The ever notable Dennis O’Rourke (Cunnamulla) takes us into the lives of Habiba and Shah, an Afghani couple eking out an existence in the ruined city of Kabul.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2005
With remarkable ease the ever notable Australian documentary maker Dennis O’Rourke takes us into the confidence of Habiba and Shah, an Afghani couple who eke out an existence for themselves and their family in the ruined city of Kabul. ‘Flowers from the same garden’, both of them seriously incapacitated by land mines, they are matter-of-fact about the wearying challenges they face, and appealingly direct in their insights about the state of the world, their hopes for their children and their abundant affection for each other. O’Rourke cuts in Soviet training films, for example, or a Pentagon press conference, reminding us, without undue insistence, of the heedless forces shaping the lives of these resilient, likeable people. — BG
"Land Mines is Dennis O’Rourke’s first film since Cunnamulla in 2000. That film was controversial even by O’Rourke’s standards (he also made The Good Woman of Bangkok, and Land Mines may be partly a reaction. ‘I wanted to make a film away from Australia, a film which was personal – about people from another culture and place whom I could love and who could relate to me – but in my mind this film also had to be about a global issue of pressing importance.’ That’s O’Rourke in classic raiment – the documentarian as voyager, romantic reformer and poet, a strange mixture of egotist and missionary… O’Rourke always expresses himself better in images than words, and Land Mines is a beautiful film: simple, direct, engaged and very eloquent about an obscene situation. It’s acutely revealing of both the filmmaker’s compassion and his anger, without being hysterical. It shows old Russian training films about how to use mines, as well as footage of George Bush announcing a desire to help ‘the poor souls in Afghanistan’. He includes painfully slow and dangerous land mine clearance, undertaken by NGOs such as the Halo Trust, as well as a Pentagon officer admitting at a press conference ‘it is unfortunate that the cluster bombs are the same colour as the food pacakages.’ O’Rourke has absorbed some of the techniques of the best Iranian films, trying to give his shots a sense of space and stillness. There’s a constant tension between his desire to editorialise and his wish to observe, but it’s quietly productive. The film is neither all head nor all heart, more a galvanizing balance of the two." — Paul Byrnes, Sydney Morning Herald