EN - In this seamless blend of fictional and documentary form, we experience a stunning cinematic journey into the beauty of war-tormented Afghanistan. Shot over seven years on evocative 16mm footage, first-time director Pieter-Jan De Pue paints a whimsical yet haunting look at the condition of Afghanistan left for the next generation. As American soldiers prepare to leave, we follow De Pue deep into this hidden land where young boys form wild gangs to control trade routes, sell explosives from mines left over from war, and climb rusting tanks as playgrounds—making the new rules of war based on the harsh landscape left to them.

De Pue’s transportative and wonderfully crafted film confronts the visceral beauty and roughness of survival, serving as a testament to the spirited innovation of childhood and the extreme resilience of a people and country.

NL - Een groep Afghaanse kinderen van de Kuchi-stam graaft oude Sojvetmijnen op en verkoopt de explosieven aan kinderen die lapis lazuli delven in een mijn. Als ze niet hardop dromen over de dag waarop het Amerikaanse leger zich eindelijk uit hun land zal terugtrekken, houdt een andere kinderbende de karavanen die de blauwe edelstenen door het dorre Pamirgebergte smokkelen, nauwlettend in de gaten.

FR - Un groupe d’enfants kuchis déterre d’anciennes mines soviétiques autour de l’aéroport militaire américain de Bagram, en Afghanistan. Ils vendent les explosifs aux enfants travaillant dans les mines de lapis lazuli. Pendant ce temps, Gholam Nasir et son gang d’enfants contrôlent la région montagneuse où les caravanes de contrebande passent chargées de pierres précieuses pour rejoindre le Tadjikistan et le Pakistan.


Title The Land of the Enlightened
Original title The Land of the Enlightened
Original language English, Russian, Farsi, Pashtu, Uzbek, Waghi, Khyrgyz
Status Completed
Production Majority Flemish
Category Docs
Genre documentary
Year 2016
World première / first public presentation 2016-01-21


Photography Pieter-Jan De Pue
Editing Stijn Deconinck, David Dusa
Music Denis Clohessy

Technical specs

Running time film 87'
Aspect ratio 1.85:1
Colour Colour


Supported by the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), the Belgian Tax Shelter for Film Financing, NFF, CCA de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles et de VOO, Bord Scannán na hÉireann – the Irish Film Board, Media Dev. Program of the E.U., Belgian Development Cooperation - DGD
Production partners Fastnet Films (IR), Gebrueder Beetz Produktion (DE), Submarine (NL), ZDF-Arte (DE), VRT-Canvas (BE), IKON (NL), Scio Productions (BE); In association with: Arte, Eyeworks, Telenet, Prime, Sciapode


2016: World Cinema Documentary Competition - Sundance Film Festival (US); IFFR/International Film Festival Rotterdam (NL); Hong Kong International Film Festival (HK); Ambulante (MX); Grand Angle - Visions du Réel (CH); Documenta International Film Festival (ES); World Showcase - Hot Docs International Documentary Festival (CA); DocVille Film Festival (BE); Documentary Edge Festival (NZ); MOOOV Film Festival (BE); Tarkovsky Film Festival "Zerkalo" (RU); DocAviv - Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival (IL); Anonimul Film Festival (RO); Sheffield Doc/Fest (UK); Cologne Film Festival (DE); Doc@PÖFF - Black Nights International Film Festival (EE); Olympia Film Festival (GR); Transilvania Film Festival (RO); Valletta Film Festival (MT); Sidney International Film Festival (AU); Biografilm International Film Festival (IT); Art Film Fest Kosice (SK); Afi Docs (US); Transatlantyk Film Festival (PL); Filmfest München (DE); Cinema City (RS); Taipei IFF (TW), Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (CZ); Golden Apricot Film Festival (AM); Odessa International Film Festival (UA); New Horizons Film Festival (PL); Melbourne International Film Festival (AU); Lemesos Int’l Documentary Festival (GR); DokuFest (KS); Lima Film Festival (PE); Ambulante Colombia (CO); Neue Heimat Film (DE); International Film Festival ‘Manaki Brothers’(MK); Batumi Film Festival (GE); Bergen International Film Festival (NW); DMZ International Documentary Film Festival (KR); War on Screen IFF (FR); Festival du Nouveau Cinema (CA); Film from the South (NW); Unabhaengiges FilmFest (DE); Mumbai Film Festival (IN); International Film Festival of Curitiba Biennial (BR); Scanorama IFF (LT); Panorama of the European Film (EG); PHI Centre (CA); Minsk Listapad (BY), Braunschweig International Film Festival (DE); Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival (DE); Costa Rica IFF (CR); Autrans International Mountain Film Festival (FR); This Human World/Human Rights Film Festival (AT); Cinema Vérité - Iran International Documentary Film Festival (IR); Pune International Film Festival (IN); Doc Point (FI); ZagreDox (HR); Tempo Documentary Festival (SE); Hawaii European Film Festival (HI)


