“Broadening the Discussion about Immigration,” Michael Sheridan for The Blue Mountain Center on CSFilm and NIRV

Broadening the Discussion about Immigration

In 2010, I founded Community Supported Film (CSFilm) in Boston with a mission to provide intensive training in documentary filmmaking to storytellers and activists in under- or mis-represented communities. After completing projects in Afghanistan and Haiti, we turned our attention to immigrants and refugees living in the U.S.

New Immigrant & Refugee Visions (NIRV), the third major project of Community Supported Film

Over the past 20 years, filmmaker, educator and activist Michael Sheridan has engaged the public in stories about people in poor and developing communities in Asia, Africa and the Americas who are challenging the status quo and struggling to improve their lives. In 1996 he co-founded Oxfam America’s documentary production and since then has worked to break new ground in the effective use of media to educate and change policy. While training dozens of men and women through CSFilm, he has taught documentary filmmaking for 15 years on university faculties and served as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia from 2007-2008.
“I was at BMC during the ‘Cost of War’ focused residency,” he expalins, “and it was really a great time to get feedback on the work that CSFilm was doing as well as to learn a great deal about other organizations and individuals concerned about similar issues.”

(CSFilm), seeks to empower immigrants-turned-filmmakers to tell their own stories, ones which are often overlooked by mainstream media. In counterpoint to the national conversation about building walls, enacting a travel ban, and repealing DACA legislation, the NIRV trainees are producing stories that focus on the integration challenges faced by immigrants and the contributions they make to our culture, economy and social fabric.

Photo by Christine Arveil

The current NIRV trainees were chosen based on their experience with storytelling (in genres spanning from theater to print journalism); a demonstrated interest in social, economic and cultural development issues; and their plans for how they will use the skills learned to benefit their community and/or professional growth.

The ten trainees participating in the current NIRV project are:

Abdirahman Abdi (Somalia)

Braulio Tellez Vilches (Cuba)

Kebrowsen “Kiki” Densamo (Ethiopia)

Sayed Hashimi (Afghanistan)

Katsyris Rivera Kientz (Puerto Rico)

Qin Li (China)

Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba (Uganda)

Wilson Thelimo Louis (Haiti)

Rafael DeLeon (Dominican Republic)

Mohammad Arifuzzuman (Bangladesh)

Photo by Christine Arveil

Boston-based immigrant and refugee support organizations including the International Institute of New England, the New American Center, and Women Encouraging Empowerment collaborated with CSFilm on outreach and trainee education.

The 188-hour training and production process began July 29, 2017 and concluded in  November after having covered all aspects of documentary filmmaking—from the technicalities of capturing compelling video and sound to writing a treatment. In addition to the time spent in the training, participants are expected to scout locations, coordinate logistics, and shoot their films using professional cameras and equipment provided by CSFilm. The trainees receive significant support from CSFilm editors who help each emerging filmmaker realize their vision and create a powerful final film.

The ten films include stories about:

The Fiins, a Somali family struggling with inter-generational tensions around adapting to American culture;

The Ranas, Indian immigrants whose daughter is campaigning to be elected as the first woman of color on the city council of Revere, Massachusetts; and

Annabelle, an undocumented woman from the Dominican Republic, who faces deportation (if DACA legislation is not renewed) to a country she has not set foot in since she was four years old.

CSFilm is now approaching the final phase of the project when the ten short films will be screened across the U.S., starting late January 2018, with the objective of informing public opinion and influencing decision-makers. The organization is seeking venues in the greater Boston area and nationwide to screen some or all of the films created by the NIRV filmmakers.

The goal is to use these events to inspire conversation, enhance understanding of the immigrant experience, and motivate action to advance social justice and conflict resolution. The BMC community is invited to contact Sarah Chapple-Sokol (, CSFilm’s Public Engagement Coordinator, with invitations to host a NIRV screening, to request more information, or to make a contribution in support of the project.


NPR-WBUR Radio Broadcast on NIRV Training and Production

To Bridge Language Barrier Between Immigrant Generations, This Somali-American Is Making A Film

by Maria Garcia, November 21, 2017, for WBUR, The Artery

In a church basement in Roxbury, a group of immigrants discuss the documentaries they’re learning how to film. Guiding them are volunteers with the nonprofit Community Supported Film.

“It’s incredible to be in a room with 10 people from 10 different cultures, 10 different countries, different religions, different perspectives — in terms of our outlook on the immigrant experience,” says filmmaker Michael Sheridan, who leads the nonprofit.

For two decades, Sheridan has worked with global NGOs to produce films highlighting issues of poverty and economic development in places like Afghanistan, Haiti and Bangladesh. He says he’s realized a message is often more powerful if people tell their own stories.

“I became really interested in this issue of the sourcing of stories and who determines what stories are told and who tells them,” Sheridan says.

“I became really interested in this issue of the sourcing of stories and who determines what stories are told and who tells them.”

 –Michael Sheridan

That’s why Sheridan started Community Supported Film, which provides 10 immigrants with intensive documentary filmmaking training. The program provides a 150-hour course on producing documentaries, complete with story development and editorial guidance. The result of the program will be 10 short films that will be screened across the U.S. at community halls, nonprofits and potentially some movie theaters.

“In counterpoint to the national conversation about building walls, enacting a travel ban and repealing DACA legislation, the trainees are producing stories that focus on the integration challenges faced by immigrants and the contributions they make to our culture, economy and social fabric,” says Sheridan.

The immigrants in this cohort include men and women from Cuba, Ethiopia, Uganda, China and the Dominican Republic. One of the trainees is 25-year-old Abdirahman Abdi, who emigrated from Somalia a decade ago.

“I didn’t know the culture. I didn’t know the language,” he remembers. “So [I went to] high school [as a] freshman with my very Muslim traditional clothes and it was very like, you know, ‘What is going on here?’ A lot of people were looking at me sideways like ‘What are you doing?’ “

The film Abdi is making explores the chasm between Somali immigrants who hold on to their language and their children who assimilate. It’s a phenomenon Abdi sees in himself and his two younger brothers, who are losing their native language little by little, and their mother, who speaks only Somali.

“How do you really take advice from your mother? How do you take advice from your father when you really cannot understand them?” Abdi asks.

At her home in Roxbury, Abdi’s mother, Xaawa, uses food to keep Somali traditions alive. Abdi’s younger brother Abdurashin says she’s tried to do the same thing with the Somali language.

“When I’d come home, my mom would tell me, ‘Speak Somali’ because she didn’t want me to forget my native tongue,” he says.

“How do you really take advice from your mother? How do you take advice from your father when you really cannot understand them?”

 –Abdirahman Abdi

Abdi and Abdurashid speak Somali to Xaawa but their Somali is halting compared to their mother’s, which is quick and fluid. Abdi says he and his brothers can’t get beyond the basics of conversation with their mother. They speak a mashup of Somali and English to Xaawa, but sometimes stuff just gets lost.

