“Cinema has this wonderful way of being able to flip stereotypes on their heads just by simply telling the truth,” declares Elizabeth Mirzaei, the co-director of the documentary “Three Songs for Benazir” along with her husband, Gulistan Mirzaei. The film, which is currently streaming on Netflix, has been shortlisted for Best Documentary Short at the 94th Academy Awards. Check out our exclusive video interview with the Mirzaei duo and the film’s co-producer Omar Mullick.
“Three Songs for Benazir” follows a young couple, Shaista and Benazir, who live a camp in Kabul for people displaced by the war in Afghanistan. Shaista and Benazir are deeply in love and expecting their first child. However, Shaista has dreams of being the first member of his family to join the Afghan National Army. The film documents Shaista’s struggles to balance his desires to serve his country with his devotion to his wife and family.
The film grew out of a friendship that the Mirzaeis developed with Shaista more than a decade ago. Elizabeth says that she was immediately taken with Shaista’s personality. “He was just so fill of wonder and boyish curiosity,” she recalls. “His smile just lit up around us.” For Gulistan, who is originally from Afghanistan, the connection to Shaista offered the opportunity to tell a more personal story. “I saw how my country was represented in the news and the media,” he says. “I wanted to tell the story of my country in my own voice.”
The Mirzaeis wanted to show viewers an Afghanistan different than the one that is usually shown in the news media. “While there’s a war raging outside and then you’re inside these homes, then there’s these moments of joy and beauty and laughter and humor,” explains Elizabeth. “When you do live in such close proximity to a war, you do see how the fragility and the beauty of everyday life is really acute and pronounced.”
For Mullick, the film represents a chance for the viewer to examine their own prejudices. “[The film] is also a very soft, very gentle invitation to have your values challenged by a culture that has something to offer you,” he says. “What you do get is people who have a great sense of honor, a sense of kindness. They have deep sense of family and a deep sense of community.”
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