Italy, 2000, 114 min. / 64 min.
The documentary Jung (war) – in the Land of the Mujaheddin breaks the imperviousness by taking us right to the middle of the civil war to meet the Afghan people in the midst of front-line combat and going behind the veils of the women.
Filmmakers Fabrizio Lazzaretti and Alberto Vendemmiati followed a war surgeon from the NGO Emergency on his mission in Afghanistan of building a hospital for civilian war victims. The story is told in two parts, the first part follows the surgeon’s research trip as well as a war correspondent who travels around the front zones talking to Mujaheddin commander Massoud, Taliban POWs, children and Mujaheddin women who are forced to wear chandors. His investigations provide for the background information for and insight into the current situation in Afghanistan. The war surgeon travels around to talk to political leaders and to visit primitive surgeries, which are small, dark dirty rooms with hardly any equipment or medicine for performing amputations and treating the wounded under conditions that are potentially as harmful as they are healing for the patients. This first part was made as a separate film and shown on RAI to raise money for the hospital (200,000 US$ came in from the viewers).
The second part was shot after the fundraising and follows the building of and daily life at the hospital. The countless landmine accidents and shellfire injuries are the same as before, but the new hospital’s treatment facilities are an obvious and great improvement. They are clean, bright and equipped, and the children even get toys to play with. In that sense Jung is a proverbial ‘fairytale’ proving that financial donations do actually help people. But Jung is much more than that. There is no happy ending as long as the war continues, and the film offers rare insight into an impenetrable country where the Talibans are working hard to smash any progress by not allowing children to go to school, confiscating poor people’s possessions and oppressing the population.
Jung is extremely well made, with excellently composed images that have a sense of detail and beauty, alternating between wide shots of the dry landscape, the tanks, the multitude of colourfully dressed refugees and close-ups of tormented faces, limps and guns. The editing is elegant and flowing, one short scene after another, which together thoroughly depict the plight of the Afghan people with their hunger, poverty, war and death. The music is toned down but establishes a basic atmosphere in support of the images.