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Miller, I.S. (2002). Representations of “Us” and “Them” in Kandahar and Black Hawk Down. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 4(3):361-364.

(2002). Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 4(3):361-364


Representations of “Us” and “Them” in Kandahar and Black Hawk Down

Ian S. Miller, Ph.D.

“Kandahar” and “Black Hawk Down,” each filmed before 9/11, require examination under a notion of entertainment more active than the easy reception of delight and pleasure generally associated with movies. To entertain also means to intertwine. In this sense, movies induce a vivid human experience of other people within the viewer's mind, and require from the viewer the task of holding or containing what is seen, and making sense of it. Having experienced the film, the viewer must actively entertain the movie as one would a guest. In a profound sense, the viewer becomes a witness for what has been seen.

On initial consideration, each of these films seems deceptively simple. The plot in “Kandahar” depicts the doomed fate of Afghan women during the Taliban's reign. The liberal West faces the fundamentalist East as an Afghan refugee from Canada attempts to prevent her sister's imminent suicide in Kandahar. Director Mohsan Makhmalbaf fuses allegory and realism. The brutality of the Pushtun Taliban's suppression of all difference serves as cinematic foreground against the jarring background of Afghanistan's continuing suffering. Macabre images of prosthetic limbs drop from the sky by parachute to remind the viewer of Afghanistan's ongoing legacy as a crippled Superpower battleground.

Where “Kandahar” examines the fallout of Superpower rivalry, “Black Hawk Down” depicts the enraged impotence of the United States as remaining Superpower. The movie's minimal plot concerns the rescue of a vulnerable helicopter crew, shot down on what was to have been a slam-dunk military operation for U.S. Rangers against Somalian warlords in 1993.

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