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Afghan Escape Film Kandahar Pulls in Crowds

Published: February 9, 2010 (Issue # 1546)



  • The Russian crew members facing their captors soon after their arrival in Taliban-controlled Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Captain Sharpatov (Alexander Baluyev) after several months in captivity.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

Kandahar, a new blockbuster that looks at an almost forgotten escape from captivity in the heart of Afghanistan, is packing in crowds at cinemas all over the country.

The film, which stars a trio of the countrys most famous actors, Vladimir Mashkov, Andrei Panin and Alexander Baluyev,is based on the true story of seven Russian Il-76 pilots who were captured by the Taliban in August 1995 while delivering arms to a Russian ally in Kabul. After spending more than a year in grim conditions in Taliban-controlledKandahar, the pilots managed to escape by flying their own plane out.

The crew, even though a Taliban jet was sent after them, avoided recapture, and upon their return, two of them were awarded Hero of Russia medals.

While several films, most famously Fyodor Bondarchuks The 9th Company, have looked at the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the film by young director Andrei Kavun is the first one to look at Russias more recent history in Afghanistan.

The films script is based on a diary written in captivity by the crews captain, Vladimir Sharpatov, played by Baluyev, and focuses on their time in captivity and on the growing tensions between the group and especially between Baluyevs character and Mashkovs. A number of changes from the real-life story were made, with five crew in the film instead of the original seven and one of the crew crying at one point something that Sharpatov is reported to have said would never have happened.

It is a film about individuality, about personalities and not about a team. Their cooperation, arguments, clashes are the main part of the dramatic conflict in Kandahar. I hope that this film will help fairness win out. In real life, there were seven, but only two became Heroes of Russia. I think that is not fair, Mashkov told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Three of the original crew could not make the premiere of the film as they had flown out to earthquake stricken Haiti to deliver humanitarian aid.

Although some have accused the $7 million movie of attempting to match Hollywood war movies with its gung ho attitude, Kavun says the film is more about society than patriotism or bravery.

I dont understand the modern meaning of the word patriotism, Kavun said in a telephone interview. All these words like patriotism and motherland have lost their meaning. My film is about the fact that it is possible to love your country, regardless of its attitude toward you.

He has previously said that you cant call a film patriotic when the main part of it is the failure of the state to rescue your heroes.

Critics have met the film with mixed reviews. Kommersant critic Lidia Maslova said that despite attempts to film a psychological drama, the film still falls into the trap of the typical thriller about terrorists and real men who can resist them.

Still, one fan is Dmitry Rogozin, a former nationalist politician and current ambassador to NATO in Brussels who tweeted, I hope the film Kandahar about pilot-heroes who dared to hijack a military transport plane right from the Taliban will be a great success, even though in a previous tweet about the film he had written, Nothing like watching Tarantino nonsense!

The films pace is down to Italian editor Gabriella Cristiani, who won an Oscar for her editing of Bernardo Bertoluccis The Last Emperor.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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