The documentary mentions that of the 2,000 original contestants, three were women. Two of them advance rather far. Setara was my favorite of the two. Clad in very modest clothing that extended to her wrists and ankles and wearing a headscarf, she showed captivating enthusiasm and a lyric, tuneful way with the songs she sang. Yet because she moved a little bit from side to side, numerous average Afghan men who were interviewed said things like "This is a very bad thing," and even "She deserves to die." She was voted off the show and received death threats, but is apparently still safe in Kabul and recording an album.
The documentary is a testament to music's power to heal a wounded people, and the slices of Kabul life made me very excited about my upcoming move. Check out the movie when it comes to a theater near you, and in the meantime, you can watch Jon Stewart's interview with Saad Mohseni, the producer of both the documentary and the TV show.
In other cultural diplomacy news, the New York Philharmonic has been invited to perform in Cuba, following their historic performance in North Korea. Congratulations to the Philharmonic for having the courage to take this important step in normalizing US-Cuban relations. While their performance in North Korea was indeed followed by a thaw in relations, Washington and Pyongyang have by now returned to the old antagonism. Let's hope that any improvement in the Havana-Washington relationship resulting from this performance lasts longer.
Now, if only Iran would invite Cultures in Harmony to do a project there!