Filmmaker Phil Grabsky, who in 2001 began documenting a year in the life of an Afghan 8-year-old named Mir for what became the acclaimed feature "The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan," soon returned to rural Afghanistan to chart Mir's growth from child to young adult.
The resulting documentary, "The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan," which begins with footage from the first film, is an intimate portrait of how Mir and his illiterate, impoverished parents and older half-brother (a half-sister is little seen) survive during the embattled decade after 9/11 and the fall — and resurgence — of the Taliban.
Mir's good nature and camera-ready charisma lift the film beyond the thoroughly grim as his beleaguered family goes from living in a mountainside cave to living in a cramped, flimsy house, all while working the unforgiving land for meager wages. Over time, electricity, television, cellphones and even a divisive motorcycle enter Mir's primitive world, but the outlook for his — and Afghanistan's — future remains bleak and inconclusive.
That Mir must often forgo school for life-sustaining work inspires perhaps the movie's most consistent theme (education as an exit from poverty), though much else here feels episodic instead of narratively based. Still, Mir gets under your skin in ways that are memorable and poignantly real.
"The Boy Mir: Ten Years in Afghanistan." No MPAA rating. In Dari with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.