To say that this Belgian offering isn't as straightforward as other documentaries is an understatement. In a war-torn Afghanistan a platoon of child soldiers barter and steal from passing caravans, whose cargo usually opium, to keep up their war effort and perhaps, as their defacto leader hopes, will impress a girl back home. Meanwhile, their elder counterparts (American and Afghan soldiers) are dug in, calling in air strikes on suspected snipers in the Kunar Valley.
quot;God said, I have made a mistake," when doling out lands to kings, forgetting to include one king. To atone, God gives the king a land He envisioned as His garden – the beautiful but desolate landscapes of Afghanistan. Opening with this narration that seems to be culled from a mythic telling of the birth of the country, The Land of the Enlightened makes the point that the current conflict is just another episode in its troubled history. The talk among the child soldiers of Obama removing American troops (and the kids finding mines and shells from the Soviet-Afghan War) is likened to an ancient Afghan king fearing an invasion from Genghis Khan: Afghanistan has survived the American invasion just as it survived the Russian army and the Mongol hordes.
ut that message gets lost in the inane and repetitive scenarios that follow. The Land of the Enlightened veers into docu-drama territory with director De Pue hoping that the day-to-day business of being a child soldier, and what it means to serve in a boring army camp, will sustain interest. It’s a big ask as there’s not a lot of excitement to be had bar the occasional caravan attack or shelling. Most of the footage is of the child soldiers scrounging around for water and food and the various things the American/Afghan platoon do to stave off boredom. The bizarrely eclectic soundtrack - ranging from classical to traditional folk to techno - can distract too.
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