IDFA 2009

The Miscreants of Taliwood

Taliban crazy about movies

Written by Leo Bankersen; Amsterdam, 28 November 2009.

The last documentary I managed to see just before IDFA closes turned out to be a pretty crazy one. In The Miscreants of Taliwood the Australian filmmaker and visual artist George Gittoes travels through Pakistan and dives head-first into the improbable world of what he calls 'Taliwood': the local filmproduction in the Taliban riddled area near the Afghan border.

In Peshawar local filmmakers supply the local video stores with vibrant lowbudget movies full of fake blood, villains and seductive women, while at the same time the Taliban tries to bomb this highly popular entertainmant into oblivion. Gittoes puts himself in the middle of the spectacle by offering to finance two of those films (production costs only $ 4000 each) while playing the part of the foreign villain himself. As far as can be judged this seems not to be without risk. The crew has to keep a low profile while filming, and at one point the production is stopped by a bunch of armed locals, probably Taliban supporters.

"Making bombs is good, making movies is against Islam", as one of the brave actors sums it up. And when it comes to propaganda or the filming of gruesome beheadings, the moral objections of the Taliban against moviemaking suddenly have vanished.

The Miscreants of Taliwood turns out to be a rather chaotic mixture of reporting, moviemaking and investigating. Gittoes' spontaneous reactions seem to be his guiding principle, a welcome diversion from the more serious formulas that are usually employed in documentary making. It's hilarious, shocking, grim and in the end not as superficial as it might seem at first. Well worth a look.