Smiling in a War Zone (2005)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Military & War, Social Issues, Vehicles & Transportation  |   Run Time - 78 min.  |   Countries - Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden  |  
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In 2002, the team of Magnus Bejmar and Danish performance artist Simone Aaberg Kaern (romantic and creative partners) read in the newspapers of Farial, a young girl in Kabul, Afghanistan who longed to train as a fighter pilot. Buckling beneath the oppressive weight of gender restrictions in Afghani society, Farial's dream appeared utterly hopeless, yet Kaern and Bejmar (a couple with a passion for aviation) felt deeply moved by her story, and planned to help her realize her personal vision. The two purchased a 1961 Piper Colt airplane, flew it 6,000 km from Copenhagen to Kabul, and ultimately shared the raw freedom of flight with Farial by taking her up as a passenger in their plane; those experiences form the basis of the documentary Smiling in a War Zone (AKA Flying Down to Kabul), co-directed by Bejmar and Kaern. The film documents the many struggles encountered by the filmmakers along the way, including the mountains of bureaucratic red tape that made the post-9/11 journey a near impossibility, the complications wrought by flying a Piper Colt high above its registered altitude limit, and - ultimately - the objections presented by Farial's family when confronted with the thought of her flying alongside trained fighter pilots, that raised serious questions about the repressive societal fabric in the Middle East.

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Keywords

Afghan [nationality], airplane, artist, bureaucracy, culture-clash, dream, mission [quest], pilot, schoolgirl