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With: n/a
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Liz Mermin
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 74
Date: 05/04/2004

The Beauty Academy of Kabul (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pretty on the Inside

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new documentary The Beauty Academy of Kabul can be a frustrating experience because of representation issues. In it, several American and British women travel to the bombed-out city of Kabul in Afghanistan to teach women about hair and makeup so that they can run their own businesses. It's an honorable idea, but these Westerners only teach Western-style makeup, as if that were the one "correct" way. Moreover, their behavior reeks of the Ugly American. One woman barges in with a horrid, red rooster-style hairdo and barks at the students in an abrasive, New York accent. (In another scene, she drives around the city, cackling loudly from the driver's seat and deliberately antagonizing the Afghanis.) A third woman may be even worse, forcing the students to join in her hippie "cleansing" rituals. The question is whether director Liz Mermin noticed this stuff. Did it set off any alarm bells for her? If so, did she choose merely to keep recording and let the images speak for themselves? Either way, the movie has no sense of self-awareness. Still, Mermin manages to capture some breathtaking, horrifying images of the city, such as the subtle domination of men, and the pervasive presence of guns. Additionally, one of the young women students is so beautiful and so dear (she's been in love with the same man for nine years but has never kissed him), that she outshines all the makeup and hair products in the world.

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