In a climate where mainstream American media typically reports international news from an American perspective with a focus on disaster and crisis, can local stories help us to better understand foreign events, diverse cultures and people’s complex realities?
We think they can. The 10 brand new Haitian-made documentary films do just that. We invite you to join us at their Boston premiere to watch and discuss a selection of them! The event will be held at the Jamaica Plain Forum on Tuesday April 7th at 7pm. Admission is free.
The collection of ten remarkable short films, Haitian Perspectives in Film, was produced by Haitian men and women who participated in an intensive 5-week training conducted by CSFilm in 2014.
CSFilm founder and director Michael Sheridan will present a selection of these films and will discuss how stories told by Haitians themselves can augment our understanding of Haiti’s post-earthquake relief efforts and provide a chance for us to experience Haiti as it is lived by Haitian street vendors, business women, artists, and farmers.
Going beyond disaster reporting, these films will ensure the experiences and points of view of Haitians are included in the international conversation about what has and has not happened since the 7.0 earthquake 5 years ago. The films will also be used to increase dialogue and influence public policy internationally and in Haiti regarding effective foreign aid and sustainable development.
Selections from “The Fruit of Our Labor”will air on the TV show, WORLDDOCS, broadcast on Fairfax Public Access (cable channel 10 in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties and the towns of Falls Church, Leesburg, and Fredericksburg in Virginia) on Monday, Feb. 2nd at 10 AM, Thursday,Feb. 5th at 1 AM, and Sunday,Feb. 8th at 8:30 PM. Thank you for allowing us to show it.
WORLDDOCS airs on Fairfax Public Access (cable channel 10) in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties in Virginia on
Mondays at 10:00 AM, Thursdays at 1:00 AM, and Sundays at 8:30 PM; on Montgomery Community Television (cable channel 19) in Montgomery and Prince
Georges counties in Maryland on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM and Thursdays at 11:00 PM (live-streamed at www.mymcmedia.org); and on DCTV (Comcast channels 95 & 96/RCN channels 10 & 11) in Washington, DC at various times (live-streamed at www.dctv.org).
Michael Sheridan, Filmmaker and Educator to Present:
The Messenger is the Message: The impact of local perspective storytelling on education, advocacy and effective development
Oxfam America – Presentation, Wednesday, September 24, 2014 12:00-1:30pm
Michael Sheridan, director of Community Supported Film and former co-founder of Oxfam’s Documentary Production Unit, will speak about his work to put Afghans, Haitians and Indonesians in charge of the storytelling about their community’s economic and social development issues.
Michael went to Afghanistan in 2009 to make a documentary on effective development from the perspective of Afghan villagers. To match the message to the method, he trained Afghan women and men in lived-reality documentary filmmaking. The intensive 5-week training resulted in a compilation of ten short films that provide a unique view of Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions.
As Robin Young, host of NPR’s Here and Now, reported, “Michael put cameras in the hands of Afghans and gave them training to make films about their lives. The result is an unprecedented intimate look at Afghan life with exchanges no outsider has been privy to before.” From Michael’s work in Afghanistan, he developed Community Supported Film an organization dedicated to strengthening documentary storytelling from the local perspective.
Michael will talk about the process, show a selection of the films made by the Afghan trainees and talk about CSFilm’s upcoming projects in Haiti and Boston. You can learn more about the films and the work at www.csfilm.org.
“We all have to demand an improvement in our news diet. A balanced diet that’s less self-centric, that includes more local perspectives, will really help us be better informed, and therefore, more effective citizens.”
On April 13, Michael Sheridan, an alumnus of Connecticut College, spoke at this year’s TEDxConnecticutCollege conference about Community Supported Film’s experience bringing local perspectives from Afghanistan to the U.S. through documentary filmmaking. Michael’s talk, entitled “Transforming News and Views through Local Perspectives,” compares U.S. mainstream media coverage of Afghanistan with local Afghan stories to show the unbalanced state of the Western news diet. By highlighting this imbalance, Michael demonstrates a need for both perspectives in order to create sustainable solutions for ourselves and for Afghans. Watch Michael’s TEDx talk here and/or read the highlights below:
It becomes clear that news stories have the capacity to both help and harm people once you ask who is telling the story, why they are telling it, and how it influences the general public. In the case of mainstream media coverage of Afghanistan, which focuses on “war-centric” stories and stories that are most relatable to Americans, the Afghan perspective is lost, subsequently harming the Afghan people.
