The horrors of addiction and drug dependence have categorically ravaged Afghanistan following the invasion by the United States army. Now, a bag of heroin costs $2, less than a meal. As a result, the country is flooded with addicts. Enter Laila, a former child bride who has dealt with addiction in her family before. She is determined to provide assistance for the addicts, to give them hope and a way back to a fulfilling life. Her main haunt is underneath a bridge where heroin users congregate in her home town of Kabul.

Laila at the Bridge details this woman’s attempts to make her community a better place through a narcotics anonymous program. Co-directed by Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei, this is a raw, uncompromising film that doesn’t shy away from some absolutely brutal imagery. We see toddlers without parents and people with vacant eyes who have lost half of their lives to addiction. There are bodies in the street, and riverbeds littered with needles. A 23-year-old man refuses Laila’s help, saying that his life is already over; meanwhile, an addict mother mashes up some heroine with orange juice to feed her child. She says, “I only want her to love me; my sons don’t love me anymore.”

This is a hard movie, one of the most depressing and matter-of-fact documentaries of recent memory. This uncompromising view aids the ultimate message: despite all of the hardship, all of the long odds, and all of the struggle, Laila is still under the bridge with the addicts, imploring them to take a step towards a better life.

Monday, April 30, 6 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tuesday, May 1, 10:30 AM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Friday, May 4, 8:30 PM, Scotiabank