Films as ‘Ushers of Democracy’: Case studies from select Islamic countries

Date01 June 2011
AuthorShankhamala Roy
DOI10.1177/0973598411110015
Publication Date01 June 2011
SubjectArticle
Films as 'Ushers of Democracy':
Case studies from select Islamic countries
Shankhamala Roy
Democracy and the role of media, is a much cultivated theme. Media, in
progressive civil societies, are looked upon as a vehicle of promotion of
democracy. By the simplest definition democracy is a system of
Government in which political independence is retained by the people.
Again, democracy is supposed to have a natural camaraderie with coinages
like liberty equality fraternity or equity justice emancipation. Thus, if a
society incorporates democracy, it is expected to embody those other
virtues too and the media, according to many, could make handsome
contributions to strengthening these traits.
Film as we know is a very powerful medium of communication. It is
expected therefore that films of a particular region reflect the democratic
churnings and aspirations specific to that region. In this article we propose
to look at a cross-section of films produced in some Islamic countries. In
terms of political systems, these countries are furthest from democracy. Yet
'Osama' and 'Kandahar' - two films of Afghanistan and 'Khuda Ke Liye'/ 'In
The Name Of God' a Pakistani film enthralled viewers through their
democratic connotations. Besides, 'Whisper with the Wind' and 'Offside' -
two brilliant films made by two Iranian filmmakers celebrated popular
yearnings for democracy in delicate and sensitive ways.
'Osama', 2003 film by Siddiq Barmak was the first film to be shot
entirely in Afghanistan since 1996, when the Taliban regime banned
production of films in the country. The film starts with a shot showing a
demonstration by Afghani widows in blue burqas for their right to work.
They are eventually forced to disperse by Talibans with guns and water
cannons. The Taliban period from 1996 to 2001, was hellish for Afghani
women. Many had to take the guise of men just to live on and to support
their families. This film tells the story of a 12-year old Afghan girl in the
background of the extreme cruelty of Taliban era. Her mother disguised her
as a boy named Osama. She had to earn a living in the guise of a boy
because her father was dead and the Taliban had forbidden women to leave
house without a legal male companion. The little girl's hair was cut and she
planted the plait in a flower pot. This poetic sequence symbolized the

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