In his talk, Michael compares photos and videos from The New York Times and Frontline with videos produced through Community Supported Film’s trainings in Afghanistan to show the way in which the mainstream media’s perception of Afghan issues does not accurately reflect the daily problems that the Afghan people are facing. Instead of focusing on warfare and violence, the locally produced videos emphasize issues with water, illiteracy, and drug addiction. Michael states that more Afghans are killed by water issues than insurgents and that 87% of Afghans believe that men and women should have equal access to education. Those are shocking statistics for those who only see Afghans in Western media portrayed as violent and discriminatory towards women.
“American reporters…and the American news industry [in general] are telling the story of our news in Afghanistan and not necessarily the news from Afghanistan.”
Through his TEDx talk, Michael Sheridan proves that telling the news from Afghanistan can only be accomplished through a balanced information diet of both mainstream and local perspectives, thereby highlighting the importance of the Community Supported Film mission.
TEDx events are locally organized gatherings held in the same format as the well-known TED talks. These events bring leading thinkers and doers together to share what they are most passionate about.
The theme of this year’s Connecticut College TEDx event was “On the Shoulders of Giants,” which highlighted the power of collaboration and the insights gained from a historical perspective.
NAMAC – the National Association of Media Arts has kindly invited Community Supported Film to be on the panel, Rural, Regional, and Indigenous Media Projects, at its National Conference, August 6-8, in Philly. Also on the panel are Ada Smith, Appalshop; Lora Taub-Pervizpour, HYPE Youth Media, and Sean McLaughlin, Access Humboldt!
If you’re in the area, or are still scheduling your summer holiday plans, come on down!
We would like to maximize the impact of our trip and therefore are looking for invitations to present our work at other venues, orgs, homes etc… This could be in the Philly area or on route between Boston and Philly! We’ll be headed that way on or before August 6 and returning on or after the 9th. Find out more about organizing an event here.
Eliz Thank You Card (Click on images for larger view)
Last month, Michael made a special trip to the Carroll School in Lincoln, Massachusetts to discuss the work of CSFilm with an elementary school class. The students are reading the Afghan book The Breadwinner, which takes place during the Taliban regime and was the impetus for inviting Michael to provide a more contemporary perspective. Below are some of the thank you cards and drawings sent to Michael from the kids.
It was a completely new experience communicating with this age group. We don’t usually try and engage kids under High School age and even older students can be a reach without a specific focus on issues such as the role of the media in society, poverty reduction, governance or geography.
Lessons learned from elementary school students:
1. Be prepared to role with a nonlinear conversation and questions coming at you mid-thought and sentence – unless you lay down different rules and try and stick to them – as Dinan, their teacher, quickly implemented for Michael.
2. No matter how much you try and expand the conversation beyond “the war,” some boys at this age are only going to ask you about your experience of guns and bombs.
3. Youth have remarkable memories and will latch on to everything you say – even side comments – as can be seen in the inclusion of some repeated oddities in their comments and pictures, such as:
Tom’s Thank You Card (Click on the images for a larger view)
“I learned that Afghans drink Coke.” I asked them what was unusual in one one picture I showed. I was expecting them to note that the women were not wearing burkas and were dressed in western clothes. A few of them instead rightly noted the Coke can on a table and expressed surprise that soda is available in Afghanistan.
In a few of their comments they noticed that all the cars were Toyota Corollas, an amazing truth – almost all cars in Afghanistan are Corollas – an oddity that occurred since the return of cars post Taliban. Hence a number of drawings with Toyota logos!
You’ll also notice that many got the theme of the presentation – that Afghanistan is much more than a war zone as commonly depicted in our media.
Community Supported Filmmaking: From Afghanistan to Boston’s Immigrant Community, a Digital Communications Workshop with Michael Sheridan
Date: Friday, February 14th, 2014
Time: 2:10 – 4 pm
Location: RG 20, Rubenstein Building, Ground Floor, Harvard Kennedy School, 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Illustrating principles of video storytelling, filmmaker Michael Sheridan will present highlights of his work in Afghanistan and Indonesia training activists, journalists and storytellers to make their own documentary films. Against that background he will discuss his current project similarly to empower recent immigrants to Boston to tell their stories with video. Catherine Rielly will share insights on how she uses DevCom films in her work with Rubia and immigrant groups in New Hampshire. Michael Sheridan, DevCom Mentor since 2001, Michael is an independent producer of film and video with a special interest in international issues of social and economic development in Africa and Asia. As a Fullbright Fellow, he spent a year in Indonesia teaching filmmaking, subsequently trained 10 Afghan filmmakers to make documentaries about issues in their communities. Michael is the founder of Community Supported Film: www.CSFilm.org.
