Film: Afghan Star

What happened after an Afghan TV network launched an <span style="font-style:normal;">American Idol</span>-style contest.

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In 2001, after Taliban-era bans on secular entertainment were lifted, an Afghan TV network launched an American Idol-style singing contest. Through an engrossing montage of auditions and intimate portraits, this film captures the Afghan Star craze that swept the nation and brought music to the pop culture-starved masses.

Jeers from would-be Simon Cowells are the least of the contestants’ worries: After letting her head scarf slip, one performer receives death threats. Another claims that the Taliban is texting in votes for her—but later has to seek government protection. Since this film was made, the show’s producers have launched a more conservative follow-up, Koran Star, where contestants recite religious verse.

In the end, this film is less about the contestants than their fans—the shepherd who says his sheep get stomachaches when his favorite contestant is on; the rich man who wants 10,000 SIM cards to text in votes—and how a TV show that just ended its fourth season has united a country.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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