BUDDHA COLLAPSED OUT OF SHAMEAbout 1,500 years ago, Buddha statues, measuring over thirty metres in height were carred into the rock at Bamian. They were the centre of a cave monastery that was once inhabited by as many as 3,000 monks. At the time, Bamian was the spiritual centre of Afghanistan. In 2001, the Taliban blew up the statues in the valley that has since been declared a world heritage site.
Bakhtay grows up nearby; she and her family live in one of the old monastery caves. But while boys of her age living in neighbouring caves are struggling to learn the alphabet, Bakhtay has to stay at home. When a girls’ school opens up on the other side of the river, Bakhtay has no greater wish than to attend so that she too can learn how to read and write. But it’s not that easy. Her mother isn’t very supportive and the boys of the neighbourhood regularly coerce Bakhtay into joining their brutal war games – the only games they know. As usual Bakhtay is their victim: they take her prisoner, and then she will be stoned to death. Bakhtay’s arduous journey across the river becomes a metaphor for Afghanistan’s own difficult transition. The rule of the Taliban may have come to an end, but overcoming illiteracy and poverty in the country will be a long process.
The film’s title refers to film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s reaction when he saw the blown-up Buddha statues: “Even a statue can collapse out of shame when confronted with all the violence and hardship against innocent people.”