Immigrants, as a group, are not monolithic — but there are connecting threads. I know from my own experience with my Spanish-speaking immigrant mother how difficult it is to communicate with the same nuance, with which I do in English.

“Somali parents and children cannot have a meaningful conversation because the language difference. They have a little dialogue, like, ‘Hey mom, how are you doing?’ but when it comes to sitting down and talking for more than an hour — that never happens,” says Abdi.

Abdi may not be able to communicate with his mom with all the subtlety he can in English. But he’s hoping that by making a film, he can communicate all of the nuance of their relationship.


BNN Community TV airing excerpts of Haitian-made films

Tele Kreyol, the Haitian news and discussion program on Boston Neighborhood Network, is airing a special to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. The program will include excerpts from the Haitian-made films Owning Our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film.  The films were made during CSFilm’s training and production project with Haitian storytellers in 2014.

The program is in Kreyol.  BNN, January 10, 8:30-9:30pm,  Comcast 23 | RCN83


Haitian media partner highlights Owning Our Future, Kreole


 Haitian Alternative Information Network

Haïti/Reconstruction post-séisme : Des efforts de relèvement, exposés dans des mini-films documentaires Medialternatif, originalPar Edner Fils Décime

P-au-P, 28 mars 2016 [AlterPresse] — Vient de paraître une collection de dix courts documentaires, baptisée « owning our future / Posséder notre avenir », dont a pris connaissance l’agence en ligne AlterPresse.

Cette collection de 10 courts documentaires retrace des histoires d’efforts, accomplis pour se prendre en main, malgré la précarité et les conditions de vie qui ont empiré après le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier 2010.

L’un des objectifs poursuivis est de vivre l’espoir de lendemains meilleurs, construits avec les propres mains d’habitantes et d’habitants dans le présent.

« Owning our future » donne donc à voir des perspectives haïtiennes en images.

En « se concentrant sur les défis de développement économique et social, auxquels sont confrontés les Haïtiennes et Haïtiens », cette collection entend [nourrir] « la compréhension d’une Haïti, qui va au-delà de ses catastrophes artificielles et naturelles », indique, sans ambages, la pochette de la collection.

Produits par Community supported film (Csf), en association avec le Groupe Médialternatif, ces mini-films de moins de dix minutes offrent l’opportunité « unique » de découvrir différentes facettes de la vie haïtienne, à travers des images et paroles de vendeurs de rues, de membres d’organisations de développement, d’artistes, de personnes en situation de handicap, de fermiers, etc.

Les 3 réalisatrices et 7 réalisateurs de ces mini-films sont des Haïtiennes et Haïtiens ayant suivi, fin 2014, une formation intensive de 5 semaines sur le cinéma documentaire à Port-au-Prince, sous la houlette des institutions productrices de la collection.

Chèmèt, Chèmètrès est l’histoire de la reconstruction durable des maisons des habitantes et habitants, dans une zone rurale de Gressier (à moins d’une trentaine de km, au sud de la capitale, Port-au-Prince), par la pratique du système de solidarité haïtienne, dénommé Konbit.

Le mini-film montre également comment, en plaçant les actrices/acteurs-bénéficiaires au cœur des activités, le coût des constructions est nettement moindre.

Tourné autour d’une personne non-voyante, Bouske Lavi met en lumière une personne, souffrant de handicap, mais qui se démarque, comme véritable leader, pour encourager les autres personnes dans la même situation à se construire en toute autonomie.

Transformer les décombres du tremblement de terre en objets d’art, puiser les matières premières de son art dans ce qui reste debout des édifices de la Grand’Rue (boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines) de Port-au-Prince est le fil conducteur de Soti nan dekonm.

Le travail des « artistes de la résistance » trouve ici une mise en spotlight.

Chanje vitès fait vivre l’histoire d’une femme, mère de famille, qui fait tomber les stéréotypes, en pratiquant le métier de mécanicienne à côté de son mari. Elle démontre combien le métier de mécanicienne n’a rien d’insolite.

Une femme entrepreneure haïtienne, affectée – au triple point de vue physique, psychologique et économique – dans le violent tremblement de terre du 12 janvier 2010, a su trouver l’énergie, en elle, pour restaurer la fierté familiale, par la mise en place d’une entreprise de décoration intérieure.

Son histoire est évocatrice. C’est File Zegwi.

On retrouve d’autres histoires, issues des perspectives locales, dans lesquelles les actrices et les acteurs se prennent en main pour maîtriser leur avenir.

Les exemples sont parlants : qu’il s’agisse d’une production, pour renforcer les capacités de sa communauté Pwodiksyon lèt pou yon kominote djanm, de la transmission de connaissances aux générations à venir, pour ne pas perdre l’illustre pratique artisanale du fer découpé dans fòme jenerasyon k ap vini an (former la génération future), ou de cette ode aux parents, vendeurs de rue, vendeurs de rien, qui investissent dans l’avenir de leur progéniture envesti nan timoun (investir dans les enfants).

Geto pwòp, Geto vèt met en lumière des pratiques positives, dans les quartiers populaires, généralement présentés sous un jour « de crasse, de pauvreté et de criminalité ».

L’adaptation du konbit (tradition rurale), au contexte urbain, crée des jardins urbains, travaillés par des voisines et voisins dans une sorte de vivre ensemble.

Le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier 2010 a pour corollaire d’autres séismes dans plusieurs branches économiques de la vie nationale, notamment dans les petits métiers.

Dezas pèpè a fait vivre le drame d’un vieux cordonnier, qui résiste, pour garder le métier et faire vivre sa famille.

Faut-il rappeler que le tremblement de terre du 12 janvier 2010 a occasionné la mort de près de 300 mille personnes et autant de blessés, sans compter des dégâts matériels considérables. [efd emb rc apr 28/03/2016 14:40]


Review of Owning our Future: Haitian Perspectives in Film at JP Forum

JP Forum

Jamaica Plain Forum Haitian Perspectives in Film

By Hero Ashman

The US premier of Haitian Perspectives In Film took place at this week’s Jamaica Plain Forum. Six short documentaries made by six newly trained Haitian filmmakers were screened to an audience of more than 100 people. The screening was led by a local organization called Community Supported Film, which had run a five week intensive training course in Haiti in 2014 for Haitian storytellers. The aim of the project was to counteract the singular narrative of Haiti as a country permanently damaged by the 2010 earthquake, and to lift up local voices as they share their important stories. What struck me most about the movies was the capacity and creativity evident in the Haitians’ work – both those making the documentaries and those starring in them.