Charles Mann, following his retirement from a career as a development economist with the Harvard Institute for International Development and The Rockefeller Foundation, founded the Development Communications Workshop, a collaboration with filmmakers to help students use video effectively for development and to produce documentaries about development issues. www.DevComWorkshop.org
Catherine Rielly, experienced development economist, teacher, DevCom Executive Producer, is the Executive Director of Rubia, a non-profit organization that promotes empowerment of Afghan women and immigrants in Manchester, New Hampshire: www.rubiahandwork.org See her TEDx talk, “Empowerment by Stealth: Sewing Confidence, Literacy and Unexpected Power” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evh7ke5lJPY
This March, Michael Sheridan of CSFilm will be giving a lecture entitled: “The Messenger is the Message: Why I Worked with Afghans to Tell Their Own Stories” at the Massachusetts School of Art and Design.
Below is a brief description of the lecture:
Frustrated by the American media’s self-centered battlefront depiction of Afghanistan, Michael went in 2009 to make a documentary from the perspective of Afghan villagers. To match the method to the message, he trained Afghan women and men in lived-reality documentary filmmaking. The intensive 5-week training resulted in a compilation of ten short films that provide a unique view of Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions.
As Robin Young, host of NPR’s Here and Now, reported, “Michael put cameras in the hands of Afghans and gave them training to make films about their lives. The result is an unprecedented intimate look at Afghan life with exchanges no outsider has been privy to before.” From Michael’s work in Afghanistan, he developed Community Supported Film an organization dedicated to strengthening documentary storytelling from the local perspective.
Michael will talk about the process, show excerpts from the films made by the Afghan trainees and compare them to the stories and images provided by the mainstream media. You can watch excerpts of the films here.
The lecture will be held on Thursday, March 20th, 2014 at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, in the Trustees Room (11th Floor, Tower Building) Boston, MA. Light refreshments will be served at 6:00pm, lecture begins at 6:30 pm.
Michael Sheridan working with students in Afghanistan
Michael Sheridan will teach the Documentary Bootcamp course at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. The course is a one week intensive, January 13-17, 2014, covering the full production experience in fast motion: project definition, project planning, camera, editing, and presentation. It’s open to the public and to 10 students of all levels of experience. To learn more please go to MassArt’s registration page.
Students are welcome to use their own digital video camcorder during the course if it accepts an external microphone, allows for audio monitoring and has manual focus and exposure controls.
We are very excited to announce that, beginning October 23, 2013, all ten shorts from The Fruit of Our Labor will be featured on Daazo.com – The European Short Film Centre. For one month, all of the films will be available to watch, comment on, or “like” through Daazo’s website.
Daazo.com is a short film sharing site supported by the MEDIA Programme of the EU that hosts several thousand contemporary shorts. Alongside these recent films, Daazo presents old classics that are not available elsewhere on the Internet. Daazo creates opportunities for cinephiles to watch regular film premieres, follow or take part in film competitions, and find out about short film news and updates.
CSFilm is enthusiastic about Daazo’s mission and hopes our partnership will further open viewers’ eyes to the power of local perspectives in film.
The documentary shorts show aspects of life in Afghanistan that are not often covered in the Western media: Water Ways chronicles one village’s struggle to obtain clean drinking water.
Did you know that Culture Unplugged hosts film festivals online free for all to see? Watch The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film on Friday, May 17th at 11:30PM EST on Culture Unplugged.
In an effort to transcend isolation and ignorance, Culture Unplugged focuses on producing and promoting films that are socially sensitive and culturally conscious. Their mission is to nurture and spread enlightening films, fostering a strong sense of community on a local and global scale.
The Fruit of Our Labor is a collection of 10 short documentary films made by 10 Afghans during a training conducted by Community Supported Film in the fall of 2010. These character-driven shorts highlight the complex daily realities of contemporary Afghanistan, while also showing the agency and capacity of Afghans to solve their own problems. The films bring a much-needed local perspective to the debate about the immediate and long-term future of Afghanistan.
West Virginia’s Department of Communications & Media Studies will host a screening of The Fruit of Our Labor films, including a presentation by CSFilm director Michael Sheridan by Skype. Q&A to follow.
