GenreDocumentary, Music Music directorSimon Russell CountryUnited Kingdom
Release date16 January 2009 (2009-01-16) CastHabib Amiri (Himself), Setara Hussainzada (Herself), Rafi Naabzada (Himself), Lima Sahar (Herself (as Lema Sahar)) Similar moviesThe People vs. George Lucas, Trek Nation, Legends of the Knight, Get a Life!, The Force Within Us, Jedi Junkies
Afghan Star is a 2009 documentary film following four contestants in the Afghan music competition, Afghan Star. Afghan Star was directed by Havana Marking and is distributed by Zeitgeist Films.
Afghan Star follows the story of Hameed Sakhizada, Setara Hussainzada, Rafi Naabzada, and Lema Sahar, four contestants appearing in the third season of the Afghan reality show Afghan Star. The show's director and host Daoud Sediqi explains that it provides an opportunity for Afghans to enjoy music again after the Taliban's ban. The contestants become national celebrities with people campaigning for votes which are cast via SMS. The show is popular among ordinary Afghan people and fans vote for their favorite contestants even across ethnic lines.
Contestant Setara Hussainzada is the first of the four to be eliminated. During her farewell performance she dances with free body movements without her hijab, as opposed to the more constrained dancing considered socially appropriate. After Daoud Sediqi decides to air the footage, there is outrage in the conservative Muslim community and Setara receives death threats and is evicted from her apartment. She explains that she is open-minded and that she wants other Afghans to be as well. She then returns home to her family. The other female contestant Lema Sahar, a Pashtun, is eliminated in the last round leaving Naabzada and Sakhizada. While one-third of Afghanistan watches, Rafi Naabzada wins the final round, becoming the Afghan Star.
This documentary formed the central idea for the 2015 fictionalized movie, Rock the Kasbah.
2009 Sundance Film Festival
World Cinema Directing Award: Documentary
World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary
2009 Prix Italia for Cultural/ General Interest
82nd Academy Awards
Best Foreign Language Film-United Kingdom
The film was universally acclaimed by critics. The film currently holds a 100% "fresh" aggregate rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is the best rated film of 2009. It was also labeled a NYT's Critic's Pick after Stephen Holden recommended it in his review for The New York Times. Holden praised the film for the way in which it explores modern Afghan culture through the "prism" of its four protagonists and their own personal struggles.