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Film Review: Kunduz
by Marinell Haegelin

Early September 2009, in the once peaceful northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz, insurgents commandeered two NATO fuel tankers. One became stuck in mud at a river crossing, and Taliban stepped back as hoards of villagers converged to avail of the free fuel phenomenon; concurrently, American F-15E fighter jets responded to a German forces call, with resultant high civilian fatalities. The film takes its name from, and is based on, this incident.

Onboard a flight to Islamabad, a young man collapses in the toilet; when the flight attendant finally gains access, she, Nasrin (Proschat Madani) hastens to the cabin and asks whether a doctor is among the passengers. Doctor Walter Grewe (Ulrich Matthes) unhesitatingly steps forward, soon realizing this is no ordinary patient. Faisal’s (Arash Marandi) leg wound requires a skill-set outside his realm of medical knowledge. Grewe wants to make an emergency detour; Faisal adamantly insists the plane continues to Pakistan. After hearing Faisal’s bloodcurdling story, the good doctor enlists the unwitting pilot’s (Jeff Caster) assurance to stay on course, thereby assisting Faisal in his mission.

Tightly scripted and edited, the well-placed flashbacks give us pertinent personal background about the protagonist, whose onetime satisfaction with his work—photography—and life is going through an overwhelming flux, set off by the love of his life Clara (Julia Dietze). Needing a diversion, a pilgrimage to his birth-land motivates Faisal to leave Germany—his parents had fled Afghanistan over twenty years ago—determined to cross the country on foot. Where, six weeks later, he finds himself in an unenviable position, demanding extreme moral courage.

Stefan Gieren & Simona Gieren co-direct Stefan Gieren’s screenplay about the strength of love, and the consequences of decision-makers’ arrogance during wartime. Encapsulating the oppressiveness of the plight is Sin Huh’s camera; Anne Beutel’s editing is taut, as does Florian Tessloff’s music fuse scenes for greater emphasis. Intense yet rife with subtleties, the film necessitates individuals’ rumination.