We are in Bamiyan, the great valley in Afghanistan, where in February of 2001, the Taliban issued an edict that all non-Islamic statues be destroyed. By March, the Buddhas (At 53 meters high, one of them was the tallest representation of Buddha in the world) had been blown to bits. International outrage ensued and the hypocrisy of this is one of the subjects of Frei's beautiful inquiry.
Frei retraces the footsteps of Xuanzang, the 7thcentury Chinese monk famed for his 16-year spiritual quest along the Silk Road to India. Bamiyan was one of his pit stops. Xuanzang's journals tantalize with evocative descriptions of the Bamiyan Buddhas and tease with mention of an even grander Buddha at a nearby monastery. Estimated to be 300 meters long, it would be the largest statue in human history, an 8th wonder.
Fascinated by the legend of the "sleeping Buddha," archaeologist Zémaryalaï Tarzi begins to excavate, even as he decries the plundering of Afghanistan's history. The film also captures a kitschy attempt to rebuild the Bamiyan Buddha as tourist attraction in China.
Meanwhile, in Canada, Afghan writer and journalist Nelofer Pazira responds to Frei's letters during his journey and reflects on an old photograph of her father posing before THE GIANT BUDDHAS, while Frei follows the plans for high-tech reconstructions using "photogrammetry" and "anastylosis."
An essay about terrorism and tolerance, ignorance and identity, fanaticsm and faith.
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