Halifax filmmaker finds new take on Afghan war

An award-winning documentary by Halifax filmmaker Ariel Nasr shines new light on the Afghan-Canadian experience..
A Young Afghan girl from the film Good Morning Kandahar. ((Farah Nosh/NFB))
An award-winning documentary by Halifax filmmaker Ariel Nasr shines new light on the Afghan-Canadian experience..

Good Morning Kandahar, which premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival last month, documents the involvement of Afghan-Canadians in two projects run by the Canadian Forces.

"I wanted to show people that Afghans live next door to them; that Afghans live in Canada; that Afghans are ordinary people like them," he told the CBC Radio program Q.

The film tells the story of Rana FM, a radio station run by the Canadian military and broadcasting into Afghanistan from Kingston, Ont. The Canadian military hired Afghan-Canadians to be what Nasr describes as "the friendly voice" of the station.

While he described the station as "psychological operation technique," he says he sees the positive effects it has on people.

"If you can give someone in Kandahar two minutes of happiness, if you can put a smile on someone's face by playing a song they like ... I totally sympathize with that."

Nasr also visited a mock-Afghani village created for military training on the Canadian Forces base in Wainwright, Alta. There, Afghan-Canadians hired to act as villagers role-play with soldiers to prepare them for deployment.

Optimism on the wane

For the documentary, Nasr travelled to Afghanistan for the second time in his life. During his previous visit in 2005, he said, he found many hopeful about the new government and their lives.

Young Afghan boys from the film Good Morning Kandahar. ((NFB))
When he visited again in 2007, he found a starkly different picture.

"Not a single person I spoke to who didn’t have some stake in the government … was optimistic about the government," Nasr said. "It seemed like the window of opportunity had been lost — or so it felt.

"I think there's a kind of expiry date on how long it would be acceptable to them to have an international force in their country and not see things getting better," he added.

Nasr, of Halifax, has worked for CBC television and the National Film Board.

Good Morning Kandahar, his first full-length documentary, won the National Film Board of Canada Reel Diversity Competition.

The film airs Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 10 p.m. ET/PT, on The Lens on CBC Newsworld.