Monday, October 5, 2015


Based on a true story, writer-director Afia Nathaniel's Dukhtar is an unsentimental tribute to the transformative power of maternal love. A tribal leader in the northern reaches of Pakistan agrees to marry his 10-year-old daughter, Zainab (Saleha Aref), to Tor Gul (Abdullah Jan), the middle-aged head of a neighboring tribe, in order to settle a feud. Zainab is far too innocent to comprehend what's in store, but her mother, Allah Rakhi (Samiya Mumtaz), knows what kind of wall her vivacious daughter is about to crash into, since her own marriage at age 15 was, she says, when “my story ended.”

In just a few short, economical scenes at the start of the film, Nathaniel establishes the easy, teasing intimacy between mother and daughter, who appear to be each other's closest companions. So it's clear just what's at stake when, in an act of desperation that's all the more impressive because it seems so hopeless, Allah Rakhi spirits Zainab out of the house on what was to be her wedding day as Tor Gul's terrifying right-hand man roars into pursuit, loading two henchmen with machine guns into the bed of his pickup truck and telling Zainab's father: “She was yours. Now she is ours.” Read the rest in Slant Magazine

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