Are you ready for a film about “American Idol”? We're coming off last year's Oscar winning hit, “Slumdog Millionaire” where “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” in India, figures heavily in the charged dynamics of a fictional tale.
Reportedly, 11 million people in Afghanistan watched the finals of a television show called “Afghan Star.” That's one third of the country's population — a country where singing was illegal several years ago.
OK, progress in Afghanistan has fostered a wildly successful knockoff of “American Idol.” This TV show airs in a place where intertribal warfare and powerful external forces have been commonplace for decades. The ravages continue.
You may joke or cheer at the thought that “American Idol” represents a resurgence of culture in Afghanistan. Regardless, the documentary film, “Afghan Star,” offers a telling glimpse that's nothing like the American war coverage that makes it onto the evening news.
Besides visits with the people who watch the show, this documentary glosses through the thousands who audition, then focuses on the top ten. One loser from the top ten receives disproportionate attention. She dared to dance as she sang. This shocking behavior drew immediate scorn, premature hopefulness, and nationwide condemnation.
Just having two women competing in the top ten to become the “Afghan Star” is quite a leap in this poor Islamic country. At least as profound, the top three singers come from different tribes, and the prospects of voting across tribal lines reveals an atypical democratizing glimmer.
Voting with cell phones for pop triumphs may seem matter of fact in the Western world, but this sort of thing rings especially like democracy in Afghanistan. It beats their elections in the political arena.
One of the contenders declares an interest in politics. Another contender states that his music is his politics. Find out who will become the “Afghan Star.” While you're at it, find out more about Afghanistan.