Thursday, April 25th 2013 at 7pm West Virginia State University Davis Fine Arts Theater Washington Ave and Presidents Drive Dunbar, West Virginia The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film is a collection of documentary shorts made by Afghan filmmakers during an intensive five week training by Community Supported Film. The films bring to life Afghans’ daily efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions, offering a personal and first-hand Afghan point of view rarely seen or heard in the US – even after 10 years of intense media coverage.
On April 18th Michael Sheridan will be one of several panelists presenting at Intersections of the Global and Local in Education in the Middle East – the 2013 TA’ALIM conference on the role of art, media and technology in education in Middle Eastern countries, held at the Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.
Thursday, April 18th 2013 9am-3:15pm Grade Dodge Hall 179, Teachers College, Columbia University 525 W 120th StNew York, NY 10027
During the discussion the panelists will focus on how various media can help to aid the issues facing the Middle East. The day will consist of a video-conference between graduate students in the U.S., students at the American University in Cairo, and students at Notre Dame University in Lebanon. All students are in various stages of conducting or planning research on education in the region and will have a forum to share their successes and challenges. There will then be a panel of professionals and screenings of short films.
Panel: Art, Media and Technology in Education
Nada Elattar, Sesame Workshop
Kristyn Mohr, Global Nomads Group
Jennifer Lauren, T21
Abdullah Schleifer, Middle East Institute
Michael Sheridan, Community Supported Film
Moderator: Erin Twohig, Doctoral Candidate in French &
Roman Philology, Columbia University
The first International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan was held this year from March 6th to 9th. The festival, scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, was in Herat and featured 36 films from 20 countries on the theme of women and marginalized populations.
Bearing the Weight by Mona Haidari and The Road Aboveby Aqueela Rezai, both from the Fruit of Our Labor collection, were official selections. Congratulations to these women and theircontinued success! Read below to find out more about the festival.
Light at the end of the tunnel
By Nupur Basu of The Hindu
March 23, 2013
Stories of resilience dominated the first International Film Festival on Women in Afghanistan.
Around 700 years ago, Queen Goharshad, wife of a Timouri heir, is said to have inspired a Renaissance in Herat, Afghanistan’s western province. Seven centuries later, a group of women filmmakers in Afghanistan have inspired a similar change in their war-ravaged country. The historic city of Herat, close to the Iran border and the setting for Khaled Hosseini’s celebrated novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, played host to the First International Film Festival on Women from March 6-9.
The citadel, better known as Qala Ikhtyaruddin or Arg and said to have been built by Emperor Alexander around 300 BC, made a stunning venue. Over the next three days, women, men and children braved news of bomb blasts, snowfall, rain, icy winds and bright sunshine to watch 36 films from 20 countries on the theme of women and the marginalised, even as dozens of armed Afghan National Police stood guard outside. Like the awesome venue, this festival for women to observe International Women’s Day was a daring first in Afghanistan. “This is an unbelievable event for us and gives us a lot of hope that things can change one day,” said Wida Saghani, a homemaker living with her children, husband and in-laws in Herat.
As a province that has produced the maximum number of women filmmakers in Afghanistan in the last 10 years, it was not surprising that Herat was the venue. Ironically, in recent years, the province has also reported the maximum number of self-immolations by Afghan women, frustrated by forced marriages, lack of access to education and work and domestic violence.
In a long tunnel-like structure in the Citadel, stories about women and people living on the margins unfolded on the screen. Afghan filmmaker Alka Sadat, who was born in Herat, explored a recurrent problem in her Violence Against Women: 10 Years On. “Although no longer in power, the Taliban, it appears, is present in the shadows and their brutal practices and policies towards women, especially in the countryside, are still profoundly visible,” says Sadat, whose debut documentary bagged the Afghan Peace Prize.
The theme of a country ravaged by civil war surfaced in different ways. Laila, directed Batool Moradi, was a poignant documentary on mental illness caused by the stress of war through the stories of women in the mental institution of Red Cresent Hospital in Kabul. Stories of resilience, of women fighting the most challenging odds, came up in story after story. Both Again Life, by award-winning director Hassan Fazeli, and Bearing the Weight, by Mona Haidari, tell the stories of Afghan women who pick up the pieces of their lives devastated by war and soldier on. Well-known director and actor Aqueela Rezai depicts how men’s addiction to alcohol and drugs affects women in The Road Above. Addiction is a recurrent theme in Afghan fiction and non-fiction films. Zabiullah Fahim in Flavour of Powder tells a terrifying tale of a poor addict who tears up his daughter’s belly and leaves his wife with the drug dealer in exchange for heroin. In Icy Sun, Ramin Mohammadi tells another chilling tale of a young woman who aspires to be an actor and ends up being raped and sold to a drug dealer.
