DER Documentary

Sons of Haji Omar

by Asen Balikci, Timothy Asch and Patsy Asch
produced by the National Film Board of Canada and the Smithsonian
color, 58 min, 1978

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Haji Omar and his three sons belong to the Lakankhel, a Pashtoon tribal group in northeastern Afghanistan. The film focuses on his family: Haji Omar, the patriarch; Anwar, the eldest, his father's favorite, a pastoralist and expert horseman; Jannat Gul, cultivator and ambitious rebel; and Ismail, the youngest, attending school with a view to a job as a government official.

Filmed over a period of twelve months, it is a record of life at the spring lambing camp, the activities at Narim Bazaar, where the caravan stocks up for the long trek, and the slow ascent to the summer grazing grounds. The spring camp is not far from the provincial center, Baghlan. In May and June they move to mountain pastures in the Hindu Kush. Haji Omar's family home is near the small market town of Narin, sequences show life in the bazaar, classes in the high school and dealings with government officials.

The film ends with the fierce Buskashi games, when the nomads are back in their winter home. In concentrating on relations within one family, and through appropriate use of interviews and conversations, the film manages to draw sharp, colorful portraits of the protagonists and their problems. The film is an authentic, evocative and beautiful account of a little known region and way of life.

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