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DVD Review

DVD cover

Kandahar Break: Fortress of War


Starring: Shaun Dooley, Dean Andrews and Rasheed Naz
Revolver Entertainment
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 15
Available 13 September 2010

Richard Lee, a mine clearance engineer, returns to Afghanistan shortly after the death of his estranged wife in Africa. In an emotional turmoil he falls in love with a local girl, but discovers that there are other types of minefield to navigate in Taliban culture. The girl is condemned to death and Richard finds himself fleeing towards the Pakistani boarder...

Kandahar Break: Fortress of War (2009 - 1 hr, 30 min, 32 sec) is a drama written and directed by David Whitney. Depending on how you look at it, the decision to film on the Afghan boarder was either a very brave or very foolish one. The authentic locations do add to the overall look of the film, but this came at the cost of four of the crew being killed by the Taliban, before the Europeans were evacuated to finish the film in Tunisia. This lack of foresight almost directly mirrors that of the film's main character.

In truth, this is a bit of an odd film, being partially a thriller, partially a love story and although this seems like an unlikely mix, given that it is set in 1999 Taliban held Afghanistan, the two elements work well together. Shaun Dooley plays the lead role whose personal morality clashes fatalistically with his employers, who are paying foreign workers to clear the mines left over from the failed Soviet occupation.

Through Lee’s journey, Whitney is able to show the complexities of the region, it would have been easy, given the last ten years, to demonise the Taliban, and whilst this is not a film from which they could gain any support Whitney is able to show that there is little homogeneity even within some of the tribes. Whereas the Taliban fight for a united Afghanistan, albeit under their control, they are opposed by other Afghans who are fighting for a homeland which hasn’t existed since the first British colonisation.

Whitney also appears to be ambivalent about Lee’s part in Jamilia’s eventual execution, Lee takes little note of the vast cultural differences between himself and his hosts, nearly getting shot for urinating in front of a woman. Even this near scrape with death, and the continued reminders from his friend and co-worker Steve Delamore (Dean Andrews), do not seem to alert him to the fact that getting involved with a local girl would surely end in tragedy. In the end, Richard Lee is not a wholly sympathetic character as his obsession with the fate of his lost ex-wife and his interest in Jamilia could both have been solved if the character had spent more time contemplating the consequences of his actions.

Tatmain Ul Qulb, who plays Jamilia, is certainly attractive enough, but there appeared to be no other overriding reason for Lee to fall in love with her. Tatmain Ul Qulb does what she can with the part, but her character is sketchy at best. Dean Andrews plays his usual gruff self, but here he is perfectly cast.

The disc which was provided was a screener and so although, from the PR blurb, there appears to be a reasonable amount of extras on the finished product I cannot comment here on their quality or length.

In the end this is a flawed film, I wasn’t even sure what I should be taking away from it as the overriding impression is that westerners tend to be a bit stupid, the kind of stupidity which will get other people killed.


Charles Packer

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