White Silk Road (2012)

13 Sep

White Silk Road is a documentary that chronicles an unusual adventure: three Australian thrill-seeking friends who decide to snowboard in the Bamyan province of Afghanistan. Nick, Gregory and Mitch all arrive in Afghanistan merely weeks after the infamous video of U.S. soldiers burning the Koran, one of the most anti-western times in the current occupation. They travel to Bamyan, once a tourist destination, but after the most recent wars in Afghanistan is now a remote and war-ravaged area.

The men encounter more problems than the obvious one of being in hostile territory. When they finally do make it to the mountains, there are no chairlifts to lead them up resulting in brutal treks that take hours and cover little ground. There is only one guide, a young Afghani teenager whose own skiing ability is shown to be less than stellar. They are told that the mountain ranges they wish to use are littered with landmines, tokens from one of the many conflicts of the last fifty years. They brave altitude sickness and avalanches and are rewarded with truly spectacular runs; all three men are expert-level snowboarders and their skill at manoeuvring around steep slopes and the frequent rock outcrops is impressive.

The film follows a leisurely pace and is pleasant to watch, but also very surreal. The beautiful mountain ranges are contrasted with bleak townscapes and dire poverty. While the adventure of the Australian snowboarders may have been driven by thrill-seeking machismo, the film takes an odd and unexpected philosophical turn in that, however unintentionally, it delves into the contrast
between our perceptions of Afghanistan against the reality of being there.

White Silk Road reveals is that Bamyan, and Afghanistan as a whole is not simply a place that is shaped by this war or the war before that, but by many wars throughout history. The three Australians visit many of the ancient cities of the province, one of which was destroyed by Genghis Khan, and find modern day shrapnel that may have come from any number of wars that occurred in the 20th and 21st century. They are surprised to find that the villagers of the province are surprisingly normal and friendly toward them – they realise that these are people who are trying to live not simply in spite of the current occupation, but in spite of a history of occupations and brutal conflicts.

White Silk Road is an unexpected gem.

By Tessa Clews

For ticketing information and session times in your region visit: http://www.eventcinemas.co.nz/

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