Three Songs for Benazir is a moving documentary short on the plight of young Afghan refugees hoping to lead a life without the perpetual fear of death.
Last Updated: 09.42 AM, Jan 25, 2022
A young Shaista, helplessly in love with his young wife Benazir, hopes to have a better life. But in the war-ravaged Afghanistan, inside dingy camps, Shaista is only allowed to dream.
Filmmaker Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei’s moving 22-minute short begins with Shaista, a strapping young lad singing songs for his even younger wife Benazir, as she blushes in absolute embarrassment. This picture of domestic paradise set inside a dark corner of a refugee camp in Afghanistan. There is no denying that the choices for documentaries and films on Afghanistan and the refugee crisis are limitless. The Breadwinner, for example, is a touching story of a father-daughter separated at the marketplace by the Taliban, and how a little girl moves mountains to feed her family.
This slice-of-life documentary paints a heart-warming picture of companionship in the midst of crisis. Shaista and Benazir are expecting a child together. Hence, it is imperative that he land a job that can not only sustain his family but also be safe and alive for them. Both Shaista and Benazir are on the cusp of adulthood, and their naivety is as endearing as it is heartbreaking.
The job opportunities are scant. Neither do they have the provision to go to school or opt for the few job openings that are available. Shaista’s father ruefully tells him that their existences are borrowed; they are just biding time until they are either bombed by foreign forces or murdered by the Taliban.
Hence, when Shaista proposes enlisting himself within the National Army, and he does, the entire settlement breaks into celebrations. Except for the family elders. They’re sceptical of his lack of education, and how gullible that makes him in the hands of the powerful. They could just hand him a gun and ask him to fire indiscriminately, his father reminds him during a heated exchange. He says the army is not for the poor.
None of what he says is a revelation. That the disadvantaged always get the shorter end of the stick is evident from how the army treats Shaista. He is as much of an outsider, a “foreigner” to his own countryfolk. The elders in the family propose he much rather work in the poppy fields than voluntarily sign up for a life-threatening enterprise.
Yet, the film does not concern itself with the white aeroplane balloons hovering over their ramshackle camps or the men adorned in firearms. With a handheld camera steadfastly focused on the faces of its protagonists, Three Songs for Benazir is indeed a catalogue of love expressions. Shaista wants to work for a living not just to sustain his family, but also because “he wants to make his wife proud of him.”
Verdict: Three Songs for Benazir is a story of giddy love, love that is unsullied by the constraints of logic and rationale. But it also lends insight into their shared experience of finding a home, yet living in constant fear of death