The dramatic similarities between Afghanistan and the made-up country of Tom Hanks’ classic The Terminal

“Krakozhia has new leaders,” can be heard from the mouth of a New York airport security guard at the Terminal. Steven Spielberg’s famous film about a citizen from a fictitious nation who is left “without a country” proposes a hypothetical scenario that is not far from reality.

The story out of the mind of Andrew Niccol and captured in images by the quintessential classic maker of the new Hollywood is one of those that meets all the conditions of great stories. One of them, the most important, is that There is no expiration date.

Like the good songs or paintings of previous centuries, The terminal (2004) is shaping up to be a timeless artistic piece that can dialogue over the years with certain contemporary events.

The chaos at the New York airport.

The overthrow of the Afghan government by the Taliban movement, undoubtedly one of the international issues of the moment, in one way or another could resonate during the opening minutes of the classic starring Tom Hanks.

To understand what points of contact may exist between the film and the sociopolitical conflict in the Asian country, it is worth reviewing what the plot of the fiction is about.

Little Krakozhia

The premise of La Terminal is as follows: Viktor Navorski (Hanks), citizen of the fictional country Krakozhia, is stranded at JF Kennedy airport because his nation suffers a coup. The United States revokes his visa since it does not recognize the rebel government.

Although Niccol was the one who devised the script, the story is inspired by the real events that he experienced Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who “stayed” at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport between 1988 and 2006.

As La Terminal suggests, Krakozhia is an Eastern European country that formerly belonged to the Soviet Union. This can be seen with certain references to the USSR, with the language that Viktor speaks – who does not understand any English – and with the letters that appear in the character’s passport. A TV signal makes it clear that it is the smallest place in its region.

Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones in one of their first scenes.

Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones in one of their first scenes.

Viktor’s Odyssey

Viktor’s odyssey does not take long to begin. Already in the close-up of the film we can see how the Krakozhian’s passport fails and consequently the poor man is referred to talk with Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), the unfriendly head of Border Protection at the airport.

Hanks, Tucci and a Kennedy security have a “conversation” in which the Americans try to make Viktor understand that his country suffered a coup while he was on the plane.

They tell him that members of the Krakozhia presidential guard were killed after a night attack and Dixon, in his own way, tries to reassure him: “Few civilians died, his family is sure well.”

Navorski sleeping at the JF Kennedy.

Navorski sleeping at the JF Kennedy.

As the other two continue to give him details, Viktor laughs because he does not understand what they are talking about. Dixon, fed up, pictures his situation with objects: he explodes a bag of snacks as if it represented the Krakozhian government overthrown by the “rebels”. “New government, the revolution,” he released.

He explains that Krakozhia closed its borders, that flights are suspended and that to let it move they need the United States to recognize the new government of their country. As he does not qualify as a refugee or anything foreseen, the character of Tucci classifies him as “unacceptable.”

But Viktor is not stupid. He just doesn’t understand English. When he leaves the meeting with Border Protection, the character begins to learn about the situation in Krakozhia from what he sees on the news. The images show chaos, lack of control, violence and everywhere you can read the universal word par excellence: “crisis”.

On Navorski’s journey through the airport you see and hear the information we need to understand what is happening in Krakozhia. “International communities try to devise a peaceful solution. Meanwhile, a concerned people wonder if political stability or leadership will be found to secure their place on the world stage, ”reports a journalist.

It is known that there were hostages, that the vice president was assassinated along with four members of the cabinet, that President Vagobagin was captured, that there were thirteen wounded soldiers and that the leaders of the rebellion surrounded the ministries.

“In a symbolic gesture they removed the flag of Krakozhia in the presidential palace and in the parliament. The details are not clear ”, is heard in a news signal.


The bases are laid. One of the current events that can be related in some way to Krakozhia has to do with the conflict in Afghanistan.

The first obvious similarity is that the Taliban and fake European governments underwent radical changes after a series of violent attacks. Seen from the outside, both here and in the movie there are details that are unclear.

An A400M Defense aircraft conducting the evacuation of Afghans in Kabul.  Photo: DPA

An A400M Defense aircraft conducting the evacuation of Afghans in Kabul. Photo: DPA

You can talk about the recent disappearance of the US congressman Markwayne Mullin. The Oklahoma Republican set out on a Dantesque mission in search of an American family supposedly stranded in Afghanistan and nothing has been heard from him in a long time.

The danger that surrounds the situation, which includes risky flights and financial aid, is not alien to the Krakozhian conflict that is expressed in the Terminal. Serves as a trigger for other related inconveniences.

The United States not providing the necessary assistance; Despite the withdrawal of the US Army, there would still be Americans stranded in an unknown country; conflicts at the Kabul airport are chaotic and Afghans with US passports cannot travel to North America. And the list can continue.

The takeover of Kabul carried out by the extremist Taliban movement took place in the midst of a context similar to that experienced by the politicians on duty in Krakozhia.

Unlike the fictional character, the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani Could escape. According to CNN and Al Jazeera, the insurgents entered his palace armed and took control. Just like in the movie, it happened at night.

Local television station 1TV reported that multiple explosions were heard that night in the capital and also shots were fired near the airport, where there were foreign diplomats, officials and Afghan civilians who wanted to escape.

Ghani, for his part, published a video in which he said that the Taliban had a plan to assassinate him and that the insurgents searched for him in the palace. He clarified that they did not find him because he was on his way to the Defense Ministry, where the Afghan security forces protected him.

“The people who were looking for me did not speak any of the Afghan dialects, they had a plan to arrest me and then hang me,” he described.

Days later, the Taliban chiefs “forgave” the former government leaders and assured that none was forced to leave the country. Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada he ordered the release of “political prisoners.”

Members of the Taliban guarding the Kabul airport.  Photo: XINHUA

Members of the Taliban guarding the Kabul airport. Photo: XINHUA

The one who also survived was Amrullah Saleh, former Afghan vice president and current leader of the rebellion. In Spielberg’s film, the fate of his fictional partner is fatal.

Saleh is currently in Panjshir, the only province not dominated by the Taliban government, planning a move against the new government. He was proclaimed “legitimate interim president” in the absence of the elected president Ghani.

Who suffered the same as the Krakozhian officials was Dawa Khan Menapal, former director of the Afghan Government Information and Media Center. The Taliban killed him after a shooting in Kabul.

It was the second major attack against Afghan public officials. The first siege in recent times against local politicians had been against the Minister of Defense Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who was unharmed after receiving a car bomb and a hail of bullets at his residence.

Another point of union between the two “countries” can be established through the recognition they had from the others.

The situation of both in relation to the United States is different, but taking into account those who already had their first approaches to the new government of Afghanistan (for example Russia, China and Turkey) it is possible to reflect on what would have happened with Krakozhia.


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