Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
Nafas is a young Afghan journalist that escaped from her country to Canada with her family after the Taliban conflict. Nevertheless, her sister was left behind and, unfortunately, lost her legs to a land mine. One day, Nafas receives a letter from her sister telling her that she has decided to commit suicide during the final eclipse of the 21st Century. Decided to get to her sister in time, Nafas begins a perilous journey through the desert all the way to Kandahar.
Makhmalbaf utilizes the Afghan/Iranian border to illustrate the numerous conflicts of the frontier without being exploitative. The film presents a series of conflicts in an episodic manner throughout that carry a violent context before the eyes of Nafas: a world ruled by the "dog-eat-dog, bird-eat-bird, human-eat-human" law. Before Nafas physically enters the next scenario in her journey, we are provided with a brief introduction of the conflict present therein. By the time she arrives, the movie centers once again on the main plot, Nafas' journey, while using the correspondent conflict as a complimentary context. Sometimes, after she leaves, the conflict is given either a resolution, or is left unexplained given its difficulty.
What are these scenarios? Women with no name or identity (and therefore referred to as "black heads" because of the black veils they use to cover their entire heads), religious extremisms, violence as a supposed means of "God" to settle conflicts, kids being mentally manipulated to fundamentalisms, poverty, victims of landmines, and a huge desert engulfing it all. Nafas comments to all of these tragic sights.
By the time the film keeps progressing, the main plot begins to lose relevance and the movie's argument is transformed into an analysis of the conflicts in the frontier, with all of the people involved. We begin to realize that the lives and suffering of these people is as relevant as that of the seemingly unreachable sister. The learnings of Nafas begin to be our learnings.
Kandahar is Makhmalbaf's proof of his directorial versatility and humanist vision, a director that portrayed violence without graphic content, that showed the power tragedies with only aftermaths, that made us think without dramatic manipulation...