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Laila at the Bridge Movie Review

Bridge of Sighs

The documentary festival, Doc NYC, featured a slew of quality films this year. One of the ones that really caught my eye was "Laila at the Bridge", an Afghani entry that gave us a peek into drug addiction and government corruption in Afghanistan. Co-directed by Elizabeth Mirzael and Guistan Mirzaei, it follows Laila Haidari, a woman in her thirties determined to help drug addicts.

Her quest began when her brother became a drug addict and she took him in. She nursed him back to health with a program similar to the strategies used by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Once clean, he joined his sister in her efforts. Unfortunately, her success rate is probably around five per cent.

Laila recruits her patients at the Pul-e Sukhta Bridge in Kabul. To be more precise, she finds them living under the bridge where all of them are shooting up opiates. There are hundreds of them at any given time, and many die there before being carted away. What makes it even more obscene is that other people stand on the bridge and taunt them. The stench is sickening as everyone uses something to cover their faces in the hopes of being able to breathe.

Laila has set up multiple houses to save the addicts, but she doesn't have near the money to swing it by herself. Some businessmen extend her a little bit of credit, which helps, but it's not nearly enough. Because of this money shortage she is sometimes forced to close the centers, and the residents usually fall back to their habits, and quickly.

Afghanistan currently produces 90 percent of the global opium supply, which has caused the price of opium to plunge there. This of course is the primary reason for Afghanistan having the highest addiction rate in the world. Their government is doing nothing to stop it, which isn't helping the situation very much. Not only are they not helping, they're doing their best to thwart any effort to stem drug distribution and usage. Considering that members of the government are personally profiting from drugs, it's not all that surprising.

Laila is fighting against a system designed to stop people like her, and by the time the film ends you can't help but feel that she is wasting her time and money. Yet, you also can't help but hope that she's right and that she can help. The last scene finds her back under the bridge trying to save the lives that no one else seems to care about. Hopefully, she's right and the rest of us are wrong, but you won't leave this film filled with hope.


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