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THE MARCH

THE MARCH
By Rich Neher

GENRE: Action, Drama
LOGLINE:

A young Afghan woman will stop at nothing to avenge her mother's rape and murder at the hands of a corrupt male establishment.

SYNOPSIS:

In the small town of Kalakan, Afghanistan, in the early 2000’s, young girl MASHAL is horrified when her mother, SAMAN, 39, is attacked and sexually assaulted in broad daylight by three Taliban thugs. They’d been sent by local Taliban leader QADIR, 32, to humiliate Saman in retaliation for Saman’s husband GHAFAR, 40, refusing to continue working for Qadir’s drug business.

Saman reports the rape to the town’s female Police Captain AZITA, 32, and a highly publicized trial soon follows, presided over by conservative Afghan Judge GHOLAM, 59, who ultimately finds in favor of the Taliban rapists, acquitting all three of them. Qadir then escalates his retaliation against Saman and her family when he shoots and kills her husband, Ghafar, and has Saman killed in a public stoning.

But when British CNN reporter JEFF ROGERS, 28, happens to get an image of Saman’s crying young daughter Mashal in the crowd during the stoning, he’s able to bring Mashal to the world’s attention. And indeed, the U.S. government soon takes notice of Mashal’s plight and arranges to take her under their wing at the Bagram US military base in Afghanistan, as part of the U.S.-founded “AWOP” (Afghan Women Outreach Program).

They sweep in and rescue Mashal from her new bleak existence living with her teen sister JALIA, 16, and Jalia’s lecherous husband, WALEED, 56, who makes no secret of his intention to soon start sexually abusing Mashal. The US military then promptly delivers Mashal to the Bagram base to participate in the AWOP program. The program’s overseen by kindhearted US Lieutenant LINDA CRENSHAW, 34, and Mashal’s personally trained and taken care of by tough but affectionate young Afghan woman JANNAT, 22.

Years go by, and Mashal grows to be a mature, poised, and dedicated 22-year-old woman. She’s also studied to be a midwife and now shares an apartment with Jannat in her hometown of Kalakan, treating other women and continuing to hold onto her goal to promote women’s rights throughout the country.

Mashal reaches a critical turning point one day when she discovers to her shock that she has to help deliver the baby of SALAR, one of the Taliban men who’d raped her mother, who now doesn’t recognize Mashal as a young woman. Deeply shaken afterward, Mashal now decides to seek vengeance for her mother’s death by hunting down and killing the men responsible for her mother being assaulted and then killed.

Jannat’s largely responsible for Mashal’s new plans, encouraging her to make the men who’d killed her mother pay for their crime in blood. Jannat shows Mashal that the US military has supplied her with a secret bunker filled with powerful weapons that the two women can use in their violent crusade against the local Taliban and Mashal’s mother’s attackers.

Meanwhile in the U.S., former Secretary of State AMELIA SANDERS, 67, now Executive Director of WWP (Women for World Peace), is determined to keep Mashal safe and protected in Afghanistan. Sanders works closely with female German Chancellor DORIS HENKEL, 50s, to make sure the US military keeps an eye on Mashal, so no harm comes to her.

And the head of AWOP Linda Crenshaw, now a Colonel, gets support from U.S. military Captain JAMES BAIRD and Brigadier General JOSEPH WATERS to help keep Mashal and Jannat safe and alive, as well. Jannat soon finishes training Mashal to use all the guns and weapons stashed in their secret bunker, and the women begin their path of vengeance, attacking and killing various local Taliban men who are guilty of attacking or harassing women.

As Mashal and Jannat kill their victims one by one, they also leave a flyer decrying violence against women with each dead body. Eventually, Mashal even tracks down and kills Judge Gholam, the judge who’d acquitted the Taliban men who’d assaulted her mother so many years ago.

However, Mashal’s vigilante acts of vengeance have caught the attention of the local Taliban leader Qadir and his Lieutenant KARIM, who are now both dedicated to finding and killing Mashal before she can attack any more of their men.

Qadir also fearfully has to answer to Russian mobster BORIS, a big, intimidating man whom Qadir and the other local Taliban deal drugs for. Boris informs Qadir that the crime bosses back in Russia are unhappy to hear that an Afghan woman is interfering with their criminal operations, and they also want Qadir to kill Mashal now.

