly recommend taking the time to watch as this documentary is eye-opening, thought-provoking, and will leave you with a lot of mixed emotions.

There is no voice-over or host, and there are English subtitles available. This documentary has won various awards, and that is down to its simple yet powerful content. Shaista wants to join the army. He believes this will make his wife proud and give his life purpose. Being uneducated, we see that someone must sign for him/help him fill out his documents, and his family refuses to, which means he must work in the poppy fields.

What becomes clear is that their lives seem desolate and desperate. Their view is that they will either be killed by foreign bombs or by the Taliban. Heartbreakingly, these families only want a normal, simple life and have fled to try and salvage this. Yet, they cannot fulfill a simple dream of joining the army/having the opportunity to do so. Shaista doesn’t make it into the army, and instead works in the poppy fields and ultimately ends up in a substance abuse center. His life choices were limited and, you could argue, he was set up for failure. It’s a conflicting feeling when you’re rooting for someone to join the fight in Afghanistan. When I say “rooting”, I mean I was wanting him to feel more worthy and complete. 

The documentary starts and finishes with Shaista singing a song for his wife, with a four-year difference. In the beginning, he is hopeful, they are laughing. After four years, he is in a rehabilitation center, and his wife is trying not to cry. As was I. When he sees his children he asks his wife “why are they barefoot?” and she replies that she cannot afford shoes. Simple things like this really hit me hard, and really showcase the hardship these people are going through, without having to be graphic or extreme in their choice of imagery, language, or music.

The cinematography is impressive, we have huge contrast between shots of the peaceful, pretty poppy fields to the filth and mud where they live in the camps. Very cleverly placed shots throughout the documentary can and will stick with you. There are frequent shots of birds in cages, which mirror the people, and how they are caged in these camps. Shots of blimps and army aircraft flying over the camps are very unsettling and show just how much these areas are watched and controlled. There is one shot of two children playing with knives and guns, and this just reflects that the main part of their life is war and surviving. This documentary short really does pack a punch in 22 minutes. 

I found this documentary educational and informative, something you should watch to get a glimpse of how the others live – live in a crisis, in fear, and how their only options are to work in a poppy field or the battlefield.

What did you think of the Netflix documentary short Three Songs for Benazir? Comment below.