The subject of immigration is also an important issue. In an Afghan and Slovakia co-production Light Breeze: Memories of an Immigrant Girl, Sahraa Karimi weaves a screenplay around her own experiences in a new country. Through poems and notes in her diary, the protagonist depicts her innermost feelings as an immigrant. In Where Do I Belong, a film from Iran, Mahvash Sheikholeslami tells the story of Iranian girls married to Afghan men living in Iran and Afghanistan.
“I find women filmmakers from Afghanistan very avant-garde, extremely brave. The women from Iran certainly have better technical expertise and support but, as far as depicting the feelings, emotions and storytelling go, women filmmakers from Afghanistan are on a par. Both tell their stories from the heart,” says Marziyeh Riahi, Editor-in-Chief of Short Film News from Iran.
Oscar-winning Afghan director Sediq Barmak was all praise for the courage shown by Afghan women filmmakers who are pursuing their creative talents, despite threats from fundamentalist forces. “This was a landmark festival for women in Afghanistan and filmmakers in this country and I hope that the government comes forward to support this festival every year in Herat.”
The festival was the brainchild of Roya Sadat, Afghanistan’s leading woman director, who was born and schooled in Herat. She chose Herat as the venue because “in a place where women do not really come out of their homes, they have stepped out to watch our festival. Nothing could give me more pleasure and joy.”
Afghanistan’s film industry, which was virtually decimated during the Taliban years, has been struggling to find its feet in the last 10 years. Director of Afghan Films Ibrahim Arify, who was at the festival, remarked that the number of women in Afghan films has been climbing. “What they need is co-productions, scholarships and training programmes.”
Besides films from Afghanistan and Iran, the festival included films from India, Venezuela, Tajikistan, Japan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Turkey, France, Canada and Thailand.
As the curtains came down, the rich voices of Sufi singers and traditional Persian musical instruments filled the citadel square as hundreds of women, men and children enjoyed this cultural bonanza. The sounds of bomb blasts faded as Heratis once again relished this moment of deep freedom, even if momentarily, in the seat of culture in Afghanistan.
Watch ten brilliant films made by Afghans in a storytelling training conducted by Community Supported Film. Between March 13th and April 8th, NAMAC (The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture) and Community Supported Film will bring you the entire Fruit of Our Labor collecion FREE and IN FULL here! These films are poetic tributes to a country rebuilding itself, and serve as excellent teaching tools for educators in media production, cross-cultural communications, and international development.
Make sure you check out this video conversation with Jamal Aram from the filmmaking team in Afghanistan, CS Film Founder Michael Sheridan, and Helen de Michiel former director of NAMAC. They discuss sustainable approaches to community-based storytelling, the ethics and practicalities of multinational storytelling, and the curricular models and tools that go into produce such stunning, such moving films.
Exploring issues of documentary capacity building and public engagement through a media arts lens
Featuring Afghanistan-based filmmaker and former CSFilm Coordinator Jamal Aram, CSFilm founder and director Michael Sheridan, and moderator Helen De Michiel, filmmaker and former National Director of NAMAC. See full bios
Watch the conversation video, or listen to the mp3 audio.
Learn about Community Supported FIlm’s work to go beyond traditional notions of participatory media in its training of local storytellers in documentary filmmaking. This lively discussion covers sustainable approaches to community-based storytelling, the philosophy and practicalities of multinational storytelling, and the curricular models and tools that go into produce such stunning and moving films.
Read this article by NAMAC’s Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz based on an interview with Michael Sheridan
Jamal: …Back in 2010, after the fall of the Taliban, the media already started opening up. It took us almost ten years to get TV channels established here. People were interested to watch TV, but all the productions came from outside Afghanistan, like the Indian films and the American films, and the notion of the documentary was almost non-existent.
Michael: Documentary itself is so unknown. People don’t understand the idea that you actually don’t have a script and actors and actresses. At many of the screenings people referred to the [characters] as actors and actresses and sometimes challenged the filmmakers quite aggressively about ‘why would they tell these women to do these things’? ‘Isn’t that negative?’ ‘Why would you want to share these kinds of challenges…?’
