PULLMAN, Wash. – What happens when a well-meaning group of American hairdressers goes to post-Taliban Afghanistan to set up a beauty school for local women?
 
Find out during a free, public film screening and discussion of “The Beauty Academy of Kabul,” a 74-minute documentary, 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, in Todd 216, part of the Washington State University Common Reading Tuesdays series.
 
The film, noted for revealing “subtle transformations and amusing cultural exchanges” between women from “very different experiences of life” as they learn about one another, will be presented by Pamela Thoma, assistant professor of women’s studies, and students in her introductory WST 200 course.
 
The film, which touches on numerous globalization issues, is part of an effort begun in 2001. Dubbed “Beauty Without Borders,” it is funded by Vogue magazine, Paul Mitchell and other beauty industry leaders.
 
Directed by Liz Mermin and shot during 10 weeks in 2004, the film documents the American stylists who wanted to help Kabul women develop skills and become entrepreneurs by teaching the latest Manhattan cutting, coloring and perming techniques in a three-month curriculum.
 
It shows that Kabul stylists had been driven underground during Taliban rule, risking imprisonment or even death to style hair and apply makeup for women headed to weddings and engagement parties in their burkas. The secret salons often had no running water or electricity, and hairdressers worked surrounded by children and hidden behind layers of curtains.
 
Thoma and her students will explore questions the film raises for audience members, with a focus on Western perceptions of Afghan women, non-government organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian intervention.
 
Common Reading Tuesdays presentations by WSU faculty experts and guests consider topics related to this year’s common reading book, “Stones Into Schools,” by Greg Mortenson. For more information, and to read about next year’s book, “Physics for Future Presidents,” visit http://CommonReading.wsu.edu.