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Asia-pacific

Politicians mocked in Afghan take on The Office

©

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-08-16

Corruption, ineptitude, nepotism… the latest comedy on Afghan TV is far from subtle when it comes to portraying politicians. Inspired by British hit The Office, the show is the first of its kind in the country, where freedom of expression is scarce.

British comedy hit The Office (which gave birth to the somewhat less droll US version), tells the story of a pitifully incompetent boss. In Afghanistan, it’s corrupt politicians who have fallen victim to the satirical hammer.

The eight-part series illustrates the Ministry of Rubbish in the imaginary country of Hechland, which means “Nothingland” in Dari. Minister of Rubbish Mr Daoulat is a cringe-worthy depiction of Afghan politicians; corrupt, incompetent, and with a staff – from his officials to his butler – compiled entirely through favouritism.
 
 
Poking fun at the government
 
Like The Office, The Ministry is a mock-documentary that misses nothing. A petty argument over a stapler, an aged security guard falling asleep at the barrel of his rifle, endless disputes over women’s rights, suicide bombers and loyalty to the president; it’s all “caught” on camera.
 
The daring satire is the first of its kind in Afghanistan. “If you look at the United States and Europe, they are always poking fun at the government,” Abazar Khayami, a senior producer from the show told Reuters. “But in doing that here we really don't know what to expect," he added.
 
A stable television and radio presence itself is something of a novelty in Afghanistan, where the established broadcasting service, launched in 1974, was dismantled after the 1996 Taliban takeover. Even today, with the Taliban no longer in power, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders still places the country among the 30 most deprived of press freedom.
 
 
‘More than just comedy’
 
Trudi Ann Tierney, a senior manager at the production company behind the series, stressed that the show will not fear addressing topical political issues, in an interview with Reuters.
 
Producer Khayami said there was “nothing to be concerned about” in poking fun at the government, but was more worried about “how open Afghans are to this style of comedy".
 
Meanwhile, in the UK, news of the show has reached Ricky Gervais, mastermind and lead actor of The Office. “They found a fat, annoying middle-aged bloke with a beard,” he said on his blog. “That was a bit easy.”

Date created : 2011-08-16

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