Even more worryingly, Boris is getting intel on where to find Mashal from Captain BEN TAYLOR, 38, a misogynist U.S. soldier at the Bagram base who wants to see Mashal get put in her place, and who secretly gets gifts of cocaine from Boris for delivering info about Mashal’s whereabouts. Unaware that Qadir is now catching onto her, Mashal continues on her missions of vengeance, and also works on organizing local women into a secret activist group to fight for women’s rights.

But Qadir and his thugs start tracking down the members of Mashal and Jannat’s secret activist group and cold-bloodedly killing or maiming them, getting ever closer to finding Mashal herself. And finally, one night Qadir and his men attack and raid one of Mashal and Jannat’s activist meetings and then chase the two women through the countryside to the secret bunker of weapons Jannat had received from the US military.

In an explosive shoot-out, Mashal and Jannat kill a number of Qadir’s men, but Jannat is tragically shot and killed in the process. As Mashal tearfully caresses her dear friend, the two women also finally profess their secret romantic love for each other, which they’d never gotten to fully express or explore.

Mashal then calls the US military using a satellite phone they’ve given her for emergencies, and she’s soon rescued by her friends from the Bagram military base. Soon afterward, Mashal’s determined to hunt down and kill Qadir, especially now that her beloved Jannat is dead because of him. She and fellow Afghan female fighter NASRIN, 28, track down Qadir, who’s meeting with his lieutenant Karim and the Russian mobster Boris. Mashal manages to shoot and kill Karim, and Nasrin kills Boris, but once again, Qadir gets away.

Afterward, Mashal finally embraces a new sentiment that’s brewing within her for a while now; she wants to eschew pursuing her enemies with violence, and instead focus solely on uniting her fellow Afghan women in peacefully protesting to win justice, and freedom for themselves in their country, and no longer be persecuted, harassed, assaulted and abused because of their gender. Mashal works on organizing a peaceful women’s march with the college students at Kabul University, including a number of the surviving women who’d previously been part of Mashal’s underground activist group.

Meanwhile in the U.S., however, the Republican Senate Majority Leader BARBARA ROSEN is conspiring against Mashal, not wanting to see military equipment orders disappearing because of a peace-loving feminist organization rising to prominence in the Middle East. Rosen calls Afghan President ABDULLAH directly and advises him to shut down the march. And sure enough, the day of Mashal’s peaceful march arrives, and Afghan government soldiers actively shut it down, also turning away a bus of women being brought in for the march from other parts of the country.

Even worse, the Russian mobsters who’d been Boris’ bosses before he died now enlist the aid of Ben Taylor, the U.S. soldier who’d been leaking info to Boris in exchange for cocaine. Now the Russian mobsters ask Taylor to track down and kill Mashal, as well. And the Taliban leader Qadir, who’s still alive, also still wants to kill Mashal himself, and he, too, rushes to the women’s march, hoping to shoot and kill her.

But Mashal also has plans of her own to protect the march; she calls the CNN reporter Jeff Rogers to come to shoot coverage of the march and help get the word about her march out to the world. Soon Jeff is there in person, reporting live on the march. And Mashal also gets help from Amelia Sanders and German Chancellor Doris Henkel, who calls Afghan President Abdullah herself, and demands that he allow the women’s march to occur after all. Henkel also gets Abdullah to agree to invite Mashal and her fellow protestors to join his new committee to discuss human rights in Afghanistan.

And soon, President Abdullah gives orders to the military to allow the women’s march to continue, and Mashal and all the other marchers celebrate in victory. Their joy is short-lived, however, because Qadir shoots Mashal as she’s lifted up by the other women to celebrate their triumph. Qadir also shoots and kills Ben Taylor himself. But Qadir is then also shot and killed by Lieutenant Commander Cayden Clay, 38, a fraction of a second after he shoots Mashal.

As Mashal lies in her friend Nasrin’s arms, surrounded by her fellow marchers, she feels blissfully at peace, declaring that the women have won over their oppressors, and they’ve succeeded in starting real change for women in Afghanistan. Soon after, still on a stretcher, Navy Seals in a helicopter whisk her away.

Sanders and Henkel keep feeding the story of Mashal’s sudden shocking and tragic death to the world, knowing she is going through surgery in an Army hospital. Both hope she will survive but already know that Mashal will now be a role model and martyred icon to people everywhere. The story ends with a public funeral march to honor Mashal, as her name and memory are joyfully celebrated by women and men in marches and demonstrations all over the world.

