“Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” (2007) is a film by the young Iranian born Hana Makhmalbah. Makhmalbah made her first break through with the documentary “Joy of Madness”, which was about her sister’s Samira Makhmalbah’s work with the film “Five in the afternoon” (S. Makhmalbah directed it). “Joy of Madness” premiered at Venice Film festival in 2003. “Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” is her second film, for which she traveled to Afghanistan to make (she was living in Sweden at the time she made this film). The language spoken in the film is Persian.

Hana Makhmalbah
Hana Makhmalbah

“Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame” tells the story of a very young, ambitious girl who wants to go to school so she can learn how to read. She sells eggs cheaply to be able to afford a notebook. Since she can’t afford a pen, she takes her mother’s lipstick and heads out to find the school. While trying to find the school, she is unfortunate enough to meet some ruthless boys who are playing “Taliban”. They discover that she has make-up on her, leading to them labeling her as a “appalling woman” and sentence her to be stoned to death.

Nearly all of the actors in this movie are children. The little girl, played by Nikbakht Noruz, is wonderful as a curious child who won’t stop fighting till she’s reached her goal. Her innocent, raw ambition is crushed by fierce bullies. Her lines are simple, but honest, which makes it easy for the viewer to get to know her and feel for her. The boys playing the bullies are good as well. The boys portray children that are imitating adults, learning the horrible behavior from what they see their elders do. By showing how these boys pick on the little girl, Makhmalbah gives us a good idea of how women were treated under the Taliban regime without showing us any gore or extreme violence.

The title of the film is a reference to the Buddha statues the Taliban’s blew up. The film starts with showing a clip where they blow up the statues. During the film, the young boys mention that “we blew him up, this is where he was” while pointing at a pile of rocks. So it turns out that they are playing where the Buddha statues used to be. The clip shown in the beginning is re-shown at the end before the credits roll. The films focus on the Buddha statues can be seen as a symbol of beauty and knowledge that is crushed by the tyrants. The Buddha statues were a work of art, made by talented ambitious humans that were destroyed by the tyranny of the Taliban. The little girl seems to have the same kind of sad fate as the statues; she has talents and ambition, but is crushed and destroyed by the bullies.

This movie is perhaps the best ones dealing with Afghanistan’s situations. It is a heart-breaking story of child-like innocence lost in a dark, unfair world.