Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Apr 21.2006
At the height of its speed, the film takes on the feel of an Indiana Jones-style archaeological thriller.
One World Festival Prague Mar 02.2006
Combining several narrative lines, Frei's beautifully crafted film uses the Bamiyan statues as a starting point on a fascinating journey exploring the boundaries between spirituality and religious fanaticism, the ancient and the modern and the local and the global. Frei weaves together a colourful and moving tapestry that ultimately reflects the Buddhist saying: "Everything changes, nothing is permanent." With some excellent photography by Peter Indergand, this monumental, yet quietly contemplative – and at times very funny – film is as much a quest for questions, as a search for answers.
Bangkok International Film Festival Feb 18.2006
For the Taliban, the March 2001 demolition of two colossal 1500-year-old buddhas carved into a cliff in Afghanistan's remote Bamiyan Valley was an end to 'the idols' that blasphemed Islamic law; but for Christian Frei, Oscar-nominated documentary film- maker (War Photographer), it marked the beginning of a journey into the heart of several mysteries. What is the origin of the giant Buddhas that gazed down at pilgrims and merchants traveling the Silk Road? How should the politicians, archaeologists and humanitarians of the world respond to this act of cultural terrorism? And what, ultimately, is the meaning of their destruction? In answering these questions Frei takes the viewer from the pre-Islamic world of the Hazari people whose families have lived in the Bamiyan caves for generations to modern day, high-tech labs where computer scientists are creating 3-D virtual reconstructions of the Buddhas and devising technologies to lift and set surviving fragments of stone into the now precarious niches. Set to the haunting melodies of Arvö Part and Philip Glass, The Giant Buddhas is a moving lament to the enormity of Afghanistan's cultural loss. Should the Buddhas be reconstructed? Frei turns to Buddha to provide a fitting epitaph: “All things change. Nothing is permanent.”
"The Catholic Sun" Phoenix, AZ Jan 31.2006
My top ten favorite films I saw during the course of the Sundance Film Festival, which was held last week in Park City, Utah:

5) "The Giant Buddhas." Illuminating, ultimately hopeful look at the
Taliban's horrific destruction of Afghanistan's ancient artifacts.
SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL (David Courier) Dec 21.2005
With the destruction of the giant Buddhas as his springboard, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christian Frei (War Photographer) has crafted a luminous cinematic tapestry that entwines multiple narrative threads. Stunningly photographed by Peter Indergand, this thought-provoking documentary reveals the consequences of religious fanaticism as it exposes the hypocrisy of global indignation. With pulsing immediacy, Frei essentially collapses time. He retraces the steps of a Chinese monk who visited the Buddhas centuries ago, juxtaposing that journey with his own trip to Afghanistan and that of a modern-day woman from Toronto, who fulfills a lifelong dream to visit Bamiyan, important place for her father. The Giant Buddhas is a stirring example of the power of cinema to enlighten as it defies the boundaries of culture and time.
International Jury Leipzig (Silver Dove) Oct 09.2005
"The filmmaker has taken a recent hot, politically sensitive and highly
symbolic news event and given us a thoughtful, well researched and
beautifully filmed analysis of the complexities of the issue and cultural
perspectives that stand behind the surface of the TV news."
TIME Magazine Sep 19.2005
A subdued, indeed Zen-like rumination on the things that war spoils can be seen in "The Giant Buddhas", Christian Frei's contemplation of the huge mountain-carved effigies in Bamian, Afghanistan, that the (literally) iconoclastic autocrats of the Taliban blew to pieces six months before 9/11.

The film moves gracefully and gravely from the 7th century, when the Chinese monk Xuanzang made a pilgrimage stop in Bamiyan, to the 21st, in which a French archaeologist leads a dig to find the legendary Sleeping Buddha in that same scarred valley.
The National Post, Toronto Sep 13.2005
A grotesque example of grand-scale malevolence provides the basis for
Christian Frei's remarkable 95-minute documentary, "The Giant Buddhas", shown this week at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Recent seasons have led us into a golden age of ambitious documentaries, and "The Giant Buddhas" takes its place within this movement.

"The Giant Buddhas" places us at a fascinating intersection of politics,
religion and culture. Frei's account ranges from the horrifying to the comic, and in the process delivers as much fresh information as I've ever absorbed from a single documentary.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada) Sep 12.2005
An engrossing, beautifully photographed documentary from Oscar-nominated director Christian Frei (War Photographer) weaves together tales from distant past and conflict-fraught present to explore the meaning of the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan.

(rated 3.5 of 4 possible stars)
Toronto Film Festival Daily Sep 10.2005
A moving lament to the enormity of Afghanistan's cultural loss.
Variety Aug 18.2005
All things change; nothing is permanent," runs the old Buddhist saw, in no case more pertinent than Afghanistan's remote Bamiyan valley, whose two giant stone statues, carved out of the rock face, were blown to smithereens by the Taliban in early 2001. Swiss documaker Christian Frei ("War Photographer") takes a pleasingly objective stance toward the emotive subject in "The Giant Buddhas".

Film could almost be retitled "The Buddha Effect," as, rather than just focusing on the history of the statues or their destruction, Frei uses them as a destination point for people's personal journeys, intercut throughout the pic.

That of 7th-century Chinese monk Xuanzang, who crossed from Xi'an to Bamiyan in a 16,000-kilometre trek on foot, recording his thoughts in a surviving diary, is neatly re-enacted -- and leads to one of the film's more interesting strands, the ongoing hunt by archeologists for a third, sleeping Buddha statue that Xuanzang casually mentions. A more fanciful strand, portrayed in letters written by Frei, focuses on Afghan-Canadian author-actress Nelofer Pazira (in Mohsen Makhmalbaf's "Kandahar""Kandahar") who journeys back to Bamiyan in some kind of spiritual odyssey that smacks of grandstanding.

Frei reserves his most straightfaced irony for Unesco boffins who, in a perfect example of Western scientific overkill, want to restore the few remaining chunks of rock to their original positions in the cliffside cavern -- to the bafflement of locals.

Meanwhile, in the pic's funniest seg, the Chinese authorities in Leshan, Sichuan province, immediately set to work building a replica of the principal statue, but have now covered it up, presumably for security reasons. Frei's insistent but rebuffed attempts to get to see it are worthy of a Nick Broomfield documentary.
Catalogue Locarno Filmfestival Aug 03.2005
In these fantastic Oriental landscapes, the director explores, with great sensitivity and perceptiveness, issues around the relationship of mankind to its history, to its spirituality, to violence and terror. He avoids the drama of the event in order to seek out, via the testimony of his interviewees, an account of life and feelings, doubts, sadness, fear and hope, expressed through the prism of the destroyed statues.