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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

Wednesday, Nov. 26


AmChams Public Relations Committee will meet this afternoon in their office in the New St. Isaacs Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha at 4 p.m.


Zoosphere, an international exhibition focusing on the pet industry, opens today at the Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island. Not only will items such as toys, terrariums and accessories be available for purchase, but animal enthusiasts can also learn about the latest in veterinary medicine and behavioral training thanks to the conferences and presentations that are part of the event.



Thursday, Nov. 27


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Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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