The dominant portrayal of people within disaster or war torn nations, especially those recovering from wars and natural disasters, is that they are in constant need of outside help. While it is important for an international community to offer help and assistance to countries in need, by purporting a narrative of foreigners coming in to help ‘re-build’, ‘re-construct’ and ‘re-develop’ we ignore the work that is already being done by Haitians, in Haiti, for other Haitians.

One documentary, created by Bichara Villason, filmed a group of construction workers re-building houses for people whose homes had been damaged by the quake. The project manager explained the communal process of identifying who to build for, constructing permanent (rather than temporary) houses and taking the steps to ensure people’s homes were protected by law. The title of this piece was “Owned or Occupied.” The ownership the community had over their work was contrasted with the work done by occupying NGOs: arriving from abroad, building temporary shelter and leaving. This type of work is not covered by mainstream media outside of Haiti because it doesn’t fit with the narrative of helplessness that accompanies many post-earthquake news reports.

For me, the documentaries clearly captured the connection between work and identity. This was demonstrated in the documentary “Threading the Needle”, which told the story of a woman who had started a curtain making business in order to provide for her family. Her work not only brought her a livelihood, but also the ability to reach out to other women in her community by teaching them sewing and business skills. The documentary successfully conveyed the feeling spoken by the woman, that hard work was needed and willingly given to get the country back on its feet. The importance of work was established for individual, community and national identity.

The documentaries were successful in expanding many stories we have of the world: the story of disaster relief, the story of community resilience, the story of who gets to tell the story.  They illustrated brilliantly that there is a huge diversity of work that people do. A community organizer, who was interviewed in the documentary “Ghetto Clean, Ghetto Green,” related the work him and his community were doing to improve life for children in his neighborhood with the Haitian system of Kombit. Kombit refers to a system of collective work undertaken to achieve a common goal; it is based on sharing rather than selling. It is clear that the work done by the Haitian filmmakers and the Haitians in the documentaries was not done merely to earn a living. The work they did utilized their energy, created change and brought them a livelihood based on more than having shelter and food, but included shaping and upholding a community identity.

I think it would benefit us all to remember that work within the home, volunteer work in communities, work with purposes other than profit, is not only crucial to our economy but it is constructive of the creative, generous and productive people we are. The documentaries really brought this point home to me.

You can pre-order the DVD of Haitian Perspectives In Film at CSFilm’s website and explore the site for more information on the films.


Press Coverage: “Handing Over the Camera”

Connecticut College Magazine, By Josh Anusewicz, Fall 2014

A full PDF version of the original Connecticut College Magazine article can be found here.


Since being struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, the Caribbean nation of Haiti has been portrayed by the domestic media as a land of struggle and poverty, where help from the outside is the Haitian people’s only hope.But documentary filmmaker Michael Sheridan ’89 knows there is another story. Haitians are starting their own initiatives to recover, and Sheridan wants them to tell their stories in their own unique way. To do that, he is turning the typical documentary style on its head.Sheridan, the founder and director of Community Supported Film (CSFilm), is training Haitian storytellers in the production of 10 short films that will focus on the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges Haiti has faced since the earthquake.

Handing Over the Camera quote

“We want to bring the Haitian perspective into the conversation about these humanitarian issues,” he says. The project will bring together CSFilm, Haitian media organizations, and Haitian and international NGOs, and the finished product is expected to be broadcast by Haitian and international outlets.

Sheridan founded CSFilm in 2010 and completed a similar film project in Afghanistan that same year. “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film” was awarded

 the $10,000 Promotions Prize at the International Short Film Festival in Switzerland and has been discussed in forums across the United States, from town halls to the halls of Congress.

Sheridan says he came up with the idea for CSFilm to fuse his interests in teaching and filmmaking, while also helping local people take control of the stories being told about their economic and social development challenges. “I realized that if we really wanted to understand the plight of others or help them, we needed to understand the problems and solutions from their perspectives,” he says.

His passion for advocacy was developed during his college years — or, perhaps more accurately, between college years. Having grown up working in the theater, Sheridan took a sabbatical from college after his junior year to embark on a two-year independent study of the theater of other cultures. The two-year trip turned into a seven-year journey through Europe, during which he found himself deeply immersed in social and political movements.

After returning to Connecticut College to complete his senior year in 1989, Sheridan took a job at the international development organization Oxfam America in Boston. It was there that he partnered with a colleague on a documentary about poverty in Guatemala and began to focus on filmmaking. His work has appeared on PBS, ABC, TLC and Discovery Channel.

In 2013, Sheridan took part in TEDxConnecticutCollege, where he discussed media consumption and its impact on how we see situations faced by others. “We all have to demand an improvement in our news diet — a balanced diet that is less self-centered, that includes local perspectives, and would help us be better informed,” Sheridan told students.



Boston Globe Article: Haitians telling the story of Haiti

Haitians telling the story of Haiti

by Loren King , June 7, 2014

Multimedia journalist Ralph Thomassaint Joseph (second from left) will assist with local training of young Haitian filmmakers as Community Supported Film’s Haiti project coordinator.

As the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Square” proved, it’s the people with a stake in political and social upheaval who can most effectively tell their own stories. Boston documentary filmmaker Michael Sheridan believes that, too, which is why in 2010 he founded Community Supported Film to train grass-roots documentary filmmakers across the globe.

CSF’s first effort was the “Afghan Project,” resulting in 10 short films that were compiled into “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film.” It was shown to political leaders, students, and communities across the United States and in Afghanistan.

Now, Sheridan and CSF have launched “Haitian Perspectives in Film,”which will train and mentor 10 Haitian directors who hope to influence the way their country is portrayed in documentaries.

Sheridan, a Boston native who cofounded Oxfam America’s documentary production unit in the 1990s and who has taught documentary filmmaking at Northeastern University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the former Boston Film and Video Foundation, says he’s been “frustrated by the tenor of the conversation” in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Aware that January 2015 will be the fifth anniversary and anticipating intense media coverage, he wants Haitians to be able to present films that offer their own perspective “from the inside,” he says.

CSF has partnered with award-winning Haitian journalist Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, who will oversee local training of young filmmakers who will produce 10 short films. These films will focus on the economic and social development challenges Haitians have faced since the 2010 earthquake, says Sheridan, who recently returned from a trip to Haiti and plans to go back in the fall.

For more information about CSF projects, go to


Non-Profit Press: Community Supported Film Launches Haitian Perspectives in Film

Community Supported Film Launches Haitian Perspectives in Film

Training of Haitians in the production of documentary films to emphasize local experience with the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges faced since the 2010 earthquake

Boston, MA and Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Community Supported Film (CSFilm) announces the launch of its documentary training and filmmaking project – Haitian Perspectives in Film. Using CSFilm’s proven capacity building program, Haitian storytellers will be trained in the production of 10 short films. The films will focus on the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges Haitians have faced since the 2010 earthquake. This project will be a partnership between Community Supported Film, Haitian community media organizations, and Haitian and international NGOs. The Haitian-made short films will be released as a compilation in time for the 5th anniversary of the earthquake in January 2015.

