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Review: Building musical bridges in the optimistic 'We Came Home'

Ariana Delawari's feature diary captures her father's Afghanistan after the Taliban's post-9/11 ouster, focusing especially on a group of lively elder musicians.

By Robert Abele

2:00 PM EDT, September 26, 2013

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L.A.-based musician-filmmaker Ariana Delawari's very personal documentary "We Came Home" chronicles the frequent trips she made to her father's homeland, Afghanistan, in its alternatingly hopeful and turbulent years following the initial routing of the Taliban after 9/11. Her father, a prominent banker-activist, had moved back to help rebuild the country's economy.

Delawari's main focus, however, is a 2007 trip in which she and two colleagues recorded songs at her parents' Kabul house in collaboration with a handful of elder Afghan musicians. This footage is lively and priceless, showing the old masters sitting on pillows and vigorously, joyously playing instruments the Taliban had outlawed. The resulting album, "Lion of Panjshir," was eventually produced in part by professed fan David Lynch, who can be seen in later footage shot at an L.A. recording studio.

Essentially a series of home movies re-assembled as a reflective feature diary, "We Came Home" has its amateurish side, but it's effortlessly affecting when showing how music acts as an extended hand across generations and cultures. Later, when tensions escalate and the Taliban proves resurgent, the threats hit close to home for Delawari's family. But she maintains an optimistic tone, steeped in a faith in the bridge-building power of engaged artistic endeavor.

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"We Came Home"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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