In one of Afghanistan's many refugee camps, the setting is harsh and unsettling. Here a young man with dreams in his eyes sings for his newly wed, Benazir. These two diametrically different aspects of life are thrown together to make for an compelling documentary, Three songs for Benazir.
The 22 minutes long documentary that is due to be released on Netflix on January 24, 2022, is already being considered a strong Oscar contender in the documentary section. The world of the Afghanistan refugees is in turmoil and that's no secret. The world has witnessed the country's destruction with their naked eyes, from America withdrawing their troops to Taliban forcefully capturing Afghanistan. It was not long back when President Joe Biden announced in April 2021 that US troops would leave Afghanistan by September 2021. Despite the then ongoing peace talks with the Afghan government, the Taliban accelerated attacks on Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) bases and outposts and rapidly started seizing more territory. The US military accelerated the pace of troop withdrawal in May 2021.
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Three Songs for Benazir gives us an up close and personal look at the lives of people who have been affected by all this turmoil. It is a documentary about life in a refugee camp, under the threats from American and Taliban troops.
Directed by Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei, Three SIngs for Benazir, tells the story of Shaista. Shaista is a young man, who wants to be the first from his tribe to join the Afghan National Army, while also dealing with having to start a life with Benazir, his wife, with whom he is living in a refugee camp in Kabul. The camp is continuously watched by a surveillance balloon, a mundane yet menacing warning of its residents' restrictions. Even though Shaista's love for Benazir is undeniable, the decisions he must make to build a life with her have far-reaching implications.
The short documentary was shot over four years by the directing duo, who are married and spend half their time between California and Afghanistan. The exploratory lens of Elizabeth and Gulistan Mirzaei has soft power in how delicately it holds its subjects, allowing us to feel their devotion to one another. It's difficult not to adore Shaista and wish for his happiness.
The softness of this film contributes to its beauty. We've grown ready to hear traumatic stories from these displaced people. While Three Songs for Benazir convey the weight of a military conflict country and a lack of opportunity, there is hope in the warmth we see on screen and Shaista's love songs that carry through the air.