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Rock the Kasbah

2015-11-27 09:10

What it's about:

Richie Lanz is a rock manager with a golden ear and a taste for talent, but he’s seen better times. When he takes his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan, the client gets cold feet and leaves him penniless and without his passport in Kabul. While trying to find his way home, Richie befriends a band of misfits and discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice. Against all odds, Richie will take his last shot at creating an unlikely superstar.

What we thought:

For fans of punk rock band The Clash, Rock the Casbah was an anthem against the banning of music from the West in Iran, and similar bans on music in other Islam countries.  In the movie, Rock the Kasbah is about an ageing music manager who goes against the grain in conservative, conflict-ridden Afghanistan to get a young girl on the stage of a popular music show. Unfortunately, Bill Murray is the only thing rocking about this character-less plot.

While touring in Afghanistan with his morally questionable protégé (Zooey Deschanel), Richie Lanz (Murray) becomes stranded without money and a passport trying to get out of the country. Desperate he makes a deal with some arm dealers, and in the process he discovers the astounding singing voice of a Pashtun girl (Leem Lubany) from a small village. He takes her under his wing to perform in Afghan Star, an Idols-like television show dominated by men. In-between this he starts dating a prostitute (Kate Hudson).  It’s as exciting as it sounds.

Besides the direct reference to The Clash song, this film’s story is also loosely taken from an acclaimed 2009 documentary Afghan Star, which followed the contestants of the real show, including the controversy surrounding one of its female stars who performed without her hijab, to whom Rock the Kasbah is also dedicated. This film would have been much more interesting from the Afghan perspective, like the documentary, instead of being solely positioned through the Westerner’s eyes. The complete lack of focus on any of the other characters besides Murray’s resulted in almost zero character development and characters were used and thrown out of the plot without any resolution or reference to them again. Even the reasoning for the Afghan girl to defy her society, listening to and singing Western music, is never explained, including how she even found this music in a remote village. The only reason provided is that she wants to praise Allah with her gift, but this seems like a throwaway reason without little thought put into it.

Bill Murray is Bill Murray, and would have to actively make an effort to be a bad actor, but because of his brilliance the whole film became dependent on him, and director Barry Levinson (Rain Man; Good Morning, Vietnam) clearly put all his focus in developing his character on-screen rather than coaching the others who clearly needed a bit more direction.

At least Palestinian actress Lubany, who plays the wannabe star, has got an astounding voice, as smooth as good whiskey that would stop any real talent scout in their tracks. She should rather focus on her music career than her acting one, as she could definitely become quite amazing with the right…. manager (Sorrynotsorry). The music choices for the film was an interesting one at that, ranging from Cat Stevens to Kid Rock, and would be a decent soundtrack to get, especially with Lubany on vocals.

If you’re a big Bill Murray fan, then this film will tickle your fancy, as that is basically all you get from Rock the Kasbah. If you want insight into modern Afghan culture, then the documentary is more likely to rock your socks off.

Read more on:    zooey deschanel  |  kate hudson  |  movies

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