After thirty years of war and five devastating years of Taliban rule, pop culture is beginning to return to Afghanistan. Since 2005, millions have been tuning in to Tolo TV's wildly popular American Idol-style series Afghan Star. Like its Western predecessors, contestants compete for a cash prize and record deal. More surprisingly - as women were previously banned from singing on public airwaves - 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.
This 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 their pop culture, Afghan Star is the perfect window into a country's tenuous, ongoing struggle for modernity. What Americans consider frivolous entertainment is downright revolutionary - and more human - in this embattled part of the world.