Hollywoodgate – The first 12 months of Taliban occupation


Hollywoodgate is a documentary about the Taliban taking over Afghanistan from the perspective of a cameraman, filming their actions and how they organized Afghanistan over 12 months. The film tackles the issues created by the Taliban as well as their ideas and their execution with the focus on their commentary at the time situation in Afghanistan.

The structure of the Hollywoodgate

In between the footage of the leaders of the Taliban movement and its soldiers sometimes the regular Afghanis are featured as well. It is supposed to show the slow time lapse of how much the Taliban progressed with their power and structure in Afghanistan as well as how much they use the American equipment to their benefit. There is very little music, no combat or drastic footage included in the documentary. It is rather calm and slow, there are no dramatic transitions between sequences. 

The absolute mistake of American Government (that will never be responsible for)

The fact that they left this much equipment that the Taliban now use is the current administration’s failure. The documentary states that it is estimated that the US left over 7,12 billion dollars worth of military equipment and now they want to wage war against Tajikistan and take over Badakhshan region. Despite that American troops destroyed most of their military equipment and computer hardware, a lot of it could be repaired and reused later. In fact the Taliban managed to repair the damage and make the vast majority of the US military equipment usable again and even used it during their 1st anniversary celebration parade. During the parade many different embassy officials were invited representing countries such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia or China which only shows that other authoritarian regimes will support each other. Additionally, from what I’ve seen during the first months after Afghanistan was taken over, many American veterans were angry with the situation at the time. Many of them were punished for much less (such as losing ammunition, magazines, assault rifles etc.) to a much more severe degree. And after the US troops withdrew, no one in the administration faced consequences for their decisions. This only shows a strong bias in the American government to simply protect the top of the line and not its soldiers or others (such as Afghan citizens).

The social changes under the Taliban rule

After the Taliban forces have taken over many social changes have been forced on Afghan society, namely the Sharia law. Meaning that Afghan women are forced to cover their faces and heads, something that even was mentioned during the documentary by the Taliban soldiers. Many female speakers on TV channels were opposed to covering their faces. Girls are prohibited from going to schools now and other places, even music is banned now. The Taliban also shared their discontent with the fact that their prime minister criticised them and felt the need to correct him. 

Taliban forces becoming the new government and trying to structure its country

The Taliban wanted to establish their new government officials as fast as possible so they could impose their rule and law, and not get surprised by other armed uprisings and resistance. In particular, their leader initially met with some of the generals and important Afghanistan military personnel to talk about appointing ministers of military and such. They were the first ones the Taliban thought of which says a lot about their authoritarian mentality. They proceeded to recruit Afghan people to train them as soldiers and arm them with the American equipment. In a short time, they amassed professional Islamic soldiers who look like any other contemporary soldier you have seen. The Taliban also quickly dealt with the resistance fighters, they ambushed them multiple times and killed them, leaving their bodies to rot. Also, the people who deserted or tried to run away were forced into military service. This especially applied to those with military experience, in particular with piloting experience. To make sure that there will be no resistance and any signs of defiance by the Afghan citizens, the Taliban also were performing door-to-door search operations.

Conclusions on Hollywoodgate

Hollywoodgate is very well put together and despite having little to no music or high tension, it gripped me tight and I wanted to see more. I wanted to see how the Taliban were taking over the American bases and how they were using the new equipment. The new government formed by the Taliban is restricting freedoms of women, minorities and individuals in general. They do it to such a degree that they even banned music…again, because the Taliban consider it sinful. The results of their zealotry can be seen to this day and I find it truly baffling and scary at the same time. My own observations are similar to those of the cameraman/Ibrahim Nash’at whose commentary is only present at the of the documentary. He shares that he is scared how fast the changes are applied to Afghan society and how they can’t be heard by others. I highly recommend everyone wanting to see a different kind of documentary that tackles this story from the perspective of a cameraman. It is worth your time and shows that we should not ignore and disregard the Taliban as less of a threat today. 

Thessaloniki Internation Documentary Festival trailer for Hollywoodgate (2024)

You can read about Hollywoodgate more here on Thessaloniki Film Festival official website. You can also read our article about the other documentary movie, Ibelin, that we had watched during the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, here.

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