2016: World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography - Sundance Film Festival (US), Special Jury Award - Documenta Madrid (ES), Audience Award + Professional Achievement Award - Tarkovsky Film Festival "Zerkalo" (RU); Artistic Vision Award - DocAviv (IL); Audience Award - Anonimul Film Festival (RO); Phoenix Award - Cologne Film Festival (DE); Audience Award - Olympia Film Festival (GR); Audience Award - Costa Rica International Film Festival (CR); Nomination Best European Documentary - European Film Awards (PL)


  • the Netherlands: Periscoop Film (theatrical)
  • Ireland: Wildcard Distribution (theatrical)

Land of the Enlightened scores EFA nomination

Pieter-Jan De Pue’s hybrid documentary The Land of the Enlightened is one of the nominees for Best European Documentary at this year’s European Film Awards. Another of the five contenders is A Family Affair by Tom Fassaert, which was co-produced with Flanders. The winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony on December 10.

The Land of the EnlightenedThe European Film Academy (EFA) unveiled this year’s nominees on Sunday November 6 at the Seville European Film Festival. The Documentary category includes Pieter-Jan De Pue’s debut feature The Land of the Enlightened, a cinematic journey into the beauty of war-torn Afghanistan where Kuchi children wage their own mini-wars.

Published on Monday 7 November 2016

Galloping Mind and The Land of the Enlightened in Karlovy Vary

In addition to Felix van Groeningen’s Belgica and the short film Flower of a Thousand Colours, the line-up of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1-9 July) also includes Wim Vandekeybus’s Galloping Mind and The Land of the Enlightened by Pieter-Jan De Pue. Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 hit Come As You Are has also been picked for one the festival’s thematic sections.

Galloping MindGalloping Mind is part of ‘Another View’, a collection of notable contemporary films. In Vandekeybus’s feature, a twin brother and sister are separated at birth, neither knowing about the other’s existence. Pieter-Jan De Pue’s The Land of the Enlightened is scheduled to screen in the 'Horizons' section.

Published on Wednesday 29 June 2016

Double awards for The Land of the Enlightened in Russia

Pieter-Jan De Pue’s debut feature The Land of the Enlightened has won two awards at the Tarkovsky Film Festival in Russia. The hybrid documentary about Afghan children picked up both the Audience and the Professional Achievement awards.

Pieter-Jan De PueIn presenting the first-time director with the festival’s Professional Achievement Award, the jury cited the way in which De Pue’s experience as a photographer had influenced his work as a film director. In addition, The Land of the Enlightened was also the winner of the Audience Award.

Published on Wednesday 29 June 2016

Sheffield Doc/Fest takes The Land of the Enlightened

Pieter-Jan De Pue’s debut feature The Land of the Enlightened has been selected for the Grand Jury Competition at the Sheffield Doc/Fest (10-15 June). De Pue’s mix of fiction and documentary about children in Afghanistan is set to receive its British premiere at the festival, whose programme also contains several co-productions with Flanders including the documentary features A Family Affair and Strike a Pose, and the short films Figure and Pulse.

The Land of the EnlightenedThe Land of the Enlightened is one of 12 films selected for the Grand Jury Competition, a selection of the best documentaries chosen from the line-up. The film will be competing for the Grand Jury Award worth £2,000.

Published on Monday 9 May 2016

Strong Flemish presence at Docville

From 29 April-7 May at Docville in Leuven, Belgian documentaries will be in the spotlight once again. This year’s National Competition has a distinctly Flemish tinge, with screenings including The Land of the Enlightened, Samuel in the Clouds, No Man Is an Island and The Invisible City [Kakuma]. Two Flemish documentaries - Wim and Truth or Consequence - will also receive their world premieres at Docville.

Samuel In The CloudsIn Wim, filmmaker Lut Vandekeybus dives into the complex poetic universe of her brother, acclaimed choreographer and director Wim Vandekeybus, while Truth or Consequence by Sam Ostyn is a captivating and poetic portrait of a tiny town in the New Mexico desert that changed its name to the title of a radio show.

Published on Friday 22 April 2016

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Last edited by Pieter-Jan De Pue on 4 January 2017

Short info

Director Pieter-Jan De Pue
Producers Bart Van Langendonck
Writers Pieter-Jan De Pue

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