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Documentary Review

Documentary Review: “Interpreters Wanted” – The Untold Story of Afghan Interpreters.



Interpreters Wanted,” directed by Robert Ham, is a profoundly moving documentary that delves into the intricate and often harrowing experiences of interpreters who served alongside U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. 

Ham, a veteran does not only direct the film but also steps in front of the camera to share his insights and personal experiences, bringing a unique perspective to the narrative.

The documentary begins with Ham discussing his deployment to Afghanistan and emphasizing the critical role interpreters play in the day-to-day activities of soldiers. He skillfully weaves real footage from his time in Afghanistan, showcasing the soldiers and their interpreters working together on missions. The film effectively highlights the sacrifice and essential contributions of interpreters, without whom winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people would have been impossible.

The central focus of the film shifts to the compelling story of brothers Saifullah and Ismail Haqmal, who served as interpreters. Through intimate interviews and personal anecdotes, the brothers share their childhood experiences growing up during the Russian/Afghan war and their father’s commitment to education and positive change in Afghanistan. Motivated by a desire to make a difference, they became interpreters, putting themselves and their families at risk of retaliation from the Taliban.

The documentary explores the intricacies of the visa process for interpreters, revealing that, despite being entitled to visas after serving for at least 2 and a half years, Saifullah and Ismail faced years of struggle to get their visas approved. The film meticulously documents the frantic and desperate attempts by Ham and others to help the interpreters escape Afghanistan as the situation worsens, creating a palpable sense of risk and danger.

Throughout the narrative, the film points out instances where U.S. policies failed the interpreters, with bureaucratic bottlenecks hindering their relocation. The inclusion of statistics on issued visas and pending requests adds a layer of context to the larger issue faced by interpreters.

One of the documentary’s strengths lies in its portrayal of the deep bond formed between Ham and the Haqmal brothers. Ham‘s commitment to their cause goes beyond the obligations of serving in the same army; he becomes an advocate for their relocation, expressing a willingness to even trade his neighbours for the interpreters.

The film reaches a poignant climax as Saifullah and Ismail finally make it to the United States, overcoming immense challenges. Ham, along with his family and fellow veterans, welcomes Saifullah, but the narrative doesn’t end there. The documentary candidly explores the struggles faced by the interpreters as they grapple with starting life afresh in a foreign land, emphasizing the emotional toll of leaving everything behind.

Particularly tense is the segment detailing Ismail’s final journey to the U.S., capturing the chaotic scenes during the crucial period when U.S. forces had withdrawn from Afghanistan. Ham masterfully creates palpable tension through adept editing and storytelling, immersing the audience in the perilous journey.

Interpreters Wanted” is more than a documentary; it’s an emotional journey that skillfully intertwines Ham‘s personal experiences with the larger narrative of the interpreters’ struggles. 

It serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of war, highlighting the resilience and courage of those who risked everything for a chance at a better life. 

This documentary is not only a compelling watch for veterans but also a moving and relevant story that resonates with a broader audience.

I will rate “Interpreters Wanted 4 out of 5 stars.

Second on my list of addictions is Movies.. the only thing I could possibly love more is my Dearest Waakye lol. Nothing else does a better job of reminding me that ANYTHING is possible with the right amount of effort. I have great eye for details and flaws in scripts. Shallow scripts bore me. I am an avid reader. Your everyday Mr Nice guy. Always the last to speak in a room full of smart people. Half Human, half Martian but full MOVIE FREAK.

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