A Kandahar Away

When a father of five buys land in Kandahar, Saskatchewan, his kids are surprised at their unusual inheritance. His dream to find “a piece of Afghanistan in the Prairies” reveals deep generational differences and differing conceptions of what it means to be Canadian.
Available on CBC Gem

A Kandahar Away

documentary Channel

As an immigrant to Canada, Abdul Bari Jamal’s longing for his homeland of Afghanistan is a constant theme in his life. Now living in Toronto, Canada, he never thought he would find a piece of his former home right here in Canada’s heartland. Delighted by his discovery, he decided to buy every member of his family a plot of land in the dwindling farming community of Kandahar, Saskatchewan. A Kandahar Away follows the Jamal family — all born in Kandahar, Afghanistan — on their first family trip to see the land.

Their visit also represents the first time the 15 remaining residents of Kandahar, Saskatchewan will meet a family from their namesake city in Afghanistan. For the occasion, the Canadian Kandaharis have planned a party to welcome the Jamal family. As the film captures this interaction, it also examines the different elements of their respective stories: Abdul’s longing for his homeland; the very different ways in which each member of the Jamal family has adapted to their new home of Canada; and how the war in Afghanistan has impacted this tiny farming community and the changing landscape  of rural life in Saskatchewan.

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In Kandahar, the mayor Denis Brakefield, and his wife Charolette share their stories of the changes the hamlet has experienced over the last one hundred years of its existence. Denis and Charolette speak candidly about their childhood memories, moving back as adults, the repeated disappearances of town signs after 9/11 and the strange experience of playing “Taliban and hostages” as part of a practice military manoeuvre conducted by the Canadian army in their backyard. The tiny population of Kandahar, Saskatchewan has undoubtedly felt the impact of the war in Afghanistan, but until now, they have never met an actual Afghan Kandahari.

Ultimately, can Abdul’s children see as much meaning in this act of tying the two Kandahars together as their father? While Abdul feels an eternal exile and longing for Afghanistan, the Jamal siblings all grew up here: Canada is their home. While Abdul celebrates Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan as a success, the five siblings oppose the occupation of Afghanistan by NATO countries. These generational differences are at the heart of Abdul’s quest to find a new home—a place where every member of the family will feel connected to both the old and the new; where Canada meets Kandahar, and this modern Afghan family can reconnect with their traditions.

A Kandahar Away tells the story of two sets of very different Kandaharis and their two points of view on the Canadian experience, exploring one Afghan father’s pride and dream of having his five children settle again in his beloved Kandahar – even if it is the Canadian Prairie version. 

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