BIFF Main Review – Laila at the Bridge

A compelling documentary about a woman’s fight for opium-addicts in Kabul.

Since 1992 Afghanistan has been the leading producer of opium (illegally), and closer to 90 % of all the drug is produced here. Quite a lot of people in Afghanistan is addicts. This is where Laila and her team comes in.

Laila Haidari is the toughest woman I have seen at Bergen International Filmfestival in all these years. No matter how much resistance she gets she stands even stronger, and never gives up. 

Laila was wedded to a 27-year old when she was 14, or as she says herself; she didn’t really know how old he was. She thankfully got out of this child-marriage. But this is still something she struggles with. After this she set a goal to save as many people as she could from under the bridge, Pul Sokhta, in Kabul. This is the place where addicts gather and gets their daily dosages. They have become so addicted that they cannot help themselves. Every day she travels to the bridge to help as many people as she can. With her she has her brother Hakim that himself was an addict. He made her life a living hell before he decided to get out of it. Now he has been out of that life for two years, and helps his sister with their detoxing program.

Money makes the wheel go round and round
Laila also has an restaurant, Taj Begum, that helps finance all she does. She needs to get food to all occupants in her locales. But she doesn’t use methadone or any other similar drugs to help them. The detoxification is based on NA’s (Narcotics Anonymous) principles. As her brother Hakim says, as long as you follow the principles of NA you will get rid of the sickness.

But the restaurant doesn’t help her as much economically as she wants it too. In addition to her not having enough money to help, she owes a lot of money to store owners around her. It’s hard for her and the team to make ends meet. Therefore she can’t help everyone she wants to help. Some has to go. Laila also to fight against the corrupt regime that doesn’t want to give her money to help those that need her help. Instead she had to find outside finance elsewhere from businesspeople who wants to help.

We also follow those who wants to get rid of the addiction. It’s not an easy life, and everyone doesn’t handle the way Laila helps them. But those who embrace her advice calls her mother, and their are all her children. This is because she feels she let down her own children after she got out of the child-marriage. Her kids doesn’t live in the same place she does. She regrets she can’t do more for them.

We get a close look at Laila and the ways she wants to help those around her. But she meets a lot of resistance from people and the government that should help her. If it’s not about economy it’s about people who wants to harm her. But in the middle of all this stands the strongest mind I have seen, and she takes crap from no one. If they try, she give them her piece of mind.

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