Jamal: In the past when people talked about violence against women some people said, ‘you talk about violence against women throughout the country, but show me an example – one single example.’ And there was not a single example, because there were no mediums [with which to share] those cases. But right now with the media coming in, especially with filmmaking, documentary filmmaking and radio, the numbers of [acts of] violence against women are coming to the surface very dramatically. And sometimes it really scares us … But I think that’s a good thing because media and filmmaking is doing their job. They’re helping these stories to come to the surface and people should know about it and the law enforcement organizations should start really taking it seriously and act on it.
Role of CSFilm and The Fruit of Our Labor Films
Jamal: [CSFilm invited] people from across the county, from different provinces throughout the country, to come together. Because that is the idea: when they are trained they should go back to their communities and tell the untold stories, which we see some of them doing today.
Helen: [In The Fruit of Our Labor] we see patient observation of daily life, which we never get to see [otherwise] and we notice in these films that there’s these open endings – there’s not a pat little three act structure in each one of the films. And there’s also an invitation in each one of those films to the audience to talk more after the film, and to find out more…there seems to be minimal ego or filtration of the filmmaker’s point of view.
… [T]he piece where the women is going around in the village and trying to help people to understand why education is so important, that isn’t only storytelling but it’s story showing, showing a process of interrelationship and how people have to work very hard on a very granular level. And in that ten minutes, or however long that film is, we learn more than probably a million policy documents.
Jamal: Since we do not have role models, it’s inspiring for [Afghans] to see women, as in L is for Light, D is for Darkness, in a very traditional community setting, trying to educate people and trying to establish a school. … This is an inspiration both for the audience and the filmmakers to go out and find such stories and try to promote role models for Afghan women and men. I think that’s an amazing achievement for the film.
Zhara’s film, Hands of Health, talks about contraceptives. That is something that most people in a village just never heard of it. … These are very crucial issues that Afghans should know about, … and this already started a very good conversation inside Afghanistan which is a very huge achievement.
Ethnic diversity, gender and the training
Jamal: There should be something, some common ground, that different ethnicities could come together and sit around a table and really start discussing their feelings and what they think [about] all of these situations. That should be, you know, the ground for building this nation because – and unfortunately when I’m saying this, I’m a little ashamed of saying it – but we are so divided. And this being divided, it creates most of the problems that we are facing both in the economy, social issues and obviously the political issues.
Michael: The dominant subject that kept coming up in the evaluations was what an incredible multicultural experience it was for the trainees. I mean we had three ethnic groups in the same room… we all know what a horrifying history Afghanistan has with ethnic violence. But it’s not until you’re sitting in a room and you have a group of Pashtuns sitting there and then you have a group of Hazaras come in and the whole room goes dead silent and then there’s this very formal [process of] feeling each other out. Well you know that in and of itself was an amazing learning experience for me for about the purpose of the [training]. Well yes, there is this filmmaking agenda and sharing of stories in the west and the opening up of the documentary journalism opportunities within Afghanistan; but just having those ten people having to go out together from different ethnic groups, and having women and men mix and help each other [was so important].
Michael: I mean in many ways a number of these films would have been impossible if there wasn’t that mix. L is for Light, D is for Darkness was made by a man but it’s about a woman’s story. It goes into rooms where there are only women gathered. If Zahra Sadat hadn’t been one of the female trainees,… it couldn’t have happened. The male filmmakers couldn’t have gone into those rooms and filmed those scenes. Zahra had to go in and film those scenes and share in that process.
Afghans’ reaction to the films
Jamal: There were things in the films, like Death to the Camera, where they were talking about politicians. Some of the audience said it’s unacceptable because they are attacking the Jihadi leaders and it should be cut from the film. But I think that’s a good thing about these films. They bring people to really start talking, instead of attacking each other. Rather than fighting it’s engaging people to share their ideas whatever they are. … I think it’s very good to have this conversation going on both inside and outside the country.
How does CSFilm work?
Michael: [CSFilm] is trying to [help] people who are concerned about their own social economic development issues, and who want to use storytelling techniques to effectively share those stories … We were looking for people who were engaged in storytelling: it could be photography, it could be theater, it could be traditional poetry which is very dominant still in Afghanistan, but they had to have a storytelling background.
[We do] what we call back-to-basics, lived-reality documentary filmmaking, so it’s really oriented towards them getting the basic skills to visualize a story, how to do sound and how to tell a story. … One thing that we really emphasize in the training in terms of getting people very quickly to be able to produce very engaging stories, is to lead with the visual and follow with the talk.
