Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
The Network is a documentary charting the establishment and development of the largest and most popular television network in Afghanistan, Tolo-TV.  It was initially starts as a radio station in 2004 by the Mohseni family whose interest was in the reconstruction of the country following the defeat of the Taliban in 2001.  They have continued to run it, and what started with less than a 100 employees has grown to 800.  They knew nothing about broadcasting when they started it, and to help it grow into television, they hired many expatriates who were knowledgeable about the television and broadcasting business.  The writer/director of this film, Eva Orner (Taxi to the Dark Side), an Australian, reports she is trying to show how the media can effect social change. 
            The process of hiring Afghan employees has involved teaching and modeling for them a different work ethic than they were used to, along with whatever skills they would need for their positions.  Afghans had to develop a sense of responsibility to show up to work every day and to develop timelines with goals of accomplishment.  Now, they are very proud of the crew they have, and the programs they are able to offer including news, entertainment, and education.  They see themselves as helping to change the culture in a positive way.  For instance, they are continually reinforcing the role of women in their endeavors outside the home.  Another part of their task has been to inform people about their own country, so they have a program called “On the Road” which is something like a travelogue, showing people historical landmarks and other important aspects of their country.  They even sent part of the crew on a trip to the U.S. to show the Afghans what America looks like, and to show Afghans who are living in the U.S.  This trip was very successful, except that two cameramen “escaped” while here and did not return to their country.
            One reason is perhaps that it is so dangerous there.  They never know when a bomb will go off; at one point the television station was caught in the crossfire between the U.S. Embassy and terrorists.  One of their aims also is to inform citizens about the security forces and to reinforce their faith in the police, so they frequently report stories about their successes when possible. 
            A major point of the film is the uncertainty of the future in Afghanistan; many fear that a civil war will break out when the Americans and other expatriates leave.  The hope is that young people have a different perspective from their elders and have become a strong enough force to have an impact on Afghanistan’s future.  Grade:  B


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