REVIEW: Three Songs for Benazir [2021]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 22 minutes
    Release Date: 2021 (Afghanistan)
    Studio: Netflix
    Director(s): Elizabeth Mirzaei & Gulistan Mirzaei

We will either be bombed by the foreigners or killed by the Taliban.

Shaista wants to make his family-in-the-making proud, but options are limited considering he’s uneducated and locked in a war-time displacement camp in Afghanistan. Forming bricks to sell to his neighbors isn’t enough and working in the opium fields leaves too much to chance. So, his desire is to join the National Army and prove himself worthy of a well-paying job despite his hardships. While we never hear what his pregnant wife Benazir thinks on the subject—she’s relegated to an audience member, laughing at his silly songs—Shaista’s brothers and elders are very clear on the fact that they won’t help in his pursuit. And you can’t blame them considering enlistment demands guarantors to take responsibility for any wrongdoing that may occur. It’s too big of a risk.

Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei‘s documentary short Three Songs for Benazir follows this young man’s attempt to prove to his family that he can be trusted to serve his people well in their name. Yet, as we soon discover, it’s not about trusting each other. It’s about survival from the elements and poverty. It’s about contending with the drone in the sky allowing westerners to spy on them. It’s about the looming threat of Taliban violence. To vouch for him with the military not only puts them on the hook for his potential transgressions, but it also demands they look after his wife and child while he’s gone. Shaista has personal responsibilities that must take precedent above his own pride right now. Unfortunately, those aren’t easily met either.

This is a very brief window into the struggles faced by Afghans who have been forced to flee their homes from the Taliban that includes a lot of information to process. From the emotions that come with feeling betrayed by relatives to the promise of new life to the constant sense of being watched, it’s a futile situation with few answers. The Mirzaeis aren’t trying to provide any, though. They merely want to document these desperate circumstances through the story of one young man fated to suffer the exact plight his family warned him about despite following their wishes instead of his desires. That’s the sad truth of such humanity crises—there are no “good” choices. Sometimes the safest bets lead you to despair quicker than the gambles.

courtesy of ShortsTV

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