Enemies Of Happiness

Enemies Of Happiness


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Afghanistan has been catapulted back into the minds of the UK populace in recent weeks with the news that more troops are to be deployed in the ongoing struggle against the Taliban – and it’s easy to lump our thoughts regarding this country at the heart of Asia in with considerations of Iraq.

But the reality on the ground is – for the most part – very different, as this film goes some way to illustrating. In fact, Enemies Of Happiness is the perfect companion piece to Iraq-based documentary My Country My Country, which was also shot last year. Both concern the dangerous run up to elections – only here, the protagonist is a woman – Malalai Joya.

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Joya sparked controversy at constitutional meeting, the Loya Jirga, in 2003, when she spoke out against the “warlords who ruined our country”. Given the boot and branded an "infidel", Joya remained uncowed and two years later, campaigned for office in the country’s first election for 35 years – and the first ever in which women could vote.

Danish filmmaker Eva Mulvad tracks her progress, demonstrating her tenacity and bravery in the face of heavily stacked odds. Mulvad’s camera watches as Joya ploughs the campaign trail – which requires military precision, including weapons, since she has survived four assassination attempts.

By gaining such intimate access to Joya, Mulvad has ample opportunity to show the person behind the politics. While she may work hard to produce publicity materials and tape-recorded campaigns, she also deals with people’s problems on a day to day basis, including mediating between a girl worried she will be married off against her will and her family.

If there is a criticism to be made it is that the film is shot almost entirely from Joya’s perspective – meaning that we only glimpse the attitude of others towards her. Also, the glimpses are choppy, swiftly moving from one situation to the next without much fanfare meaing the film occasionally feels disjointed and lacks rhythm. Despite this, Joya’s interesting life makes for an engaging documentary, lifting the lid a little on life in Afghanistan as well as giving an insight into her world. What emerges is the story of a woman who cares passionately about her country’s future, despite the obvious difficulties that lie ahead.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2007
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Sundance award-winning documentary about Malalai Joya's campaign to be elected to the Afghanistan parliament.

Director: Eva Mulvad

Year: 2006

Runtime: 58 minutes

Country: Denmark, Norway, Finland

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