Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘The Etilaat Roz’

Posted in Hot Docs 2023 by - May 03, 2023
Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘The Etilaat Roz’

A staff reporter at The Etilaat Roz talks to someone on the phone about noticing that there are less women in the streets. We expect this kind of demographic change during the middle of 2021. Then, the country changed from being an American-backed Republic to a Taliban-backed Emirate. The Etilaat Roz is a newspaper in Afghanistan that had the highest amount of readers during the Republic days. And that is about to change. This documentary follows the last few weeks of the titular newspaper. It talks to its editor in chief, Zaki Daryabi, as well as the writers staying with him.

Daryabi, also The Etilaat Roz‘s producer, takes up a lot of screen time here. He holds staff meetings and talks to English-speaking press about the conditions he’s facing as the Taliban closes in on him. “We need to stay alive here now,” he tells his staff. Though of no fault of his own, there are a few things that are missing from the way this documentary covers its events. Daryabi discusses their options but the camera cuts out before he lists all of them. The same goes when he discusses the reasons why the Taliban are arresting his staff.

The reasons I mention these omissions is that there are other dynamics at play that people watching The Etilaat Roz need to know. As I write this though, there are criticisms against this documentary that don’t feel right. As someone on Letterboxd wrote, yes, this is ‘amateurish’. But it does a lot of subtle things through sight and sound. The close-ups here do what close-ups normally do and emphasize the courageous vulnerability that these journalists have. It lets us hear the gunshots and the birds chirping, letting us feel an unsettling peace that happens when the bad guys win.

  • Release Date: 5/3/2023
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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