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Categories: Movie Reviews

Thomas Humphrey praises Afghan war doc “Tell Spring Not to Come This Year”, which he calls a “vital snapshot” of the people involved in the conflict.

Tell Spring Not to Come This Year_KEY STILL

It seems incredible to think that last month marked the fifteenth anniversary of the War on Terror. Perhaps that’s because those horrendous images of the 9/11 attacks still seem so indelibly seared in our memories. But that said, the years of occupation which followed seemed to have passed with remarkable haste. Moreover, almost unbeknownst to us, fighting continues to rage in the Middle East and that does seem something worth thinking about.

Ask yourself this: when was the last time you saw the invasion of Afghanistan analysed from a native perspective? Have you ever heard an Afghani speaking of their experience, outside of a sound bite in a news report? Well, it’s precisely that side of the dialogue which Michael McEvoy and Saeed Taji Farouky have importantly endeavoured to restore with their studied, poetic UK and Afghan co-production Tell Spring Not to Come This Year.

Now, as the title suggests, this is may not be a light documentary, but nor is it a film which depicts the Afghan situation with unnecessary gloom. It simply relates with almost unflinching, graceful calm the day-to-day struggles of the Afghan National Army, and undeniably this approach seems fresh. In fact, this documentary is much more than that. By jerkily following a heavy weapons company based in one of the most troubled areas of the infamous Helmand province, in some of its bleakest scenes this film is truly compelling.


That isn’t because it dramatises or glorifies the soldiers’ suffering, but rather because Tell Spring Not to Come… has such a delicate, lyrical style. Indeed, artistically speaking, this film does manage to behave and feel a lot like a drama. It contains numerous well-measured slow-mos and frames its subjects in static, foregrounding ways, and remarkably these combined effects seem to make this documentary seem even more factual. It is as if being so artistic has somehow enable Tell Spring Not to Come… to be more faithful to the emotions captured. 

What’s more, by being mounted onto a sturdy mixture of intimate audio recordings, this film certainly achieves its goal of giving a voice to those who are still fighting to secure peace. The fact that this film completely sidesteps talking heads and guiding voice-overs also pleasingly effaces the directors’ presence, and makes this film an important part in the current evolution of art-house documentaries. But in its own right, this film is well worth seeing.

Watching these unfortunate men, as if for the first time, try to make sense of their war is really very emotive. What’s more, this film really makes you see the divisions which exist on the ground in Afghanistan in a way you never thought you would. The struggles seen throughout this film between the army, the police and the Taliban seem impossibly complex. And whether it’s their allegiance to America or their allegiance to their own army which the soldiers are questioning, Tell Spring Not to Come… never stops feeling like a vital snapshot of the human scars which continue to form in Afghanistan. 

Tell Spring Not to Come This Year is out now in select cinemas. For more on the film, read my interview with director Saeed Taji Farouky. 

Thomas Humphrey

A freelance film journalist and acting director of the Nottingham Alternative Film Network. This network aims to champion short films, and tries to bring great features which UK distributors overlook to the city.

Posted on Nov 13, 2015

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