Rock the Kasbah

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American politics and the influence over 'Rock the Kasbah'

‘Rock the Kasbah’ (2015) has been in theaters for only a few days, and already, reviews of the film express a lack of interest and the wonderful feeling of being "Murray-ied’. Critics and public viewers alike are unimpressed and can’t stand how slowly the film moves through a plot which flat-lined within the first half hour. Through all of the unrest regarding the movie, one critic I have not been seeing is how the movie was loosely based off a riveting and touching documentary "Afghan Star" (2009).

The film centers around Bill Murray’s character, a Hollywood music manager. He goes to Afghanistan with a musician on a U.S.S tour, she ditches him there, and a few bad decisions and wacky circumstances lead him to find a Pashtun woman who is a (surprise) talented singer. Salima (played by Leem Lubany), goes on the Afghan version of ‘American Idol’, ‘Afghan Star’. She risks her life to do so, and a truly inspiring ending is the result; however, this film is dedicated to a real woman, Setara Hussainzada.

Who is she, you may ask? Hussainzada was a female contestant on the real-life show "Afghan Star" and was the first of four to be eliminated. Her final goodbye was inspiring, she danced freely and without her hijab. She recieved death threats and became a social outcast for her scandaless performance. Lema Sahar, a Pashtun woman, was another contestant on the show and was eliminated after Hussainzada.

The film takes a beautiful, empowering moment in Afghanistan current culture and white-washes it to the point where a white, male, American is not only the center of the film, but is responsible for Lubany’s characters bold demonstration of feminine strength. It can be argued such changes were made to not only get Murray in a film but also to make it more appealing to American audiences, but this is where the problem resides. This film could have been an American take on the stereotype-breaking event of two empowered Afgah women; in the end, the credit was given to a fictional American man. This could have been a movie to celebrate two women who risked thier lives to express themselves without forcing an American in to help ‘liberate’. Hussainzada and Sahar did that themselves, but you wouldn’t know that from the film they inspired. How is this a reflection of American bias against Afghan people and culture?

  • Thank you! I understand exactly what you are speaking to regarding mainstream acceptance; that these women would not be capable of expressing themselves and their freedom if not for the obligatory white male hero. – Venus Echos 5 years ago
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