DRUGS: Laila at the Bridge takes the viewer on a harrowing journey to Kabul’s dark underpass, following a woman who attempts to save as many drug addicts as she can.
Sevara Pan
Sevara Pan
Journalist and film critic.
Published date: October 23, 2018

Laila Haidari, a roundly built Afghan woman in her thirties, puts on her ballerina shoes and heads under the notorious Pul-e Sukhta Bridge, moving among the oppressive smell, discarded syringes and passed out bodies. Opium-addled men, many her seniors, call her tenderly «mother». In turn, she refers to them as «my boys», urging them to come to her makeshift rehabilitation centre, dubbed «Mother Camp».

Laila at the Bridge is an observational documentary that patiently follows the Afghan woman as she almost single-handedly tries to help the addicts at free shelters that she runs without government support or foreign aid.

A narco-state

Saving the addicts seems like a Sisyphean task in the face of relapses, financial hurdles and opposition from the government. For a time Haidari finances her shelters through her own restaurant, staffed with recovering addicts, but that soon becomes a futile project as a spate of attacks drives customers away. «War, war, everything from war», says Haidari empathetically as addict Ikhtiar Gul, a former bodyguard of Afghan President Najibullah Ahmadzai, now a disfigured man battered by war and life, shares his story, refusing to trim his beard as he does not want a scar from a bullet to show.

<br>[ntsu_youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=it8INQaTcB0

Gul is one of thousands who turned to drugs after suffering an insurgent attack at a market or on duty. The 2001 US-led invasion in the country did …

Dear reader. You have already read a free review/view article today (but all industry news is free), so please come back tomorrow or login if you are a subscriber? For 9 euro, you will get full access to around 2000 articles, all our e-magazines – and receive the coming printed magazines.