A film by James Longley
2018, 117 minutes
No. 209


Filmed over the course of three years, Angels are Made of Light, the new documentary from two-time Academy Award nominated director James Longley (Iraq in Fragments, Sari's Mother), traces the lives of young students and their teachers at a school in the old city of Kabul. 

Interweaving the modern history of Afghanistan with a present-day portrait of a working-class neighborhood, the film offers an intimate and nuanced vision. Moving seamlessly through the points of view of multiple characters—three brothers, their friends, parents, male and female teachers, an elderly cleaning woman at the school—the film allows their thoughts and ideas to play out on the grand stage of Kabul. Their memories of the Afghan kingdom, the communist revolution and the civil war are brought to life through rare 35mm archival material unearthed in Afghanistan.

Official Selection, Telluride Film Festival
Official Selection, Toronto Film Festival
Official Selection, New York Film Festival

“A remarkable film. Longley has an almost magical ability to envelope us in other realities. What is life like on the ground for ordinary people in another culture, another world? That’s been the bread and butter of observational documentaries for forever, but almost never is it done with the kind of beauty and grace filmmaker James Longley brings to his Afghanistan-set Angels Are Made of Light." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“Critic’s Pick! Longley has a knack for composition and for capturing telling details… The director finds beauty everywhere — in a cloud of dust, a traffic jam, the raucous din of children at play. And wherever such beauty exists, we imagine, hope can never be entirely absent.” — Bilge Ebiri, The New York Times

“Three and a half stars! A gorgeous rumination on three brothers, in school and in turmoil.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

"A vivid portrait of daily life in Kabul and a rich look into childhood. Probing and visually inventive. Finds a resilience among the most vulnerable of its characters." — Screen Daily

"An unscripted and unmediated portrait of quotidian life in an old neighborhood of Kabul." — The New Yorker

"A clear-eyed and confrontational portrait." — Indiewire

"A superlative documentary. A powerful, thrillingly told rumination of life in wartime." — Criterion Cast

"Stirring and gorgeous." — Variety