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The Independent Critic

Eva Orner
97 Mins.


 "The Network" is One of 2013 Heartland's Weaker Docs 

It's first important to note that the 2013 Heartland Film Festival has had quite the year with feature docs, though it is not a festival that typically attracts the year's likely Oscar nominees. Heartland does, however, tend to attract the year's most deeply felt and inspiring documentaries and during a year when the festival has attracted several true gems it's hard not to be just a little disappointed with Eva Orner's The Network, a doc that had its world premiere at SXSW and comes with tremendous pedigree as Orner was the Oscar-winning producer of the remarkable Taxi to the Darkside.

The Network is not a bad documentary, but it feels both incomplete and not particularly compelling given the potential of talking about the largest television network within the country of Afghanistan. It's hard not to watch the film without wishing that Orner had taken the story much further, though it's abundantly clear that doing so was not her objective for the film (In other words, I respect artistic choice).

Much of the early part part of The Network is devoted to the history of the network, a start that actually was brainstormed amongst a group of three Afghani brothers living in Australia who longed to return to their country and be a part of restoring hope. They created a radio station that succeeded wildly and eventually expanded into television broadcasting despite the fact that very few in Afghanistan really had a clue what to do or how to do it given that the formerly ruling Taliban had outlawed such things.

For those with an interest in Mideast affairs or simply a strong interest in the history of media, The Network is an intelligent and informative film that will likely prove to be satisfying. While it feels like a missed opportunity to make a film of true global impact, as a cinematic presentation of important history and the challenges of creating viable media in most difficult circumstances, The Network leaves a powerful impact.

Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic