Oscar 2009: Afghan Star is U.K.'s Foreign Language Oscar Entry

Roast Beef, Redstart and Kaboora Productions, the producers of "Afghan Star" have announced that their film has been chosen by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts as the UK's official selection for the Foreign Language Film category in this year's Oscar Awards. 
 
Winner of the Directing and the Audience Awards at Sundance Film Festival (2009 World Documentary Competition) "Afghan Star" has received critical acclaim during its U.S. theatrical release by Zeitgeist Films.  In release since April 2009, the film still ranks "100% Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes and has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show, CNN, ABC and many other networks.  Last week the film won the PRIX ITALIA and was nominated for the UK's GRIERSON AWARDS for BEST DOCUMENTARY.
 
In Afghanistan you risk your life to sing. After 30 years of war and five devastating years of Taliban rule, pop culture is  beginning to return to the country— and since 2005, millions are tuning in to Tolo TV’s wildly popular American Idol-style series "Afghan Star." Like its Western predecessors, people compete for a cash prize and record deal. More surprisingly, the contest is open to everyone across the country despite gender, ethnicity or age. Two thousand people audition, including three extremely brave women. And when viewers vote for their favorites via cell phone, it is, for many, their first encounter with the democratic process. 

 
About the director:
 
"Afghan Star" is Havana Marking’s first feature documentary. Previously she directed The Crippendales (2007)– a 30 minute film about the first troupe of disabled strippers winning the UK Channel 4 scheme for New Talent. In 2005 she made The Great Relativity Show, a series of animated shorts that explained the Theory of Relativity. These won a Pirelli Science award.  Before 2005, as a TV producer, she worked on some of the most successful UK programs and films: The F Word, Michael Palin: Himalaya, River Cottage, No Going Back, War On Terra – What Would Jesus Drive?.  Havana is also a respected journalist with articles printed in the Guardian and Observer newspapers. 
 
 

Havana Marking’s timely and moving film follows the dramatic stories of four young finalists—two men and two women—as they hazard everything to become the nation’s favorite performer. By observing the Afghani people's relationship to its pop culture, "Afghan Star" offers a window into a country’s tenuous, ongoing struggle for modernity. What Americans consider frivolous entertainment is downright revolutionary—and more human—in this troubled part of the world.