The Beauty Academy of Kabul, a documentary made by the very talented and insightful Liz Mermin (also co-director of the intelligent and moving documentary, On Hostile Ground) opens at the Angelika Film Center (New York) on March 24th. (Here’s the trailer.) There will be a filmmaker Q&A after the 7:00 screenings on March 24 and March 25. On March 29 Amnesty International will lead a post-screening discussion with the director.
What happens when a group of hairdressers from America travel to Kabul with the intention of telling Afghan women how to do hair and makeup? This engaging, optimistic documentary tracks a unique development project: a shiny new beauty school, funded in part by beauty-industry mainstays, which sets out to teach the latest cutting, coloring, and perming techniques to practicing and aspiring Afghan hairdressers and beauticians. The American teachers, all volunteers, include three Afghan-Americans returning home for the first time in over twenty years. The Beauty Academy of Kabul offers a rare glimpse into Afghan women’s lives, and documents the poignant and often humorous process through which women with very different experiences of life come to learn about one another.
Here is a BBC Four interview with Liz about The Beauty Academy of Kabul from a while ago.
BBC Four: Was it the fact that it was New Yorkers going over to Kabul that attracted you, or the beauty school project itself?
LM: I read a story about the project in the New York Times. The reason it jumped out at me was that at that point, 2002, the news was all so dire from that part of the world. This was such a bizarre human interest story and it seemed like such naive idealism. The idea of a group of well-intentioned Americans popping into Kabul and teaching woman about hair styles seemed irresistible. But when I started talking to them I saw the other side of it, the business development angle, and it seemed like less of a joke.