One man’s determination to remember his homeland and honour his new land is explored in “A Kandahar Away,” premiering Sunday October 20 at 9 pm on Canada’s documentary channel.
Refugee Abdul Jamal left Kandahar, Afghanistan, with his family in 1990. They settled in Canada, and when the family patriarch discovered that there existed a Kandahar, Saskatchewan, he had to visit. Abdul was fascinated by this small, Canadian dot on the map and became determined to build a bridge between two places so opposite in geography and culture.
Produced by veteran documentarians Deborah Parks and Shelley Saywell, “A Kandahar Away” was written and directed by Abdul’s middle daughter Aisha Jamal. It follows the entire family, including grandchild Ilyas, to Kandahar, Sask., a remote and dying hamlet of 15 residents two hours from any airport in the prairie province.
This isn’t a simple vacation: the well-meaning father and mother have decided to award each of their five children an inheritance of land in this tiny town, a grand gesture that isn’t exactly what these city-dwelling siblings had in mind.
Besides his wish to forge a link between Kandahar old and new with his family, Abdul also wanted to honour the 150 Canadian soldiers who gave their lives serving in Afghanistan during the Afghan War.
“A Kandahar Away” is a story about one immigrant family that should resonate with many Canadians old and new. Scenes of youngest sibling Nasser, followed overhead by drone cameras, bicycling across the prairies literally shows how different paths can take us almost anywhere. It is also interesting to witness how the Saskatchewan locals take to this far away family’s plan to build a war monument in their town. They watch with a mix of openness and skepticism as Abdul describes his plan to “harmonize two stories together” with such a salute. The project even gets approval from retired Canadian Gulf War general Rick Hillier.
For many Canadian viewers, however, the foreign land profiled in the documentary will be this middle-of-nowhere town of Kandahar, Sask. A former school principal describes how the schoolhouse closed in 1987 and was briefly a “Kid Disco,” where Northern Pikes once rocked. Cree resident Francis LaPlante talks about Big Quill Lake and the time it was struck by a meteor in 1922 – killing all the fish.
The local legends, however, are detours in this engaging documentary. This is essentially a story about a refugee father who became a proud citizen of two Kandahars, and his family’s desires to walk their own paths. It is also ultimately about how maps and monuments are not everything when it comes to finding your way home.