Tell Spring Not To Come review: ‘A universal truth about war’

PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 November 2015

Tell Spring

Tell Spring

Archant

This documentary about the Afghan National Army shows soldiers facing the same problems as Western forces, but its fragmented style frustrates, says Michael Joyce.

This documentary follows a corps of the Afghan National Army over a year fighting the Taliban in Helmand province, and shows how they cope now that almost all the NATO (although everybody refers to them as Americans in the film) forces have left. In showing us the locals’ view of the chaos there it shows us something few in the West would ever have seen. It also expresses a universal truth: whatever the country, whatever the war, a grunt is a grunt is a grunt. These Afghanistan fighters are just like soldiers everywhere: most joined because they had no other prospects and they have the usual gripes about their pay, conditions and commanding officers.

Farrouky and McEvoy’s method is to allow the soldiers’ stories to emerge organically from the material, rather than have the filmmakers impose a narrative onto it. This is an honourable stance but their approach to their material is so detached, so non interventional, it is more UN Observer than fly-on-the-wall. What you get is a loose jumble of scenes where nothing seems to follow on from what happened before, so you never really discover how anything is resolved, or get much below the surface of their existence.

The most extreme example of this comes in a sequence where they are pinned down in a base, surrounded by Taliban, ammo running low and no sign of support coming. Then in the next scene we see them walking away. What happened there? Did the cameras stop working? Are they deliberately refusing to sate audiences’ addiction to narrative resolutions? Or is this rejection of joined-up thinking a subtle mirroring of the West’s approach to the country?

Rating: 3/5 stars

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