In the small town of Kalakan, Afghanistan, in the early 2000’s, young girl MASHAL is horrified when her mother, SAMAN, 39, is attacked and sexually assaulted in broad daylight by three Taliban thugs. They’d been sent by local Taliban leader QADIR, 32, to humiliate Saman in retaliation for Saman’s husband GHAFAR, 40, refusing to continue working for Qadir’s drug business.

Saman reports the rape to the town’s female Police Captain AZITA, 32, and a highly publicized trial soon follows, presided over by conservative Afghan Judge GHOLAM, 59, who ultimately finds in favor of the Taliban rapists, acquitting all three of them. Qadir then escalates his retaliation against Saman and her family when he shoots and kills her husband, Ghafar, and has Saman killed in a public stoning.

But when British CNN reporter JEFF ROGERS, 28, happens to get an image of Saman’s crying young daughter Mashal in the crowd during the stoning, he’s able to bring Mashal to the world’s attention. And indeed, the U.S. government soon takes notice of Mashal’s plight and arranges to take her under their wing at the Bagram US military base in Afghanistan, as part of the U.S.-founded “AWOP” (Afghan Women Outreach Program).

They sweep in and rescue Mashal from her new bleak existence living with her teen sister JALIA, 16, and Jalia’s lecherous husband, WALEED, 56, who makes no secret of his intention to soon start sexually abusing Mashal. The US military then promptly delivers Mashal to the Bagram base to participate in the AWOP program. The program’s overseen by kindhearted US Lieutenant LINDA CRENSHAW, 34, and Mashal’s personally trained and taken care of by tough but affectionate young Afghan woman JANNAT, 22.

Years go by, and Mashal grows to be a mature, poised, and dedicated 22-year-old woman. She’s also studied to be a midwife and now shares an apartment with Jannat in her hometown of Kalakan, treating other women and continuing to hold onto her goal to promote women’s rights throughout the country.

Mashal reaches a critical turning point one day when she discovers to her shock that she has to help deliver the baby of SALAR, one of the Taliban men who’d raped her mother, who now doesn’t recognize Mashal as a young woman. Deeply shaken afterward, Mashal now decides to seek vengeance for her mother’s death by hunting down and killing the men responsible for her mother being assaulted and then killed.

Jannat’s largely responsible for Mashal’s new plans, encouraging her to make the men who’d killed her mother pay for their crime in blood. Jannat shows Mashal that the US military has supplied her with a secret bunker filled with powerful weapons that the two women can use in their violent crusade against the local Taliban and Mashal’s mother’s attackers.

Meanwhile in the U.S., former Secretary of State AMELIA SANDERS, 67, now Executive Director of WWP (Women for World Peace), is determined to keep Mashal safe and protected in Afghanistan. Sanders works closely with female German Chancellor DORIS HENKEL, 50s, to make sure the US military keeps an eye on Mashal, so no harm comes to her.

And the head of AWOP Linda Crenshaw, now a Colonel, gets support from U.S. military Captain JAMES BAIRD and Brigadier General JOSEPH WATERS to help keep Mashal and Jannat safe and alive, as well. Jannat soon finishes training Mashal to use all the guns and weapons stashed in their secret bunker, and the women begin their path of vengeance, attacking and killing various local Taliban men who are guilty of attacking or harassing women.

As Mashal and Jannat kill their victims one by one, they also leave a flyer decrying violence against women with each dead body. Eventually, Mashal even tracks down and kills Judge Gholam, the judge who’d acquitted the Taliban men who’d assaulted her mother so many years ago.

However, Mashal’s vigilante acts of vengeance have caught the attention of the local Taliban leader Qadir and his Lieutenant KARIM, who are now both dedicated to finding and killing Mashal before she can attack any more of their men.

Qadir also fearfully has to answer to Russian mobster BORIS, a big, intimidating man whom Qadir and the other local Taliban deal drugs for. Boris informs Qadir that the crime bosses back in Russia are unhappy to hear that an Afghan woman is interfering with their criminal operations, and they also want Qadir to kill Mashal now.