We have to step back from the notion that we [Americans] can do it, that we can fix it, that we can solve Afghanistan’s problems in both our storytelling techniques and in our economic and social development assistance. Go to the local knowledge and the empowerment of that local capacity to tell the stories of what’s happening locally. Because there’s a lot of good work being done by Afghans. It’s not getting the attention that it really needs, and it needs long-term support.
Long-term impact on trainees
Michael: In terms of our evaluation of impact, from the local perspective, I look at the trainees and what they have gone on to do. Most of them have, or all of them have, either gotten employment or have gone on, in the important ways that I am interested in, to integrating visual storytelling into their work, whether as a press journalist or working for a rights organization, as one has gone on to do.
Jamal: [Regarding the trainees now], most of them or all of them are employed in TV or doing independent filmmaking, or some of them are thinking of doing some kind of training like they received at CSFilm in their provinces and enabling more people to do it.
Brought to you by: &
Jamal Aram, Filmmaker and Afghan Program Coordinator, Community Supported Film. Mr. Aram was born in Kabul and went to elementary and high school during the civil war and Taliban regime. During his career he has worked as a research assistant and translator at Afghan Public Policy Research Organization, with the Agha Khan Foundation and other development and microfinance institutions.
Michael Sheridan, Director and Founder of Community Supported Film – has worked in Afghanistan over the last 3 years to train and mentor Afghans in documentary filmmaking. The focus of the stories and the collection of short films produced, The Fruit of Our Labor, is on local economic and social development issues. Moderated by:
Helen De Michiel, director, writer and producer whose current project, Lunch Love Community, is a multiplatform documentary that explores food system reform by Berkeley parents. From 1996 – 2010 Helen was the National Director and Co-Director for NAMAC, The National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture.
Thursday March 7th, 2013 at 7:30 PM Creative Alliance at The Patterson 3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224
$12 general admission, $7 members and students. Information tables and craft market begins at 7pm.
Victory to Change is a documentary by Baltimore-based filmmaker Gregory Walsh. It follows two remarkable female Indian activists as they fight for the most marginalized members of society. Community Supported Film, an organization that trains storytellers from developing countries as filmmakers, presents three shorts by Afghans. Art of Solidarity, MICA in Nicaragua, presents The Mothers of Martyrs, a documentary that revisits the Nicaraguan Revolution 30 years later by interviewing mothers who survived. They reflect on the tragedies of war with the goal of passing on their stories to a new generation and advocating for world peace.
Panel discussion will follow, with Elizabeth Alex from Casa Maryland, Aida Pinto-Baquero from Patterson Park Public Charter School’s Mis Raices, Sawsan Al-Sayyab of International Rescue Committee, and members of the Baltimore Women’s Forum – a monthly dialogue group of refugee women, including Mary Kinyoli of Kenya, and Nidaa Haseeb of Iraq.
Watch a recorded video conversation with Afghan Civil Society Activists here.
Afghanistan is like a cancer patient that accidentally survived, with too many doctors giving everything they can rather than listening to what this patient wants, and allowing it to walk on its own. – Hassina Sherjan
We are living in a new era… If you look at the number of youth – the ambitions and the progressive spirit that not only the youth, but a bigger proportion of society has – it’s incredible. – Najib Sharifi
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Watch the live conference call with Afghan Civil Society activists (see bios below) to learn more about the current situation in Afghanistan. With upcoming milestones such as the removal of NATO/US forces and presidential elections to replace Hamid Karzai after 10 years of rule, it is an opportune time to have a discussion about the positive role U.S. civil society can play at this crucial junction in history.
The way the war in Afghanistan ends for the United States may be very different than the way it ends – or doesn’t end – for the people of Afghanistan. In the US, the discussion is often framed through military strategy, and rarely includes Afghan perspectives. How will Afghans cope with the upcoming transitions, such as the removal of NATO forces and the Afghan Presidential elections in 2014, and what is an appropriate and responsible role for the US?
Bios of Participants in Kabul, Afghanistan:
Sayed Ikram Afzali is the co-founder and president of Youth in Action Association – a non-profit youth-led organization dedicated to enhancing peace and sustainable development in Afghanistan. He has been a youth advocate and development professional for the past decade focusing on peace building and anti-corruption issues. With an aim to help rebuild Afghanistan, Afzali returned to Afghanistan after 20 years of refugee life in Pakistan. Affected by years of conflict in the region, he has been a strong believer in bringing about peace through youth using non-violent approaches – such as using sport as a vehicle for peacebuilding. Sayed has also worked with the United Nations and other national organizations for more than seven years in the area of democratic governance with a focus on civil society and anti-corruption. He is currently Head of Advocacy and Communication at Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA)
Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) was established as an independent civil society organization in 2006. IWA’s mission is to put corruption under the spotlight by increasing transparency, integrity, and accountability in Afghanistan through the provision of policy-oriented research, the development of training tools, and through facilitation of policy dialogue.
