THE AFGHAN WAR TORE MY LIFE APART WHILE CANADA MENDED THE PIECES

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Canadian Academy-Award winner Kane Mahon speaks about escaping Afghanistan

August 30, 2021

VERUSCHKA MUNGROO

“Tragedy should be used as a source of strength,” wrote Buddha, regarded as the founder of the world religion Buddhism. “The real calamity is when we lose hope, no matter how bad the situation is or how painful your former experience was.” 

If this doctrine is to be believed, actor Kane Mahon has certainly risen above the atrocities he witnessed as a young adult to find fame and success in Canada, having been nominated for the prestigious Canadian Screen Awards (hosted annually by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television) for Best Performance in a Series Produced for Digital Media in 2017 for his role in Petrol. He is also known for his supporting roles in Angelina Jolie’s Oscar nominated feature The Breadwinner, Amazon’s original series Patriot, The Cuban, playing alongside Golden Globe winner Shohreh Aghdashloo and Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr and Red Snow.

Kane Mahon, left, with his co-stars at the TIFF premiere of Angelina Jolie's, third from left, Oscar nominated feature The Breadwinner, where he played the character of Kiln Owner

His life, however, was not always filled with glitz and glamour. Much of Mahon’s adolescence was surrounded by the destruction of his homeland as a result of war, a conflict in which Mujaheddins fought a nine-year guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government throughout the 1980s. 

“I was born in a typical, almost idealistic environment. My siblings and I did almost everything that normal kids do. My father was very academically focused, and he encouraged reading from a young age. This expanded my imagination beyond the borders of Afghanistan. School in the morning, playing with peers in the parks, football, hide and go seek games – just like any other normal kid,” said the actor, who also holds a Masters Degree in International Relations. 

And then everything changed for the worse. 

The Soviet Union withdrew its final troops from Afghanistan around 1989, and the Mujahideen took over. 

“All of a sudden, we heard bombs and rockets all around us. It sounded like a fireworks show to me. There was a general feeling of insecurity and dread,” he explained. 

Following the takeover, Mujahideen fighters (forerunners of the Taliban) took over his parents’ house at gunpoint, and his parents, like many others, lost their livelihood, their belongings, and fled Afghanistan.

“when i lost my childhood and the country that i was born in, i felt like an orphan and was in constant search for a new home and peace” 

“I was fortunate to be able to eventually flee Afghanistan. I lost many of my childhood friends and some relatives during this time. But it was far from easy. My brothers and I began selling water at the marketplace during the hot summer months to earn a few pennies to help with basic necessities at home.  I then went into wrestling, where we charged spectators to watch in order to make a living. Those were trying times,” Mahon said. 

Actor Kane Mohan

“When I lost my childhood and the country where I was born, it felt like being an orphan and was constantly looking for a new home and peace” he explained. “I no longer wanted to be a war child. I wanted to have a home, a place where I belong and be a citizen. There was a constant internal desire to settle down, to be identified with a culture in which I could participate and contribute. The psychological effects of feeling pressured motivated me to realize that any step forward was an achievement toward self-realization.” Mahon added. 

“Luckly my parents saw a brighter future for us and therefore they took the bold step to emigrate as political refugees in 2005. Coming here and assimilating into the new culture was a first step of belonging, participating and contributing. And so Canada has become my home. I finally felt like I belonged!”

“CANADA BECAME MY HOME. I FINALLY BELONGED! 

ACTING CAREER

During the war Mahon and his brother would secretly watch television on a black and white set by attaching an antenna to the roof of their house. “Films and theatres were deemed un-Islamic by the Mujahideen, but secret viewing times were a ray of hope at the time and a form of escapism from our surroundings. Those films broadened my worldview, gave me hope for a peaceful life, and inspired me as an actor. They were a portal to the outside world,” he added.

His career took off quickly after graduating from George Brown Theatre School. “Canada, specifically Toronto is a booming film industry and is built on the foundation of diversity and inclusion. There are lots of opportunities, you just have to find your niche,” said Mahon. 

Mahon’s advice to newcomers: find your passion and master it!

~ ENDS

ABOVE & RIGHT: The actor in a scene from Red Snow

As a child, he and his brother would secretly watch television on a black and white set by attaching an antenna to their house’s roof. 

“Films and theatres were deemed un-Islamic by the Mujahideen (“Freedom Fighters”), but secret viewing times were a ray of hope at the time and a form of escapism from our surroundings. Those films broadened my worldview, gave me hope for a peaceful life, and inspired me as an actor. They were a portal to the outside world,” he added.

His career took off quickly after graduating from George Brown Theatre School, particularly in this new era of web series. 

As a natural storyteller, as he refers to himself, he probes his characters for their motivations and explores his own hopes and fears, assisting him in coming to terms with his past, which is clearly visible through his characters. 

“THERE IS A LITTLE PART OF ME IN ALL THE ROLES I’VE PLAYED  

Mahon’s advice to newcomers: find your passion and master it!

“Canada, specifically Toronto is a booming film industry and is built on the foundation of diversity and inclusion. There are lots of opportunities, you just have to find your niche,” said Mahon. 

~ ENDS

Images courtesy of Kane Mahon

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Veruschka Mungroo is an international journalist with over 15 years experience in the media industry. She is no stranger to contentious issues having written on human right issues, entertainment, crime and politics.

 

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