The Land of the Enlightened

A gang of Afghan kids from the Kuchi tribe dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to children working in a lapis lazuli mine. When not dreaming of the time when the American troops will finally withdraw from their land, another gang of children take firm control of the caravans smuggling the blue gemstones through the arid mountains of Pamir. In this seamless blend of fiction and documentary, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of a war-tormented Afghanistan. Shot over seven years on evocative 16mm footage, first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue paints a whimsical yet haunting look at the condition of the Afghanistan left for the next generation. As American soldiers prepare to leave, we follow De Pue deep into this hidden land where young boys form wild gangs to control trade routes, sell explosives from mines left over from war, and climb rusty tanks as if they were on a playground—inventing the new rules of war based on the harsh landscape left to them. De Pue’s transportive and wonderfully crafted film confronts the visceral beauty and roughness of survival, serving as a testament to the spirited innovation of childhood and the extreme resilience of a people and country.

Screened with the support of the Belgian embassy.