HBO / BBC / Arte France Documentary “Kabul Airport”

nAfter twenty years of war and occupation, the United States and its NATO allies have pledged to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. President Biden announced that his longest stay in America would end with the “Homecoming Our People Agreement.” The deadline for withdrawal ends in August 2021. A little less than two weeks before the expiration, two units of the US Marines received the order to carry out the evacuation of US citizens and “at-risk”, whom the Americans supported during the war, from the Kabul airport. Kind of a suicide mission, later. Withdrawal, a Marine involved and a survivor tells in the HBO/BBC/Arte France documentary Kabul Airport, “It was supposed to be something simple and quick, but it wasn’t.” Later in the movie, where she recounts how a few days later, in chaos and panic, thousands of people were pushed toward the “monastery gate,” amidst screaming corpses and wounded, infants and dead babies were handed over to the soldiers so they could at least escape Hell. Is she crying? She says that no woman among the soldiers will be able to forget these photos. Guys probably don’t do that either. Even just viewers of this documentary, working closely, as if on an open optic nerve, can be sleep deprived. From the experience of direct reception, but also from the insight conveyed here, how the military’s schematic view of the situation – real and psychological – in Kabul.

The film tells the eighteen days of the evacuation airlift in strict chronological order. The rescue operation, which ended in a humanitarian disaster, is conveyed in the documentary, produced by Emmy Award-winning Dan Reed (“Leaving Neverland”, “Frontline”), with a variety of visual materials (mobile phone videos, archival photos, especially illustrated) and through numerous interviews with witnesses. Soon after the Marines arrived, security preparations for the flights were not completed, and it was surprising that the Taliban captured Kabul. Thousands of people flee in panic in the streets, tens of thousands make their way to the airport. Like the filmed newsreader, they are interested in saving their naked lives. It’s August 15, 2021. Today’s photos are horrific, but they are far from the most gruesome. They are keeping the events of the next few days ready. Some things seem almost implausible, for example the landing of the first C-17 transport plane on the runway that had been painstakingly and violently evacuated by American soldiers. Young men in particular storm the plane, sit on the outside of the wheel housing, and film themselves laughing in the wind as the C-17 spins, seemingly believing they have been rescued. After a short time, their fallen corpses lay on the runway motionless.

One of the most important failure documents

Unbearable, of course, follow the selected photos. Tens of thousands of people crowd the narrow security corridor opposite the airport gates, young children are pressed with barbed wire, and people climb on top of those below. Meet a few hundred soldiers who are supposed to control the situation. Days later, when a bomb attack on Abe Gate allegedly hit American soldiers and Afghan citizens, the wounded roamed, leaving pieces of clothing and baggage behind, and after the last plane took off on August 31, Lilly deserted. Silence. Even the movie’s soundtrack alone, which is sometimes played with a black screen, leads to a frightening experience in the mind of the listener. The screams of American soldiers, the terrified people wanting to flee, the repeated shots, the audible failure of an unplanned and harmless mission – “Kabul Airport” will remain one of the most important documents of the failure of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan. “Doomsday” is how many witnesses describe the course of the mission.

The choice of supporters is wonderful. Interviews with American soldiers and their immediate superiors are about the same number and length as those with Taliban leaders who were on the ground. Individual escape stories are littered with, such as that of the then Afghan women minister in office, Hasina Safi, who finally manages to escape. In the end, approximately 124,000 people were relocated by the United States, the United Kingdom, and other allies. Nearly 200 people, including 13 US soldiers and more than 170 Afghan civilians, were killed in the monastery gate bombing. Before the final departure, the soldiers destroyed their cars, other equipment and furniture, photographing themselves in the process. In February 2022, “Kabul Airport” returns to Afghanistan in the last few minutes, for a brief political inventory and some pictures of current living conditions. The last shot shows children running, apparently only boys. The future of the state in the Taliban state.

Kabul Airport – Escape from Afghanistan It works from 8.15pm at Arte.

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Kabul airport – flight from Afghanistan


Video: Aarti

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