Human Rights Through Cinematography festival: ‘The Land of the Enlightened’

‘The Land of the Enlightened’ is a complex and occasionally opaque documentary set in Afghanistan. The film was screened at the Embassy of Belgium in Pakistan on 6 December as part of the human rights film festival.

A gang of Afghan kids from the Kuchi tribe dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to children working in a lapis lazuli mine. When not dreaming of the time when American troops finally withdraw from their land, another gang of children keeps tight control on the caravans smuggling the blue gemstones through the arid mountains of Pamir. In this seamless blend of fictional and documentary form, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan.

Shot over seven years on 16mm footage by the first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue, the film paints a whimsical yet haunting picture of Afghanistan left for the next generation. As American soldiers prepare to leave, we follow De Pue deep into this hidden land where young boys form wild gangs to control trade routes, sell explosives from mines left over from war, and climb rusting tanks as playgrounds — making the new rules of war based on the harsh landscape left to them.

Belgium’s Ambassador Frédéric Verhetdeb welcomed the guests and made introductory remarks at the screening held at the Belgian Embassy in Islamabad. Representatives of the diplomatic community, civil society activists and students attended the screening.