I went to the sneak preview of great piece of documentary yesterday. There’s this Danish female artist Simone Aaberg Kaern, who as a young girl dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot, so in her art she pursued that idea. For instance she had flown to Russia to find and interview the remaining female fighter pilots of WW2. Women who flew in the Night Witches etc.
Anyway, the movie starts in a small café in Copenhagen. In her morning newspaper she reads a report about the war in Afghanistan, and stumbles about this small interview with a 17 year old Afghan girl living in Kabul. She mentions that her biggest ambition in life is to become a fighter pilot. This in a country were the Taliban forbade women to even ride bicycles.
So Simone Kaern conjures up a wild idea. To fly her 40 year old Piper Colt (a 108 bhp, single propellor plane) from Denmark over Germany, Austria, ex-Yugoslavia, Turkey and Iran into Afghanistan and Kabul to give the girl the first flight of her life. At the same time she wanted to make an artistic statement of the freedom of the skies, and especially the fact that military operations tend to close down airspace (like over ex-Yugoslavia) for many years after combat operations are over.
So it’s basically a road-movie in the skies. She convinced her boyfriend to come along and document the entire trip. What’s so interesting about it, is how her ridiculously small plane opens so many doors. Even the strictest airfield officials in a trouble area like Turkish Kurdistan went to extreme lengths to help her out. Being airmen themselves, the idea of the free skies must have appealed more to them, than various government regulations.
Surprisingly the big problem wasn’t getting into Iran, though her application had been dismissed several times by the Iranian consule in Copenhagen. She went anyway, and got through with the help of some newly made friends. The real trick was to get into Afghanistan, were the war had just ended, but combat operations still hadn’t stopped.
The US Air Force, controlling the area, refused her entry several times, though she had permission from the Afghan authorities. In the end she decided to gamble. To cross the border and hope that playing the stupid blond would help, along with the fact that the old Piper Colt looked like a joke. And surprisingly she wasn’t intercepted or (her greatest fear) shot down by ground troops. The most critical moment actually came, when she had to pass over a 10,000 ft. mountain outside Kabul in an overloaded plane.
So she made it to Kabul, found the girl, took her flying and actually found two sisters (daughters of an Afghan warlord), who had the rank of colonel in the Afghan Air Force and flew old Russian choppers. The most interesting bit in the end of the movie is, how Simone Kaerns main thought, offering the gift of some western idea of individual freedom, clashed with the clan system and the very strong family ties. We know now that that Afghan girl will never become a pilot. Her family wanted her to study medicine, so that’s what she does.
Anyway, back to flying. The air authorities refused her transit out of her, literally saying: “You can f… the US Air Force once, but not twice”. :D, so she had to hitch a ride with an Antonov transport plane for her and the little Piper.
I don’t know when the movie will premiere, but our Swedish friends can see her 10 years of aviation art at Konsthallen in Malmö in May. I’m most definitely going.
(Oh, and I got assaulted on the way back from the cinema. Result: bruised/cut knuckles and somewhat hurt pride, but when they buggered off one of them was bleeding a lot so I’ll claim a victory)