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From 2006 to 2010 photo journalist Louie Palu documented the war in Afghanistan. Excerpts from the diary he kept during that period form the narrative basis for the essay film Kandahar Journals, a story about the failure to convey to others the experience of war. This becomes painfully clear at the beginning of the film when Palu tries to capture a suicide attack with his camera. It seems impossible to frame this subject matter, impossible even to constitute the subject itself. The problem, which graphically manifests itself in the face of scattered body parts, is at the centre of this film: the absence of a proper focus, a thread, a central point. Consequentially, the narrative is discontinuous as well, alternating frequently between the events of war and everyday life back home in Toronto. To bridge from one place to the other is impossible. The filmmakers succeed in finding a distinct audio-visual language to express this disparity. It is a fragmentary language whose elements – faces, dust, waiting, breathing, running, explosion, birdsong – are not strung together by a coherent grammar. Even the omnipresent nature and the sensitive music by Manuel Hidalgo don’t connect the fragments. Instead, they further accentuate the disparity. The film thus arrestingly brings out Palu’s experience of isolation.
Susan Sontag notes: “We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can't understand, can't imagine. That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right.”
In Palu's words: “War is a personal experience.”
Devin Gallagher (co-director, associate producer) has worked at Arlington Independent Media, a public access television station for eight years as a staff producer. He has experience in every aspect of television and film production and has edited and helped produce numerous television, documentary and news programmes. His first independently produced documentary film Married in Spandex (50 min, 2011) is a love story about a young lesbian couple who decide to go from Philadelphia to Ames, Iowa to get married. The film was selected and screened at several film festivals in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Louie Palu (co-director, producer, narrator, director of photography) has worked as a professional award-winning documentary photographer for 24 years. Louie is well-known for his long-term projects on sociopolitical issues. He covered the war in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2006-2010 and made several short online films about the conflict. His videos have appeared in numerous television documentaries and news reports on the war. This is his first feature documentary film. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a Pulitzer Center On Crisis Reporting Grant.