________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 14 . . . . December 4, 2009


The Sweetest Embrace: Return to Afghanistan.

Najeeb Mirza (Writer & Director). Bonnie Thompson & Adam Symansky (Producer). Najeeb Mirza (Oxus Apertura Films Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2008.
73 min., 56 sec., DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9108 050.

Subject Headings:
Afgan Canadians-Travel-Afghanistan.
Refugee children-Afghanistan.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Frank Loreto.

** /4

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, hundreds of young Afghan children were taken to other Soviet satellite states to be raised there as good little Soviets or, as they were called, "Lenin's children" When the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan, these children——now young adults were basically forgotten. Getting home was no easy journey.

     The Sweetest Embrace tells the story of two such men, Soorgul and Amir, and details the difficulty they faced when they attempted a reunion with their families. While both stories begin in Kabul, the 800 kilometre journey home proves quite different for both. Soorgul was born in 1979, the year the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. He asks, "Without family, how can I know who I am?" Amir is looking forward to meeting the girl he was engaged to as a young boy and wonders how the reunion will be.

     Both men encounter many delays and difficulties on their way home. Road blocks, flat tires, the current war, movement of family members, all conspire to make the journeys even longer if not impossible.

     The film follows both men as they travel together and as they part ways. While the viewer sees what happens along the way, a full view of either Soorgul or Amir never develops. They tell their stories, and what reunions they have with family members are tender, but something seems missing. Even some of the reunions seem a little staged for the camera. So much more could have been done in the telling of their lives up to the point of arrival in Afghanistan.

     Where this movie shines, however, is in the stunning landscape of Afghanistan. This is one harsh and yet beautiful country. The mountains, the raging rivers, the glaciers and the vast distances show why this country has been so impossible to tame by outsiders. For anyone teaching The Kite Runner, The Sweetest Embrace would help show the setting.

     "There is nothing sweeter than the embrace of a mother and child" is stated early in the film. The fact that these men and so many others were taken from their homes as children shows that not only guns and bombs do damage in war. The robbery of one's childhood is irreplaceable. The film could have applicability in a Current World History course Politics, World Issues or in World Geography.


Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.

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