A Channel 4 True Stories documentary about the popular TV singing contest in Afghanistan - their version of Pop Idol or The X-Factor. From 1996-2001 singing, dancying, music, and TV were banned in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. After the founding of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2001, the people were allowed to listen to music again. Tolo TV produce a singing talent contest, which taps into this explosion of musical expression. The show has none of the polish of the British and American versions. Contestants sing Afghan traditional and popular songs and any kind of dancing is still deemed too risky in the Islamic cultural code, so most of them sing standing still with their hands by their sides.
2,000 people take part in the show with regional auditions then being narrowed down to a final ten. There are only three women contestants, two of whom make the final seven and are profiled by the filmmakers, who follow a couple of the male contestants, too.
The show introduces much of the Afghan population to participatory democracy as viewers are allowed to vote for their favourites by text message on their mobile phones. Supporters also campaign for their favourites like political canvassers, handing out flyers, putting up posters, and trying to get out the vote.
Some of the contestants preach a message of national unity and supporters breach traditional tribal and regional loyalties. One of the women causes a scandal by dancing to her final song after being voted off the show, letting her headscarf slip. Her improper conduct (under the rules of Islam) puts her life in danger.
Nugget: an interesting perspective on a complex country. A little slow-moving in parts. It won the two awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.