Even more worryingly, Boris is getting intel on where to find Mashal from Captain BEN TAYLOR, 38, a misogynist U.S. soldier at the Bagram base who wants to see Mashal get put in her place, and who secretly gets gifts of cocaine from Boris for delivering info about Mashal’s whereabouts. Unaware that Qadir is now catching onto her, Mashal continues on her missions of vengeance, and also works on organizing local women into a secret activist group to fight for women’s rights.

But Qadir and his thugs start tracking down the members of Mashal and Jannat’s secret activist group and cold-bloodedly killing or maiming them, getting ever closer to finding Mashal herself. And finally, one night Qadir and his men attack and raid one of Mashal and Jannat’s activist meetings and then chase the two women through the countryside to the secret bunker of weapons Jannat had received from the US military.

In an explosive shoot-out, Mashal and Jannat kill a number of Qadir’s men, but Jannat is tragically shot and killed in the process. As Mashal tearfully caresses her dear friend, the two women also finally profess their secret romantic love for each other, which they’d never gotten to fully express or explore.

Mashal then calls the US military using a satellite phone they’ve given her for emergencies, and she’s soon rescued by her friends from the Bagram military base. Soon afterward, Mashal’s determined to hunt down and kill Qadir, especially now that her beloved Jannat is dead because of him. She and fellow Afghan female fighter NASRIN, 28, track down Qadir, who’s meeting with his lieutenant Karim and the Russian mobster Boris. Mashal manages to shoot and kill Karim, and Nasrin kills Boris, but once again, Qadir gets away.

Afterward, Mashal finally embraces a new sentiment that’s brewing within her for a while now; she wants to eschew pursuing her enemies with violence, and instead focus solely on uniting her fellow Afghan women in peacefully protesting to win justice, and freedom for themselves in their country, and no longer be persecuted, harassed, assaulted and abused because of their gender. Mashal works on organizing a peaceful women’s march with the college students at Kabul University, including a number of the surviving women who’d previously been part of Mashal’s underground activist group.

Meanwhile in the U.S., however, the Republican Senate Majority Leader BARBARA ROSEN is conspiring against Mashal, not wanting to see military equipment orders disappearing because of a peace-loving feminist organization rising to prominence in the Middle East. Rosen calls Afghan President ABDULLAH directly and advises him to shut down the march. And sure enough, the day of Mashal’s peaceful march arrives, and Afghan government soldiers actively shut it down, also turning away a bus of women being brought in for the march from other parts of the country.

Even worse, the Russian mobsters who’d been Boris’ bosses before he died now enlist the aid of Ben Taylor, the U.S. soldier who’d been leaking info to Boris in exchange for cocaine. Now the Russian mobsters ask Taylor to track down and kill Mashal, as well. And the Taliban leader Qadir, who’s still alive, also still wants to kill Mashal himself, and he, too, rushes to the women’s march, hoping to shoot and kill her.

But Mashal also has plans of her own to protect the march; she calls the CNN reporter Jeff Rogers to come to shoot coverage of the march and help get the word about her march out to the world. Soon Jeff is there in person, reporting live on the march. And Mashal also gets help from Amelia Sanders and German Chancellor Doris Henkel, who calls Afghan President Abdullah herself, and demands that he allow the women’s march to occur after all. Henkel also gets Abdullah to agree to invite Mashal and her fellow protestors to join his new committee to discuss human rights in Afghanistan.

And soon, President Abdullah gives orders to the military to allow the women’s march to continue, and Mashal and all the other marchers celebrate in victory. Their joy is short-lived, however, because Qadir shoots Mashal as she’s lifted up by the other women to celebrate their triumph. Qadir also shoots and kills Ben Taylor himself. But Qadir is then also shot and killed by Lieutenant Commander Cayden Clay, 38, a fraction of a second after he shoots Mashal.

As Mashal lies in her friend Nasrin’s arms, surrounded by her fellow marchers, she feels blissfully at peace, declaring that the women have won over their oppressors, and they’ve succeeded in starting real change for women in Afghanistan. Soon after, still on a stretcher, Navy Seals in a helicopter whisk her away.

Sanders and Henkel keep feeding the story of Mashal’s sudden shocking and tragic death to the world, knowing she is going through surgery in an Army hospital. Both hope she will survive but already know that Mashal will now be a role model and martyred icon to people everywhere. The story ends with a public funeral march to honor Mashal, as her name and memory are joyfully celebrated by women and men in marches and demonstrations all over the world.

Rob Dunphy

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Egi David Perdana II

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