According to award winning Haitian journalist, and CSFilm’s Haitian program coordinator, Ralph Thomassaint Joseph,

“Most of the reporting in Haiti is done by Western journalists, and often about issues pertaining to natural disasters, to poverty. They show the sad face of Haiti. It does not seem to fit their narrative to show the other side of the coin, that there are so many amazing initiatives that are undertaken by Haitians themselves. There are very interesting Haitian entrepreneurs. And of course, there are people in grassroots organizations that are trying to defend the rights of the most vulnerable here in Haiti.”

Aural and visual storytelling is dominant in Haiti where the illiteracy rate is at 47%. Thomassaint says,

“Because Haiti has a high rate of illiteracy, you can bring a lot of information to people through media, radio, and images. We can use this media to educate people so that they take responsibility for the condition of Haiti. My role as a journalist and my duty as a Haitian is to try and organize people via the media so they can be part of the decision-making process to solve our problems.”

View the full article on the NonProfit Press’ website!


Haitian Perspectives in Film: Press Release

CSFilm Press Release

Press Release: June 2014
Contact: Michael Sheridan, Director of Community Supported Film  +1-617-834-7206

Community Supported Film Launches Haitian Perspectives in Film

Training of Haitians in the production of documentary films to emphasize local experience with the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges faced since the 2010 earthquake

Boston, MA and Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Community Supported Film (CSFilm) announces the launch of its documentary training and filmmaking project – Haitian Perspectives in Film. Using CSFilm’s proven capacity building program, Haitian storytellers will be trained in the production of 10 short films. The films will focus on the causes of and solutions to the economic and social development challenges Haitians have faced since the 2010 earthquake. This project will be a partnership between Community Supported Film, Haitian community media organizations, and Haitian and international NGOs. The Haitian-made short films will be released as a compilation in time for the 5th anniversary of the earthquake in January 2015.

According to award winning Haitian journalist, and CSFilm’s Haitian program coordinator, Ralph Thomassaint Joseph,

“Most of the reporting in Haiti is done by Western journalists, and often about issues pertaining to natural disasters, to poverty. They show the sad face of Haiti. It does not seem to fit their narrative to show the other side of the coin, that there are so many amazing initiatives that are undertaken by Haitians themselves. There are very interesting Haitian entrepreneurs. And of course, there are people in grassroots organizations that are trying to defend the rights of the most vulnerable here in Haiti.”

Aural and visual storytelling is dominant in Haiti where the illiteracy rate is at 47%. Thomassaint says,

“Because Haiti has a high rate of illiteracy, you can bring a lot of information to people through media, radio, and images. We can use this media to educate people so that they take responsibility for the condition of Haiti. My role as a journalist and my duty as a Haitian is to try and organize people via the media so they can be part of the decision-making process to solve our problems.”

Michael Sheridan, director of Community Supported Film, who returned this week from a 10-day project development trip to Haiti found that:

“There is a growing media sector in Haiti and many Haitians, young people especially, are motivated to use media as a tool for holding their government and the international community accountable to good governance and effective aid. I think most would agree, however, that a lot of critical work remains to strengthen the video-journalism sector.”

Sheridan witnessed during his visit that the media and television industry is booming in Haiti but little programming time is given to documentary filmmaking and the public issue reporting that is essential for a healthy democracy and economy. The reporting that Haitians do experience about Haiti is mostly produced by international media and typically focuses on foreign aid and foreign interests.

Haitian Perspectives in Film will be distributed through local and international broadcasters and NGOs to engage people in dialogue and action. Broadcasts, press coverage, and the outreach capacity of the NGO collaborators will be used to expand the public’s knowledge of effective aid and disaster response.
The screening and dialogue strategy will expand on the model piloted during CSFilm’s Afghan project. The Afghan-made films were the centerpiece of congressional briefings in collaboration with organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee and were shown to legislators, congressional committees, and government departments. The films were used to stimulate dialogue at venues including the US Institute of Peace, the World Bank and the Asia Society and at 148 community and university screening across the United States and in Afghanistan.

Community Supported Film launches a fundraising campaign on May 29th to raise funds for Haitian Perspectives in Film. Go to to learn more about this project and the fundraising campaign. The funding will support both the documentary and video-journalism capacity building program and the distribution of the Haitian made films.

About Community Supported Film
CSFilm’s mission is to amplify local perspectives through documentary filmmaking. We believe that those affected by poverty and conflicts are the ones best positioned to report on their community’s issues. The high quality documentary films that our in-situ trainees and collaborators produce provide essential insights into equitable development and effective governance for concerned citizens locally and internationally.

CSFilm was founded in 2010 when it completed an intensive 5-week training program with 10 Afghans in documentary production. Out of the training came 10 character-driven, lived-reality short films collected in an award winning compilation called The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film. These stories bring to life Afghan’s efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions and provide a fresh perspective on the needs and issues of Afghans beyond the relentless battlefront coverage of western media. The films can be viewed at

CSFilm’s work in Afghanistan was awarded the $10,000USD Promotions Prize at the International Short Film Festival, Winterthur, Switzerland and was an official selection at Hot Docs, Toronto, Canada, and at dozens of other film festivals. Learn more about CSFilm at

Haitian Perspectives in Film is the second of CSFilm’s local-perspectives filmmaking projects, a model they are developing into a Local Voices Network, a go to source for local storytelling on human development. Read more here.

Haitian Perspectives in Film Fundraising Campaign
CSFilm is asking for a minimum of $27,750, to contribute to the development and implementation of the Haitian filmmaking training and the initial distribution of the films.
To read more about the project, and learn about the different ways to donate visit our website at

Michael Sheridan, Founder and Director of Community Supported Film
Michael Sheridan is a filmmaker and educator whose documentary films address issues of social and economic development and the tipping point between order and chaos. For nearly 20 years Michael has engaged the public in stories from Asia, Africa, and the Americas about people in vulnerable and developing communities challenging the status quo and struggling to improve their lives.

Michael co-founded Oxfam America’s documentary production unit in the mid 90s and has sought to break new ground in the effective use of media to educate and impact poverty-reduction policy. Subsequently he started his own production and public engagement company, SheridanWorks, which worked on media campaigns for Save the Children-UK, Bread the World, Pact, and many other national and international organizations.

Michael’s documentaries have aired on PBS, ABC, TLC, and Discovery. The National Education Media Network, the Columbia International Film and Video Festival, the United Nations Association Film Festival, and EarthVision have all screened and awarded his films.

Michael has taught documentary and experimental filmmaking for 15 years at the community and university level including at Northeastern, MassArt, and the former Boston Film and Video Foundation. He teaches seminars on using video for education and advocacy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Michael has an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art. During the 2007-08 academic year he was as Senior Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia.

Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, Haitian Program Coordinator for Community Supported Film
Ralph Thomassaint Joseph is a multimedia journalist based in Haiti. Prior to the Haitian earthquake in January of 2010, Ralph worked for Enfòmasyon Nou Dwe Konnen (ENDK), a daily radio program launched by Internews, a non-profit that provides a platform for local news to be distributed globally. After the earthquake in Haiti, Joseph’s work was distributed to nearly 40 radio stations to keep locals up to date on the conditions in Haiti. In addition, he was part of nearly 600 news shows, which ended up serving as training tools for young and aspiring Haitian journalists. Joseph is the winner of the 2014 Prix Philippe Chaffanjon award for multimedia reporting in Paris, France.

Materials: Pictures and video are available from Michael Sheridan’s recent trip to Haiti as well as from the films and training from CSFilm’s first project in Afghanistan.

Interviews: Michael Sheridan, Director and Founder of Community Supported Film, and Ralph Thomassaint Joseph, Haiti Program Coordinator, are available for interviews.


CSFilm Press Release


ACME Journal Review of The Fruit of Our Labor

The Anthropology of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia, or ACME Journal reviewed CSFilm’s The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film in their last issue. Below you can read an excerpt from the review:


coverissue2Rather than being a single, comprehensive film, this production comprises ten separate short documentaries, each filmed by a different Afghani trained by Community Supported Film. They range in length from 6 to 20 minutes and focus on Afghani citizens going about their everyday affairs. They ‘bring to life Afghans’ efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions’, in the words of an accompanying brochure. These slice-of-life vignettes accomplish this goal and give some insight into the problems facing poor and working class Afghanis as they go about their daily routines. Most of the subjects are women, although six of the filmmakers are men. The subject of the war rarely comes up, but it is still a presence in several of the pieces.

‘L’ is for Light, ‘D’ is for Darkness (dir. Hasibullah Asmati, ed. Hamed Alizada, 12 mns) tracks a female teacher in a remote village as she goes house to house trying to persuade villagers to send their daughters to a newly established school in the wake of the Taliban’s departure. She wears a burqa that she takes off at some houses and at others leaves in place. She is welcomed at most houses, at others she is given excuses (‘her brother will not allow her to go to school’) and at one there is no answer at all to her persistent knocking. The local mulla supports the school, but has no power to compel the girls to attend. A final scene shows the school operating in a damaged building with no roof. Searching for a Path (dir. Reza Sahel, ed. Rahmatullah Jafari, 13 mns) focuses on a pushcart vendor in Kabul. A young man who peddles bananas from a wheelbarrow narrates this piece, explaining how he had tried other jobs, but could not make enough money. As he wheels his car through the streets of Kabul he talks about harassment by the police, his wedding debts, his hopes for his children (that they become doctors), and his aspiration to open a small shop. It is a hard life, but the vendor speaks without bitterness, just a sense of hope for something better.

In another remote village, pregnant women have to make a long trip to Kabul for maternity consultations because there is no local maternity clinic. Hands of Health (dir. Zahra Sadat, ed. Jawed Taiman,14 mns) has scenes of women baking bread, men constructing a stone wall and picking fruit, all the while talking about women’s health and the number of children a family should have. They also lament the fact that there are no local medical facilities, but even after the villagers have built a small clinic, the national government has not staffed or equipped it, leaving the women no better off than before.

Heroin addiction is a serious problem in Afghanistan. In The Road Above (dir. Aqeela Rezai, ed. Jawed Taiman, 6 mns) a woman named Mona is shown doing heavy manual labor (puddling concrete, shoveling gravel etc. for the construction of a road). Her husband is an addict and she has not seen him for months, thus she is forced to work to support herself and her family. Accompanied by a policeman, she goes searching for her husband at a site under a highway, where addicts congregate to shoot up. She has no luck in her quest, and concludes that he is probably dead and that it is better that way, as he was already lost.

Knocking on Time’s Door (also known as Opening the Door of Time, dir. Ahmad Wahid Zaman, ed. Hamed Alizada, 6 mns) profiles a former mujahidin fighter who has come back to his village and become a teacher. The former warrior is shown discussing with two comrades their time fighting the Taliban; then there are scenes of the construction of a school, followed by shots of students and teachers in the school and classroom. A vision of hope is projected, as the aging teacher plays volleyball with some young pupils.

Bearing the Weight (dir. Mona Haidari, ed. Hamid Arshia, 13 mns) also references the war, in that the protagonist, Shafiqa, lost her husband, newborn daughter and her leg in a rocket attack. But this is a story of redemption, as Shafiqa has been able to care for herself, her two sons and be a vital member of her community. She is shown teaching other disabled women how to sew and make garments. There is testimony about how she was inspired by other disabled women who strived to overcome their injuries and scenes of her counselling others. Nevertheless, things are difficult for the disabled in Afghanistan; Shafiqa remains very poor and suffers discrimination, not even able to hail a taxi. The piece ends with Shafiqa stating her ambitions for her two remaining children – to become educated and get a university degree.

Water is essential to life everywhere, but in parts of Afghanistan there is very little water to be had. Water Ways (dir. Majeed Zarand, ed. Jawed Taiman, 11 mns) chronicles the quest for water in a rural area of Afghanistan, where government programmes have helped some farmers tap the water-table dozens of meters below the surface, while other farmers are forced to rely on undependable rains and occasional good luck. Much of the farming is still done without the benefit of tractors or other modern technology. The film ends with scenes of a minor construction project financed by the government’s National Solidarity Programme. Afghanis are doing all they can to survive under difficult circumstances. Life is hardest for the poor. Beyond Fatigue (dir. Baqir Tawakoli, ed. Hamid Arshia, 9 mns) follows a woman who, in one day, visits her sick mother-in-law in a distant village, teaches small children at a mosque school, and works at a vocational training center operating a foot-treadle sewing machine. All this time she is accompanied by her young child for whom she cannot afford day care. Her dream is to get a loan that would enable her to buy her own sewing machine.

Treasure Trove (dir. Fakhria Ibrahimi, ed. Rahmatullah Jafari, 11 mns) is set in a very rustic bakery, where the women who operate it are showing splitting wood for the oven fires, kneading the dough, and baking the loaves in a tandoor. These are very poor women, who converse in a lively fashion amongst themselves and with other women who come to buy bread. The banter is often sexual in nature, and none of the women are veiled. It is a rare behind-the-scenes view of Afghan women at ease among themselves.

