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The Beauty Academy of Kabul (Unrated)

Release Date: March 24th, 2006 (Angelika Film Center) by Shadow Distribution.
Directed by Liz Mermin.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about American beauticians who open a beauty academy for Afghan women in Kabul.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Beauty Academy of Kabul is just mildly entertaining as director Liz Mermin follows Afghan women as they attend the beauty academy with excitement. Their lives have been difficult when Taliban had controlled them in the past. Some of them still wear burkas to cover their faces even though the Taliban no longer dominates them. Unfortunately, none of the Afghan women are interviewed enough to make them stand out and unique. It’s not surprising that make-up and hair-styling is something different for them, especially because they conceal most of their bodies—even their bare legs are forbidden to be shown in public. They do manage to learn the craft of beauticians rather quickly, though. What would have made this documentary much more engaging and even suspenseful is if it felt like competition—which, in fact, it is because not all of the students can make it through the program. More interviews would have definitely helped to add warmth and some charisma which this film lacks. Also, some awkward scenes feel unintentionally funny. At least it doesn’t overstay its welcome at a very brief running-time of 74 minutes.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Without truly exploring the effect of their beauty academy on the women, it’s difficult to understand how it significantly changes their society. The Afghan women have been through plenty of hardships in the past, so their new education must have some sort of impact on their lives. If director Liz Mermin were to ask more questions to let the women speak their minds more, it would have been much more moving and insightful. After all, the important story here should be the transformation of the women into slightly more civilized and educated human beings rather than the simple evolution of the beauty academy.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Not enough insightful interviews.


IN A NUTSHELL: Mildly entertaining, but doesn’t leave you with any real insights or memorable moments.


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