Directed by Samira Makhmalbaf, starring Agheleh Rezaie, Abdolgani Yousefrazi, Razi Mohebi and Marzieh Amiri.

After the fall of the Taliban, 20-year-old Nogreh (Rezaie) goes back to school. Her fanatical father (Yousefrazi), however, thinks she is going to prayers, but once he's out of sight, Nogreh puts on a pair of fashionable shoes and goes to join her classmates. The students are asked what they would like to be: some say doctors, others engineers, but Nogreh says she wants to be President or, in the meantime, elected class representative. But while Nogreh has her dreams - and a young poet admirer (Mohebi) who wants to help her realise them - the pain of reality is never far away. Her nephew is dying, her brother is missing, food is scarce and every day more refugees return to the city to live in the ruins she calls home.

It seems trite to say, but 'At Five in the Afternoon' regularly rustles you our of your complacency - its non-professional cast and gritty locations giving it the feel of a documentary. But while it's beautifully shot - and an education in every scene - the script needed more work. Having built up an engaging relationship between Nogreh and the poet, where much of the most interesting dialogue is to be found, Makhmalbaf lets the storyline wander and the film just peters out with a downbeat ending that needed more build-up. The point about democracy not being something that blossoms overnight is well made throughout, but an already powerful story could've had more impact had the characters been developed further.

According to 23-year-old Makhmalbaf, whose other acclaimed features include 'Blackboards' and 'The Apple', less than 40 films were made in Afghanistan during the first 100 years of cinema. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this one will be in helping others in the country to find their voice. And that's a sense of hope missing onscreen here.

Harry Guerin