When I suggested watching The Miscreants of Taliwood, my husband was reluctant. “I feel like I’ve seen this movie before,” he said, based on the film’s description. But once we started watching, we both became sucked into the documentary. As it turned out, The Miscreants of Taliwood is a very different documentary and definitely one we hadn’t seen before.
Australian filmmaker George Gittoes journeys to Pakistan to explore just what effect Taliban rule is having on the people of the Tribal Belt in northwestern Pakistan. In particular, he focuses on the Taliban’s hatred of art and culture. Gittoes documents the struggle that small Pakistani film “studios” are having in producing their films when acting, singing, dancing, and women in public are all on the “no-no” list and the kiosks which sell the mass copied films are being bombed out left and right. Gitteos also gets in on the action. He finances two films for a mere $7000. Amusingly, his face starts being recognized by the local people who have seen his film.
Given the topic of the documentary, the frustration the viewer will feel while watching is a given, expected result. And throughout the film, Gittoes manages to moderate it to just the right level. But as the film begins to come to an end, the horrors of Taliban ruled Pakistan are turned way, way up. The goofy, amateur Pakistani films are seemingly all wiped out and replaced by glossier Taliban propaganda films. One of Gittoes’ actor friends, the action star of the region, is shown in hostage footage with him dangerously close to being beheaded by the Taliban. Graphic footage of children beheading a man puts the final nail in the coffin.
Gitteos’ The Miscreants of Taliwood is infuriating and then saddening. This isn’t a slickly produced documentary. It’s put together in a kind of outdated way not unlike the films it’s documenting. But the quality, if you want to call it that, becomes irrelevant. Gitteos is honest and personal in his presentation. You leave The Miscreants of Taliwood wondering how things so terrible be can happening.