Making Soapies in Kabul Synopsis :
Hot days, crazy nights and dangerous liasons in a war zone
On an impulse, Trudi-Ann Tierney, Sydney producer and former actress, goes to Kabul to manage a bar. She quickly falls into the local TV industry, where she becomes responsible for producing a highly popular soapie.
Trudi’s staff are hugely inexperienced. They include Habib, the Pashto poet who wants to insert allegorical scenes involving fighting ants into the scripts; Rashid, the Dari manager, who spends all day surreptitiously watching uncensored Hindi music videos; and the Pakistani actresses who cross the border to Jalalabad (‘Jallywood’) to perform roles that no Afghan actresses can take on without bringing shame to their families.
Trudi lives among the expat community – the media, the burnt-out army types now working as security contractors, the ‘Do-Gooders’, the diplomats – in dubious guest houses like The Dirty Diana. This is ‘Ka-bubble’, where the reckless encounters with each other, with alcohol and of course with recreational drugs are as dangerous as the city’s streets.
Here are crazy people living crazy lives, and locals trying to survive as best they can against the backdrop of war. (Allen&Unwin)
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Many people think they ‘work hard and play hard’ but this memoir from Trudi-Ann Tierney recounting her experiences in Afghanistan redefines that phrase.
What I normally associate with the term ‘soapies’ are stories so far removed from reality involving filthy rich characters obsessing over trivial matters, aka ‘first world problems’. Readers quickly learn that the production company Tierney worked for in Kabul are tackling far grittier subject matter in their scripts and filming them under difficult and often dangerous conditions.
The experiences recounted in Making Soapies in Kabul are fascinating, but seeing these events through Tierney’s eyes and unflappable persona is where the real value lies. Her sense of adventure and love of a laugh shines from the pages, a real Aussie larrikin. Her nonchalance regarding her own personal safety is in stark contrast to her fighting spirit and motherly instinct for those she gets to know in her time there.
At a deeper level, a memoir such as this was always going to be about culture clash, a tricky thing to write about without sounding judgemental. Tierney is far too candid and free-spirited to be politically correct, but her intrinsic respect for people sans reverence yields a balanced narrative. She speaks to the good intentions of expats involved in the region without glorifying what they were doing and highlights the issues inherent with external involvement in a country with deep-seated ethnic divisions and corruption commonplace.
I must admit the chronology of events and character connections escaped me at times – real lives are never as neat as plotted fiction and there were obviously some things Tierney wanted to keep private – but the overarching subject matter kept me engaged.
Making Soapies in Kabul is an entertaining story, but also an important one to be shared. In a typically Aussie fashion Tierney reminds us that the things we have in common will always outnumber our differences.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5
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Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Humour, Drama, Action-Adventure
Author Information: Trudi-Ann Tierney is a Sydney-based writer and producer for television who spent three and a half years as the head of drama for a broadcaster in Afghanistan. Her production company is currently developing a drama serial for Papua New Guinea. This is her first book.
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