Act of Dishonor -- Film Review

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EDINBURGH, Scotland -- In a remote village in Afghanistan, a well-meaning Western film crew asks a teenaged bride-to-be to act on-camera, not realizing the peril she then faces in Nelofer Pazira's quietly effective drama "Act of Dishonor."

The film combines a sensitive depiction of traditions that horrify outsiders with photography that conveys the desperate hardscrabble nature of life there and the astonishing beauty that arises from an unforgiving landscape. It will attract festival interest, might thrive in art houses and later prove an instructive piece for television and educators.

India-born Pazira grew up in Kabul and spent time in Pakistan before immigrating to Canada, where she won an acting prize for "Kandahar," which centered on her fruitless attempt to find a childhood friend in Afghanistan. She writes, directs and stars in "Dishonor," playing Mejgan, an Afghan woman who grew up in Canada and returns to her homeland with a film crew hoping to sort out her conflicted emotions.

Her friendship with a beautiful young woman named Mena (Marina Golbahari) prompts the crew's director, Ben (Greg Bryk), to ask her to be in the film he is making. Reluctantly, and with the promise of a burqua that she needs for her wedding night, the girl agrees.

As villagers begin to gossip about the dishonor they consider Mena's behavior visits not only on her family but also on the village, her father (Ghafar Quoutbyar) and betrothed (Masood Serwary) begin to contemplate the ultimate punishment.

Meanwhile, many of those who fled the region when the Taliban took over have returned only to find that others now occupy their homes and that they are regarded as foreigners. One of them, an engineer named Ali (Ali Hazara), tries to act as intermediary between the Canadians and the locals as the filmmakers' presence causes escalating provocation.

The individual conversations that Mejgan has with Ali and Mena shine a light on the ferociously held and deeply ignorant principles that keep women in docile captivity and prevent intelligent men from doing anything to change things.

The tragedy is written in the beautiful eyes of the girl and the dazed despair of her forlorn father, and the film does them justice, even if they don't find it elsewhere.

enue: Edinburgh International Film Festival
Production: Foundry Films, Nomad Films
Cast: Marina Golbahari, Nelofer Pazira, Greg Bryk
Director-screenwriter: Nelofer Pazira
Producers: Daniel Iron, Mark Johnston, Anita Lee
Director of Photography: Paul Sarossy
Music: Christopher Dedrick
Editor: Christopher Donaldson
No rating, 90 minutes
Sales: E1 Entertainment
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