The final film, Death to the Camera (dir. Sayed Qasem Hossaini, ed. Hamed Alizada, 20 mns) is set at a work site where women, supervised by men, are making The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film 195 some kind of mud bricks. A few are wearing burqas, others not. Some of the women are interviewed and the film captures their responses, which reveal the tensions that define their situation. None of the women are very happy; it is hard, dirty work that some find shameful. They state that they are just ‘trying to make a living’. ‘Ignore our shame,’ says one. They complain about hiring practices (women from certain ethnic groups are hired last or not at all), the government of Hamid Karzai, unpaid wages and the like. Their comments are not without some humor, but it is a dark humor that reinforces the unfortunate plight of these marginalized women.

The mission of Community Supported Film is to produce films that show ‘realities often unrepresented in the media’ to ‘influence local and international perspectives on sustainable solutions for a more peaceful and equitable world’. The Fruit of Our Labor does a good job of conveying the plight of everyday Afghani citizens struggling to make ends meet in a very challenging environment. Thus, it fulfills the first part of the mission. Whether it can exert any influence depends on whether it is seen by those with the power to effect the changes needed to improve such people’s lives. Probably not. But it can be seen by students who may eventually be in positions to find solutions to the world’s problems, and thus it should be used in the classroom. It can educate students about the plight of women and the poor in countries like Afghanistan and can help them see where improvements can be made.

Peter S. Allen

Rhode Island College


A Filmmaker’s Critique of The Fruit of our Labour

Check out this insightful article originally published in REORIENT Magazine—a publication that covers Middle Eastern arts and culture in this changing world. Author Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz gives a fresh perspective into the lives of Afghans when she revisits ‘The Fruit of our Labor‘ and ‘Death to the Camera.‘ Bazaz emphasizes varying relationships to the camera, in the midst of race, gender and class differences that cause isolation and tension amongst Afghan locals.

“This is a new way of seeing Afghanistan – one in which the camera’s gaze does not simply reinforce power inequities, but acts as a tool through which power and politics can be debated. And recreated.”



Still from ‘The Road Above’













It starts, as many great films do, with a black screen; then, a flicker. Through snatches of light, a woman is revealed, a headscarf tied at her neck, her body leaning over a table to light a kerosene lantern. Just as light escapes the match, The Road Above emits in small and elegant portions the life of Mona, the film’s protagonist; Mona, who, through an involuntary smile tells us about the husband she’s lost to heroin, the financial straits her family struggles against, and her hopes for a stable life. Simply and softly, through intentional, cinematic language, we spend time with Mona and her enduring mother.

Their country is one we’ve seen countless times over in news reports – a dust-strewn land where women seem to bend from the onerous weight of the chador (not, of course, the onerous weight of infrastructural instability brought on by decades of invasion and war), and where wisened faces peer into cameras, prayer beads moving steadily through their fingers; a country embedded among the terms ‘war-torn’, ‘conflict’, ‘Taliban’, ‘terrorist’, ‘wounded’, ‘dead’.

This time, though, in The Road Above and the other nine short documentaries comprising the Fruit of Our Labourcollection, we see Afghanistan through more nuanced eyes, in images that may strike as familiar to some Iranians and unfamiliar to most Americans. In this Afghanistan, mothers and daughters eat breakfast together. They sit cross-legged on hand-woven rugs, tear at lavash or taftoon bread, and sip from tea in tall glass mugs. They speak about the day to come – a day in which even here, in a place we are told not to expect the stirrings of life, trips to the seamstress will be made; bazaars will hum with a thousand brilliant colours; fruit vendors will mix smoothies to lure new customers; cosmetologists will line the almond eyes of young beauties, and culture, quite simply, will continue to function amidst the turmoil.

The films in The Fruit of Our Labour were produced during a five-week intensive documentary training session held in Kabul, designed and conducted by Community Supported Film, a Boston-based nonprofit training local storytellers in the documentary format. ‘The way we learn about other people’s worlds is really through our own eyes’, explains Michael Sheridan, CSFilm’s founder. ‘It became an interest of mine to figure out how to implement a program … to create compelling stories that could be used locally and internationally to help people … understand what’s going on’.


Still from ‘The Road Above’














Through a partnership with the Killid Media Group, CSFilm received 80 applications for its inaugural training programme. From that pool, an ethnically diverse group of ten storytellers were selected to work together for up to ten hours a day, six days a week for five weeks, to learn the skills required to make character-driven, scene-based documentaries. The filmmakers were chosen after a rigorous application process that gauged their storytelling fluencies, their commitment to social and economic development, and their plans for employing their training towards nurturing their professional growth, in addition to forgoing traditional ethnic and gender divisions.

This commitment to diversity is crucial in a nation wherein so many different ethnic groups reside. In a recent online conversation, Jamal Aram, a translator and project coordinator for the CSFilm programme noted that one of the issues Afghanistan faces is the fact that ethnic groups are often isolated from one another, and as such, are not able to overcome historical divisions. ‘I’ve always thought,’ says Jamal, ‘there should be something, some common ground that [could bring] different ethnicities … together [to] sit around a table and really start discussing their feelings and what they think of all these situations’.

We see exactly this kind of cross-cultural conversation taking place in Death to the Camera, directed by Sayed Qasem Hossaini. Like Iranian New Wave films, Death to the Camera relies on a deceptive simplicity to broach complex topics, and explores the relationship between the artifice of filmmaking and the truth of human experience. The film takes place during the span of a day on a worksite, where a group of female day labourers scoop dirt and rocks into small bags that they then gather into wheelbarrows and push off-screen. It is the women’s last day working under their contract. Throughout the day, their anxieties about finding the next job underline every conversation. They snap at one another. They complain. They work slowly, their steps dragging them reluctantly to the completion of this last day of pay. Despite these challenges, the women are neither depicted as victims, nor as subjects of the film; they are instead active agents whose conversations are often directed expressly towards the camera. ‘I wish your filming could help us get some aid’, says one woman. Later, another asks her co-workers: ‘Have you told all your problems to the camera? Can it leave now?’

death to the camera

Still from ‘Death to the Camera’














More than just speaking to, and being aware of the camera, the women are actively negotiating their personal and cultural relationships to it. While in the US the camera tends to be trusted as a communication medium, many cultures are fiercely protective of privacy, and thus the documentary ‘eye’ can feel invasive and insidious. Social taboos, by discouraging people from revealing too much of their private lives or selves, preserve the camera’s status as a vehicle for delivering entertainment rather than truth.

In Death to the Camera, in factone of the women on the site is accused by her manager of making herself too ‘available’ to the camera and sullying her reputation. Sitting among her female coworkers, working steadily, she eyes the manager, stands up, and walks  away to confront him. Harkening the style of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, we hear the woman arguing with her manager off-screen, while we watch her co-workers on-screen, scooping dirt one moment, and attempting to turn their heads inconspicuously towards the tense conversation the next.

