Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame

Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Don’t be put off by the title, which positively reeks of hard-hitting documentary. Although this film has got a very serious point to make, Hana Makhalbaf has an enviable lightness of touch and always remembers to keep the story front and centre.

The Buddha of the title – or at least one of the pair, situated in the Bamian valley – is seen being blown up by the Taliban at the beginning of the film, though Westerners could well be forgiven for not knowing the significance. They were destroyed in 2001 after being declared “idols”, which are forbidden under Sharia Law, although Makhalbaf’s twist on their fate carries a more metaphorical suggestion that they fell apart on considering the state of their country.

Copy picture

It is idolisation of a different and much more sinister sort that flows beneath this story of one little girl’s odyssey to school; the way in which children idolise and copy their parents. Baktay is just six years old and yet is left in charge of the family baby while mum heads off to work/carry out her chores. A conversation with the little boy who lives in the cave next door – their homes are carved into the rock face in the shadow of where the buddhas stood – leads her to become determined to go to school where she can learn some “funny stories”.

Her adventure is not simply a matter of finding the schoolhouse, however. She must also negotiate over a notebook and get past the local boys, who in scenes recalling Lord Of The Flies, play at war by capturing little girls of the neighbourhood and threatening to stone them. This “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings” approach to the allegory of women’s plight in modern Afghanistan is fairly heavily underlined – but by keeping the tone of much of the story light and focussing on Baktay’s stoicism and inate chirpiness, Makhalbaf manages to stop her film getting bogged down in polemic. Despite its serious message, Baktay’s day isn’t totally downbeat, there are flashes of kindness everywhere if you choose to look.

Makhalbaf – the daughter of acclaimed director Mohsen Makhamalbaf (Kandahar) – was just 19 when she made this, her debut narrative feature, which makes the performances she coaxes out of her young cast all the more remarkable. Nikbakht Noruz, as Baktay, is particularly watchable and the scripting – by Hana’s mum Marzieh – never makes the mistake of having her sound too old beyond her years.

Running at a tight 81 minutes, Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame never outstays its welcome. Even ignoring the political statement of the film, this is a good story, well told and could easily be appreciated by older children as well as adults.

Reviewed on: 26 Jul 2008
Share this with others on...
Buddha Collapsed Out Of Shame packshot
A little girl's attempt to go to school reveals the plight of many in modern Afghanistan.
Amazon link

Director: Hana Makhmalbaf

Writer: Marzieh Makhmalbaf

Starring: Nikbakht Noruz, Abbas Alijome, Abdolali Hoseinali

Year: 2007

Runtime: 81 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Iran

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Enemies Of Happiness