Screened as part of NZIFF 2016

The Land of the Enlightened 2016

Directed by Pieter-Jan De Pue

Spectacular cinematography captures the world of bands of children who rove war-torn Afghanistan, scavenging, stealing, trading and surviving with gusto, in a film that artfully combines documentary and re-enactment.

Afghanistan / Belgium / Germany / Ireland / The Netherlands In English, Farsi, Kyrgyz, Pashto, Russian, Uzbek and Wakhi with English subtitles
87 minutes DCP



Bart Van Langendonck


Pieter-Jan De Pue
David Dusa


David Dusa
Stijn Deconinck


Denis Clohessy


Robert Flanagan


Gholam Nasir
Khyrgyz Baj
Noor & Zulfu
Koko Ewas
Koko Mullalih
Marina Golbahari
Sergei Kovinchenko
Devin A. Cleeves


Hot Docs 2016


Special Jury Award for Cinematography (World Documentary)
Sundance Film Festival 2016

Shot on 16mm film on numerous visits over seven years, debut filmmaker Pieter-Jan De Pue’s account of bands of armed children roving war-torn Afghanistan is as amazing for where it goes as it is for being so impeccably well crafted. It was the hands-down winner of this year’s Sundance World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography, but that accolade cannot prepare you for just how breathtaking it looks, let alone how unlike any other documentary filmed in a war zone.

De Pue enlisted his young subjects to re-enact their exploits for his camera. They roam the valleys searching for undetonated explosives to sell or trade amongst other gangs. Some mine lapis lazuli by hand, others steal opium from passing caravans. Their informal mercenary system interacts with fractious, understandably wary US troops. Cheering the news of imminent US withdrawal, they dream of lording it over their battered country. Flights of invented mythology and intense visual lyricism ascribe freedom and resilience to these wild, motherless boys, and do so with unabashed romanticism. But the reality of their hardscrabble existences is clear to see.