What occurred or continues to occur in Afghanistan is horrific. After the country got under the wings of the Taliban, crimes increased, poverty peaked, and women's rights were reduced to ashes. The news channels were once filled with footage of people rushing to the airport. The sight of men and women sprinting on the runway and desperately trying to climb an airplane in motion was heart-wrenching to watch. Unfortunately, the world today has become indifferent. Sad news merely makes a dent for a week, and then we move on as if nothing ever happened. If the tragedy doesn't concern us, we just remark how unfortunate everything is and then go on with our lives. Come to think of it, we are not so different from The White Lotus Season 2's Daphne and Cameron. Like them, we all are collectively living in a bubble while the world continues to go under distress.
Well, let me correct the above statement. Not all of us are silent, and In Her Hands is about one such individual who continues to fight against the injustice in Afghanistan. She is Zarifa Ghafari, a former female mayor of Maidan Wardak. She took that position when she was 24 years old, making her the youngest person to be appointed to this status. Her motto: Drop the weapon and pick up the pen. She wants the women of Afghanistan to get educated. Zarifa proudly states that she has a bachelor's and master’s degree and recalls how she used to sneak out of her house to go to school.
During a meeting, we see Zarifa as the sole woman sitting in the middle of a group of men. This image underlines the patriarchal environment. The men of Afghanistan, like many other men around the world, don't consider women to be their equals. One of them yells that girls should only cook and remain inside their houses. Naturally, people like him regard Zarifa as an abomination. You can add the Taliban to that list, as they, too, don't want girls to be educated, let alone be in a position of power.
In Her Hands allows a Taliban commander to present his side to us, which only reveals how blind and hateful they are in their quest. The organization wants to spread its religion to every corner of the earth and is willing to murder anyone for this mission. In fact, a Taliban utters that god has given him the license to kill any person who, in his eyes, has committed vice. If god can create life, he can very well take one as per his desire. I don't think he needs a human to act on his behalf. Whenever I hear news about a mob or a person justifying violence by hiding behind a religion, this line from a review by Roger Ebert comes to my mind - When a mob forms in the name of a religion, its first casualty is usually the teaching of the religion.
Zarifa had been receiving death threats from the Taliban for a long time. Yet, she remained in her country and continued to offer her service. When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, she had to flee from her home like many other civilians. Zarifa is not a superhuman. Even she gets scared and can become vulnerable. In Her Hands shows us a woman who might have represented her country in the US but still has to face common personal problems. For example, she fights with her father when he objects that she should not let her fiancé visit her before marriage. Carefully observe this moment. Zarifa breaks down in tears, but then she regains her strength, looks up, and smiles after a few seconds. This is who Zarifa really is: A vulnerable woman who stands up every time she falls. Circumstances force her to run away from Afghanistan, but she returns after a few months to help the women fighting against the inhumane behavior of the Taliban.
Citizens of Afghanistan suffered when the Taliban came into power. Zarifa's bodyguard/driver, Massoum, becomes a window, offering us a view of the suffering of the common people. Due to unemployment, some people started begging on the streets, and some turned to drugs. Massoum's story is sad in itself. We feel for him when he expresses his disappointment in being left behind by Zarifa. He dedicated his life to her, but when she was offered a job at the Ministry of Defense, she had to leave Massoum behind as he was no longer permitted to be her driver. A text before the end credits informs us that he is still unemployed.
In Her Hands films all these moments with both sadness and composure. It depicts a country under siege from within, yet it has an optimistic charge. Because, in the end, hope keeps us alive and assures us that no matter how depressing things may seem today, there is a chance of a better tomorrow. Given the current state of the world, it's a thought that drives us to give our best even when everything around us seems to be getting destroyed by fire.
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