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Kabôul Kitchen, Season One (MHz Releasing/DVD/2012)



 
This is an amusing and clever little French series, set in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabôul, in 2005.  It’s witty and sobering, showing how this country works (small and large grafts; religious-types’ blackmail; sexism, hypocrisy regarding alcohol consumption; a corrupt military, etc.).

Jackie Robert (Gilbert Melki), a French expatriate, runs an expensive and popular kitchen/bar in Kabul.  We see how he makes it all work, with workers and greedy politicians handled gingerly but always to Jackie’s favor.  But, out of his past, Jackie’s  daughter, beautiful and sexy Sophie (Stéphanie Pasterkamp), whom he has not seen for twenty years, arrives doing humanitarian work – including free education for all, including women (!), and insisting that Jackie reform himself to her standards.

So, a man’s dilemma:  how to get his lovely daughter out of the country before she is kidnapped or worse, and his bread-and-butter endeavor, this fun and vibrant establishment, is closed or bombed out of existence.

Creators Jean-Patrick Benes, Allan Mauduit and Marc Victor certainly picked a rough subject for France (post 9/11, pre-Charlie Hebdo), a country which has had political and economic influence for decades in the Middle East, including Afghanistan.  So Jackie must walk delicate lines, a small “bite” here; a larger bribe there, and keeping the police force and the army on his side, so that Muslim Fundies don’t kill him and/or his business.

And, with a light, light touch, the writers, directors, and actors make it all work.  With no individual writers credited for this first season, and one director (Frédéric Berthe), the creators’ stamp feels to be all over it. 

Actor Melki and Pasterkamp have a sublime tension between them, with his father’s instincts regarding her love-life definitely not welcomed by the grown-up daughter. Benjamin Bellecour and Alexis Michalik, as his two main assistants lend credible sexuality and humor to the proceedings. 

Shot mainly in Kabul and elsewhere, the twelve episodes were well photographed, edited and produced. There’s a serious underpinning to the show, and some pretty outré ideas in it, so let’s just say you won’t be bored. Turned on, maybe, but hey! it’s French, doncha know!