When the accused woman returns to her coworkers, she reiterates her frustration with her manager’s accusations. A sensitive coworker, not wanting to make the crew feel guilty for their presence, whispers: ‘Don’t say that. [The cameraman] will mind’. ‘No he won’t,’ the woman responds, ‘he knows the issues very well … he’s a filmmaker. He’s not after prostitutes and bad things’. In this conversation, we see the two women developing their own unique relationships to the camera. One sees the camera as a valued guest, and another sees it as an ally, another medium through which she can prove her case. In so doing, they carve a new space for documentary filmmaking in a society that has a relatively recent history with the form.

Death to the Camera

Still from ‘Death to the Camera’

For the camera’s part, it does not shy away from these ‘negotiations’. It does not stop rolling, nor does it ask the women to stop referring to the camera. It allows itself to be integrated and even implicated. When the women start to discuss the inequities they face as day labourers, the conversation turns towards ethnic differences and the trouble Hazara women have in getting hired. The conversation becomes heated. We don’t see the conversation in full, but we do see that a Hazara woman has become especially affected by recalling the situation she faces. Immediately thereafter, the camera crew retreats. It’s unclear whether they were asked to leave by the women, or whether the conversation was simply becoming too tense; nonetheless, the camera’s gaze suddenly spins to the ground and haphazardly captures the feet of the crew leaving the scene.

This is more than a retreat. It is a deliberate turning of the gaze away from the women, and onto the crew. The arbitrary and contested territory between the photographer and the photographed dissolves, as does the vast expanse between those who study conflict and those who live it. The crew becomes another extension of the inter-ethnic conflict. Exasperated, they throw down their gear, and ask themselves how this conversation started in the first place. They ferociously squirt compressed air into the camera’s lens – almost as if trying to dust it for fingerprints – and debate their choices. Though they experience the conflict in different ways than some of the women themselves, they do not position themselves as objective documenters apart from the eruption, but as fellow country-persons affected by it – involved, somehow, in this ‘ecosystem’.  As the boom operator suggests, they are even in some ways complicit. ‘Actually, you started the ethnic conflict discussion’, he remarks.

This is a new way of seeing Afghanistan – one in which the camera’s gaze does not simply reinforce power inequities, but acts as a tool through which power and politics can be debated. And recreated. In the eyes and likeness of the labouring men and women who themselves are too often the terrain upon which power is played out.

Death to the Camera – Trailer from Michael Sheridan on Vimeo.


First International Women’s Film Festival in Afghanistan Features Two “Fruit of Our Labor” Directors

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.

Mona HaidariBearing the Weight by Mona Haidari and The Road Above by Aqueela Rezai, both from the Fruit of Our Labor collection, were official selections. Congratulations to these women and their continued 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.


A Sustainable Approach to Community-Based Storytelling


 A Conversation with Michael Sheridan of Community Supported Film

by Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz of NAMAC

There was a buzz at the NAMAC 2012 conference. In the halls, over dinner, hushed voices asked, “Did you see the films from Afghanistan”? A few months later, sipping coffee with former NAMAC ED, Helen de Michiel, I heard it again: “Did you see those films from Afghanistan?”

The films in question belong to a collection of ten short documentaries, The Fruit of Our Labor, produced in a 5-week intensive training held in Kabul, Afghanistan and conducted by Boston-based nonprofit, Community Supported Film (CSFilm).

CSFilm’s mission is multi-faceted. It begins with training storytellers in various countries and communities to tell character-based, lived experience stories that focus on socioeconomic development. The films are not what we’re accustomed to seeing in advocacy pieces. They reveal important social issues, yes, but they are told with a keen eye for the delicate language of film. They stand on their own as stories well told, not agendas.

The finished projects are shared with domestic and international audiences in an effort to engage the public, promote awareness, and affect policy decisions.

CSFilm started only a few years ago. Founder and Executive Director Michael Sheridan had gone to Afghanistan to conduct research for a documentary film comparing local, economic development initiatives with international, militarized, development initiatives. Michael recalls:

Having worked as a filmmaker and in advocacy and policy around these issues for many years, I saw that people like me were being hired over and over again by news and nonprofit organizations to go and tell the stories of other communities.

To a certain degree, the way we learn about other people’s worlds is really through our own eyes. What wasn’t happening was the telling of stories from the local perspective and from the wealth of knowledge that exists around social and economic development processes from that perspective. And until you get a conversation going that looks at the problem from the local perspective, you’re not going to get a lot of local cooperation from that local community in your peace-building or nation-building efforts.

So it became an interest of mine to figure out how to implement a program that effectively used the local knowledge, in both development and storytelling, to create compelling stories that could be used locally and internationally to help people in the international community understand what’s going on.

My model is to combine these things: the bottom-up model of development and social change, with the bottom-up approach to storytelling, so that the local voices are coming through in all ways and influencing both the policy and the storytelling.

To develop and implement such a program, Michael relied on 15 years of experience as an educator, a long career as a documentary filmmaker working on issues of economic development and poverty alleviation, and local partners in Afghanistan. Through a partnership with the Killid Media Group, Michael’s emerging training program was able to outreach to a diverse range of Afghan nationals. From a pool of 80 applicants, 10 strong candidates were selected for this first training by Community Supported Film. This ethnically diverse group would work together for up to ten hours per day, six days a week, for five weeks, to learn the skills required to make character-driven, scene-based, lived experience documentaries.

The filmmakers were chosen after a rigorous application process that gauged their story-telling fluencies, their commitment to social and economic development, and their plans for employing the training towards nurturing their professional growth. In addition, the candidates had to be willing to forego traditional ethnic and gender divisions, and learn to work closely with people from a range of backgrounds.

I was aware of these tensions in terms of how we divided the participants up into [production] teams. It also became a real advantage for the men to work with women, because it allowed for scenes to be filmed that otherwise couldn’t have been due to the inability of a man to film within a home where women are.

The teams became so involved in all of those issues and so aware of them that they were taking advantage of this opportunity to cross ethnic grounds and to work with women’s issue – so much so that to my great surprise, while I had hoped to have one woman involved and hoped that she would do a story on women’s issues, we ended up with seven stories that featured women as their primary characters. Three of these films were made by men…

Join the Live Conversation on March 20th!



The Jakarta Post Interviews Michael Sheridan

Set upThis November CSFilm director Michael Sheridan was interviewed by the Jakarta Post about his intensive training sessions in Indonesia.

Michael Sheridan: Making Room for Local Perspectives

by Iman Mahditama, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | People | Tue, November 27 2012

As a documentary filmmaker, Michael Sheridan believes in the power of film to change the world and make it a better place for all.

In 2009, he went to Afghanistan to make a documentary film that aimed to present an intimate look at the daily lives of local Afghan villagers from their own, often-unheard perspectives, several years after the US-led invasion of the war-torn country.

Through the planned film, titled Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War, Sheridan hoped to capture the successes and the challenges facing Afghans in rebuilding their villages and developing their communities.

