Yosef Baraki’s entry into this year’s Reel Asian film festival is the morose story of 12-year-old Mina, an Afghani girl whose day-to-day activities reveal the hardships of children—particularly female ones—in war-torn Kabul. From taking care of her senile grandfather to making time to attend school to selling trinkets on the streets to be the family’s sole breadwinner, Mina Walking is an engrossing depiction of life in Afghanistan and how it’s unnecessarily more difficult for women than it is for men.
When her grandfather suddenly passes away, Mina needs to get him buried as soon as possible as per Islamic custom. Her father is passed out, high as a kite and Bashir—who is her employer as well as her father’s drug supplier—uses force to stop Mina from taking her father home to take care of her grandfather. It’s the scene that most prominently shows what is shown throughout the movie and that is that Mina is unrelenting and the world around her seems to be on a mission to stop her doing what she feels she needs to do for herself and/or her family.
I didn’t expect to like this movie because stories of women in Islamic countries tend to have a set of stock characters that provide nothing we don’t already know. Mina Walking is different because its title character is different. Though only 12-years-old, Mina is not at all shy and is far more extroverted than the western world expects Muslim girls to be. The situation in which she is forced to end up would test the patience of any grown human and yet Mina handles it with the common sense and insight of an adult but in a way that is reminiscent of the outspoken child.