The Beauty Academy of Kabul

Women in Afghanistan assert themselves in a new school

The Beauty Academy of Kabul
Filmmaker Liz Merman traveled to Afghanistan to document the opening of a beauty school and salon in the summer of 2003. Three hairdressers from New York have come to run the school and teach classes including Afghan expatriate named Sima who left her native country more than 20 years ago.

The 74 minute doc not only captures the headaches and problems attendant in opening up the school (tracking down the 19 dummy heads on which students will tease, comb, cut and brush hair) but also profiles some of the Afghan women in the classes taught and provides unforgettable images of decimated buidings on urban streets.

In BEAUTY ACADEMY not only do we get to see the normal clash between a prosperous secular culture and poor religious culture but more importantly, in highlighting some of the students at the school and their stories as well as their take on life, we get at least a taste of the inherent duties and tasks required of an Afghan woman.

One of the profiles that stands out is a young woman who talks to Patricia about romance. In Afghanistan, marriages are arranged and this young lady states on camera that if she were in love her brother would beat her. But it turns out that she is in love and has secretly been for 9 years. When she discusses this, her face lights up and she smiles, her face just shines with warmth and love and for a moment or two she briefly jettisons her wariness and caution and just seems like a beautiful young lady not just an abstract symbol of female oppression in Afghanistan.

Never has a woman getting her hair done seemed so touching and so assertive a individual choice as it is here in BEAUTY ACADEMY OF KABUL. (A. Lanier, Ain't It Cool News)

The Beauty Academy of Kabul

Mon February 27, 2006, 7:00 & 9:00, Muenzinger Auditorium

US/Afghanistan, 2004, 74 min • official site



10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.


Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.


Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Cover art for Spring 2 2022
Virtual titles to stream from home

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Sprocket Damage
: Sprocket Damage digs deep(ish) into current and classic films and film-related subjects to bring to you insightful, humorous, and enlightening perspectives on the industry.

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists