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Joy Of Madness Review

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Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf arrives in post-Taliban Kabul intending to to cast her new film, <b>At Five In The Afternoon</b>. However, neither the old man she has selected to play the father, nor the woman she wants for her heroine, are willing to

★★★★

The Amazing Makhmalbafs have done it again. Already an exhibited painter and photographer and a published poet, 14 year-old Hana Makhmalbaf has produced a seemingly effortless piece of Direct Cinema that says as much about the current climate in Afghanistan as the acclaimed feature that her sister, Samira (who is eight years her senior), was finally able to complete at the end of this fractious casting session.

The legacy of the tyrannical Taliban regime is evident in not just the devastated landscape, but also in the terror in the eyes of the aging mullah who agrees to audition for the part of the cart-driving father, only to accuse Samira of trying to lure him into participating in pornography. It also inspires the warnings of the impoverished neighbours, who suggest that the filmmaking 'outsiders' want to kill a refugee's baby rather than provide it with medicine and food.

Yet, what clearly remains is a spirit of defiance that shines through teacher Agheleh Rezaei's misgivings and enabled her both to stand up to her exceedingly self-assured director and, ultimately, give such a striking and memorable performance.

An insight into the filmmaking process and a distressing assessment of how far the people of Afghanistan have to go in order to return to a semblance of normality after 30 years of invasion, in-fighting and intolerance.

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