Hassina Serjan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Aid Afghanistan for Education and the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Boumi Company – an internationally recognized women-owned home accessory business. Hassina co-authored the book Toughing It Out in Afghanistan, and has published numerous op-eds in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, USA Today, and more. She received a Master’s of Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School and has an Honorary Doctorate of Law degree from Queen’s University in Canada.
Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE) is dedicated to empowering Afghans and rehabilitating the education system in Afghanistan, and provides primary and secondary education for marginalized Afghans. Boumi – Farsi for “indigenous” – manufactures Afghan-made products with raw materials produced in Afghanistan, supplying high-end products to the global marketplace.
Najib Sharifi is the Founder and Director of Afghanistan New Generation Organization. Najib is a medical doctor by training, but over the past ten years he has worked for some of the leading news organizations around the world including the New York Times, BBC, CNN, National Public Radio and the Washington Post. He has researched for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit and Human Rights Watch. In addition, he served as senior political officer for the Office of the Special Representative of the EU for Afghanistan. In 2009, Najib won a Humphrey/Fulbright scholarship and studied public policy and leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park. Najib’s analysis and opinion pieces have appeared on various Western media outlets including South Asia Global Affairs and the foreign policy magazine. He is a frequent commentator of issues of domestic Afghan politics and foreign policy of the Western countries towards Afghanistan on Afghan and international media.
Afghanistan New Generation Organization is a non-profit youth empowerment organization with aims to empower the youth to become competent community advocates by providing training in such areas as public speaking, media literacy, and use of information technology among others.
Michael Sheridan, Director and Founder of Community Supported Film, is a filmmaker, educator and activist. For nearly 20 years Michael has engaged the public in stories from Asia, Africa and the Americas about people in poor and developing communities challenging the status quo and struggling to improve their lives. Michael co-founded Oxfam America’s documentary production unit and has sought to break new ground in the effective use of media to educate and change policy. He has taught documentary filmmaking for 15 years at the community and university level, extensively in the United States and Afghanistan, and as a Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia.
Community Supported Film strengthens the documentary filmmaking capacity in crisis and post-crisis communities where the dissemination of objective and accurate information is essential. Local women and men are trained to produce stories on their community’s socioeconomic issues, and the resulting films are screened in audience engagement campaigns. Michael founded Community Supported Film in 2010 with a pilot program in Afghanistan that resulted in the production of 10 Afghan-made films, The Fruit or Our Labor. Michael also runs his filmmaking company SheridanWorks.
Peter Lems is the Program Director of education and advocacy for Iraq and Afghanistan at the American Friends Service Committee. He is also the co-coordinator of the Wage Peace campaign, a program initiative that seeks to wage peace with the same determination and energy that nations wage war.
The American Friends Service Committee carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, AFSC’s work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures.
The Good Men Project writes, “Stylistically, the documentary reminded me of 12 Angry Men in that the narrative thrust is carried not by scene changes but by what can result from a lack of them: a laser-like focus into a situation and the jagged edges of multiple minds trying to resolve something together. In this case, Death to the Camera shows Afghan women on a work site…” Read the rest of the article and watch the film here.
The Good Men Project is a diverse, multi-faceted media company and an idea-based social platform, fostering a national discussion centered around modern manhood. They write about fatherhood, family, sex, ethics, war, gender, politics, sports, pornography, and aging. Their content reflects the multidimensionality of men, searching far and wide for new stories and new voices from “the front lines of modern manhood,” without moralizing and without caricaturizing their audience.
On Nov. 13 CSFilm attended Northeastern University’s B.I.G. Venture Fair, a pilot program sponsored by Northeastern’s Career Services and the Center for Research Innovation for the university’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. CSFilm joined other start-up and growth oriented companies, both for and non-profit, at the B.I.G. (Business, Innovation, Growth) Fair to talk to members of the Northeastern community and to discuss opportunities for potential internships and co-op positions for the spring and summer semesters.
It was a great event for CSFilm, where we met people not only interested in working with us, but who were genuinely interested in our mission and spreading social change through documentary filmmaking.