Tell Spring Not to Come This Year: A vital addition
by Thomas Humphrey
- The documentary by Saeed Taji Farouky and Michael McEvoy reminds you how flawed most Western journalism is
It seems incredible to think that last month marked the fifteenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Perhaps that’s because those horrendous images of the 9/11 attacks are still so indelibly seared in our memories, whilst the years of occupation which followed have passed with seemingly impossible haste. Moreover, almost unbeknownst to us, fighting continues to rage in the region and that does seem something worth thinking about.
So ask yourself this: when was the last time you saw the invasion of Afghanistan analysed from a native perspective? In fact, when have you ever heard an Afghani speaking of their experience, outside of a two-minute sound bite in a news report? Well, it’s precisely that side of the dialogue which Michael McEvoy and Saeed Taji Farouky have endeavoured to restore with their studied, poetic UK and Afghan co-production Tell Spring Not to Come This Year [+see also:
interview: Saeed Taji Farouky
Now as the title suggests, this is not necessarily a light, optimistic documentary. But nor is it a film which depicts the Afghan situation with unnecessary gloom. It simply observes. It relates with seemingly unflinching, graceful calm the day-to-day struggles of the Afghan National Army. It does this by following a heavy weapons company based in one of the most troubled areas of the infamous Helmand province, and in some of its jerkiest scenes alongside these men, this film is truly compelling.
That isn’t because it dramatises or glorifies their suffering, either. Instead, Tell Spring Not to Come… has a delicate, lyrical style, which almost seems to resemble the expansive, slow-moving pace of Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu [+see also:
film profile]. And much like this fictional feature, the directors capture this sense of another climate and culture too, and then skilfully pump it back to us in the cinema. Indeed, artistically speaking, Tell Spring Not to Come… does behave a lot like a fiction, and somehow that makes it seem even more factual, or rather more faithful to the emotions captured.
Largely this is achieved because the film contains numerous well-measured, artistic slow-motion scenes, and sometimes frames its subjects in static, foregrounding ways, giving you a sense that you’re in an experience which transcends basic facts. What’s more, by being mounted onto a sturdy mixture of intimate audio recordings, this film equally achieves its goal of giving a voice to those who are still fighting to secure peace, and does so in a pretty pleasing way. The fact this film completely sidesteps talking heads and guiding voice-overs also seems to nicely efface the directors’ presence, and definitely makes it essential viewing for those interested in the current evolution of art-house documentaries.
Though in its own right, it is absolutely fascinating to see the unfortunate men try to make sense of this war onscreen. What’s more, this film makes you see the divisions which exist on the ground in Afghanistan in a way you never thought you would. Whether it’s between the army, the police or the Taliban, the simultaneously high-octane and pensive conflicts which we see seem so instructive. And whether it’s their allegiance to America or their allegiance to their own army they’re questioning, or a clash of religion, ideology, culture or desperation that we’re witnessing, Tell Spring Not to Come… never stops feeling like a vital snapshot.
This film is represented by Sabatour Sales, and is distributed in the UK by Soda Pictures.