Jung - In the Land of the Mujaheddin * * * *
stars No MPAA
Reviewed by Shelley Cameron
The close-up face of war in Afghanistan
Director : Fabrizio Lazzarette and Alberto
Stunning work of
documentary filmmaking about the war in Afghanistan. Made for Italian
television and shot in 1999 and 2000. For more than twenty years the
Afghan people have been suffering in every conceivable way. Now the
perpetrators of this anguish have our attention here in the west. While we
all grieve for the 5000 who lost their lives on September 11, too few are aware
that one and a half million Afghans have lost theirs in the past 20 years.
The Mujaheddin are described as an Afghan group that has been fighting to
defend their land first against the Russian invasion in 1980 and more recently
the Taliban terrorists. The Taliban are a fundamentalist offshoot of the
Mujaheddin. After long years of struggle with Russia, the climate was ripe
for this fundamentalist segment to gain a large measure of power and control
through terror and intimidation. The exhausted Afghan people were easy
prey for the militant Taliban. They come to the villages, kill, maim, and
terrorize. Now it is the Mujaheddin who are left to defeat the Taliban and
bring peace to their land. Taliban strategies include such things as
leaving a route open for Afghan refugees who stream out of the country.
Their purpose in doing so is to collect heavy fees for passage or rob them
outright on the road. In this way the Taliban have added to their warchest
and padded the huge profits from heroin poppy production. Since the
shooting of this film, there are no remaining Afghans of any means who can pay
such fees. Jung translates as War.
The focus of this film is
the efforts a couple of doctors and nurses to bring some emergency medical
assistance to the many victims of the brutal Taliban attacks and the land mines
that are everywhere. The filmmakers teamed up with the medical crew to
document the story of conditions in the city of Charikar and the setting up of a
better hospital to treat the wounded.
When the medical team first
come to offer their aid, the resources are so limited and feeble it is shocking.
There are two blood pressure gauges in the entire area for more than
100,000 people. There is one IV bag for use in countless amputations for
the men; women and children who have stepped on land mines, even in areas that
have supposedly been cleared of them. An open box of burning dung balls
heats the small room that serves as a surgery. There are only six sets of
surgical clothing so they must be worn again for the next incoming wounded
despite the dangers of infection.
Most of the patients lose
arms, legs, feet, or hands. The surgeon's best efforts are simply to
amputate the limbs and save the life. The faces of these people are
heartbreaking and incredibly courageous. The wretchedness of a boy perhaps
ten years old who asks to please be put to sleep during the amputation can not
be described. The victims just keep pouring in to this pathetic facility.
Yet is the effort to tell the story that is also critical. One of
the filmmakers, a long time war correspondent in the area, says at one point
that you must do the hard work of going, of seeing for yourself or you cannot
try to tell the story.
The scenario here is about the efforts to pull together a
new and better emergency hospital. These humanitarian people discuss and
make a decision about how to do the most good. They scout and find a
suitable location. They lobby for and obtain medical equipment and
supplies from several countries. Among the obstacles is the need to have
the Mujaheddin move the assemblage of tanks parked right next to the site
because they do not want to invite a missile attack on the hospital.
The new hospital opens. There is a little singing and a small
celebration. However, this success pales in comparison to the larger and
more tragic flood of victims that continues to come with a new Taliban offensive
in the spring of 2000. The doctor makes a suggestion that the enemy must
be in need of similar medical help but it seems to fall on deaf ears. No
one responds. The people have learned to live in absolute terror of the
Taliban. They tell their individual stories of what happened to them or
their loved ones when the Taliban came to their villages. The women wear
the required heavy cumbersome chador because they have seen the Taliban kill or
maim those who dared not. Those who have not fled the country are hungry.
They are tired. They are poor. They cannot understand why war
has ended in other places, but for them it just goes on and on.
We see a glimpse of the enemy at a prison camp that holds 270 Taliban
soldiers. One is them is explaining their mission from Allah. It is
clear that they believe they are fighting a holy war and that they will
persevere in their cause. They spend much of their time praying. The
only other view of them is as little fiery explosions in the distance where the
Mujaheddin guns have hit something.
This is a powerful film
under any circumstances, but it is especially moving and important right now.
It could not be more timely for us to understand the misery these people
have endured. This momentous film should be widely