Naturally, Sheridan would need to get total and personal access to Afghan villagers — the families, the women, all the activities of daily life — to be able to grasp their real day-to-day experiences, and that was where he encountered his first major roadblock.

The filmmaker had been able to negotiate that kind of access in other conservative countries, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, but Afghanistan proved to be a far greater challenge.

So, he opted for another route. He decided to create a program to train local Afghan storytellers in documentary filmmaking and let them shoot their own documentaries based on the socioeconomic issues they wanted to pursue.

In the process of developing the project, Sheridan established Community Supported (CS) Film, which has since maintained a continuous partnership with local Afghan storytellers and filmmakers who are able to share their stories through films with others around the world.

In the fall of 2010, CS Film conducted an intensive five-week training of 10 Afghans — four women and six men from three different ethnic groups — in documentary production. The resulting short documentaries were then gathered together in the omnibus The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Films.

The 10 films have been screened at more than 50 venues around the world, including the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC, the Asia Society in New York and the World Bank in Kabul.

The Fruit of Our Labor recently became the centerpiece of a congressional briefing at the US Congress that included the live participation of the Afghan trainees via the web.

One of the short documentaries, Death to the Camera, won the Best Documentary award at the Autumn Human Rights Film Festival in Kabul and was an official selection for the 2012 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival in Toronto.

Two years later, Sheridan can still recall the training days in Afghanistan as if they were yesterday. “It was fascinating that one of the most dominant issues that the trainees talked about was what an incredibly multicultural experience it was for them, to be in that room, working in groups with women and people from other ethnic groups.

“The act [of training] itself was so transformational for them because they don’t normally have opportunities to actually mix with each other, communicate, and just sit around and eat together.”

The experience ultimately reaffirmed Sheridan’s belief that films and filmmaking can act as a peaceful medium to resolve conflict and defuse tension between ethnic groups in conflict areas.

“It is really essential that we use the media to allow people to see what they usually don’t get to see in the different ethnic groups and to allow people to break open and break into each other’s world that normally can get so isolated and so divided,” he said.

However, it is rather unusual for a person with such a strong belief in the power of film to have grown up with the exact opposite opinion. “In a funny way, in a kind of an ironic twist, I grew up very anti-film,”
Sheridan said, laughing heartily.

Born on May 19, 1962, Sheridan spent his childhood in Boston, Massachusetts. His first break in the world of creative arts was in the theater. He started as a child actor before climbing his way through the ranks in stage design and stage construction.

“During my high school and college years I was thinking, ‘You have to go to theaters and live the stories’, while believing that fiction films are cheap and easy. It was biased, for sure, and ridiculously extreme,” he said, smiling.

Sheridan spent his early 20s in Europe, where he got involved in campaigns related to human rights and poverty and volunteered at organizations like Oxfam. After seven years he decided to return to the US to follow his childhood passion.

He said, “I was about to leave Oxfam and work with a friend’s theater company when another friend talked me into working with her in a documentary that she was doing about the indigenous community in Guatemala.

“So I started working with her as an editor, learning how to edit her film. It was from that process that I got into documentary filmmaking.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sheridan traveled through Indonesia in October and November of this year to conduct trainings similar to the Afghan ones in three cities: Jakarta, Bandung and Denpasar.

In each of the cities, he met with 50 trainees from various backgrounds in a series of sessions spread over four days. “Frankly, it’s an extremely stressed and limited opportunity to only have four days to work with 50 people with limited equipment on these trainings. But, in any case, surprisingly, in just four days we got a lot done,” he said.

During these classes, the trainees were introduced to various cooperatives, economic activities or individuals just starting out with their own businesses. Sheridan then asked the trainees to tell character-driven and situation-based stories in just one to three minutes.

The trick, according to Sheridan, is to really focus the storytelling on the visuals instead of the talk.

The result of the trainings were 12 “pretty decent” short stories about themes ranging from the challenges with traditional transportation in the modern world to the challenges of local gay, lesbian and transsexual communities in their daily lives.

So, after Afghanistan and Indonesia, where is Sheridan planning to bring his Community Supported Film to next?

Surprisingly, the answer is back home in Boston.

He said he planned to conduct trainings like the ones in Afghanistan and Indonesia in Boston’s Chelsea neighborhood, which has numerous communities of immigrants and refugees from regions like Central and Latin America, as well as
Somalia and Iraq.

“You can imagine the tension set up between, for example, the Latino culture and very conservative Iraqis or between Somalis and Iraqis over religious issues. Even the Iraqis almost have no interaction with each other because of the fears between different ethnic groups in Iraq, which they bring to Chelsea,” he said.

Here, filmmaking can play a fantastic role by allowing these communities to tell their own stories and to constantly start opening up conversations.

The most important thing, though, is to invite the right people to watch the films so that real change can occur.

“I believe there are many amazing people doing interesting things in every neighborhood. We just have to get out there, find those stories, share them and show what is being done that works,” Sheridan said.

“The next step is to force people at political levels to look at those stories by utilizing public engagement and screening events so that the right people are seeing the right stories and the right changes happen.”

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!


Exclusive online broadcast of “Death to the Camera” – Nov. 26 – Dec. 2, at

The Good men ProjectThe Good Men Project exclusively presents “Death to the Camera,” one of the ten documentary films in the collection The Fruit of Our Labor – Afghan Perspectives in Film. For one week only, the full 20 minute film will be available to watch on their website!

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.



The Jakarta Post ‘My Film, My Nation’: A Workshop to Improve Indonesia Film

The Jakarta Post

The film and television industry have frequently captured social issues from the perspectives of filmmakers and television producers, who do not necessarily reflect the real situation in a particular place or country, which can lead to the creation of various stereotypical images and prejudices, a noted filmmaker and educator said. Read the full article. 

To learn more about the film trainings CSFilm is doing in Indonesia check out our post!


BTKW – Educational Curriculum about the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, provided by Primary Source

Primary Source About Us

Primary Source, an organization that connects educators with history and humanities resources from around the world, has developed an educational curriculum using Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War.  BTKW’s trailer is used as a springboard to analyze post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan, drawing comparisons between the top-down approach of the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the bottom-up approach of the National Solidarity Program.

Please share this curriculum with any contacts you may have who work in education. The curriculum is most appropriate for high school students.

Modern Afghanistan: Making Meaning in the Aftermath of Conflict


In conflict-laden regions, improving the region’s infrastructure is often seen as a key to restoring stability and security. In Afghanistan, a nation that has witnessed more than 30 years of war, a number of different reconstruction efforts have occurred since the U.S.-led military intervention, with varying degrees of success. Using what has been termed a “hearts and minds” approach to military policy, the United States and its allies have focused on rebuilding infrastructure as a way to foster support among the Afghan people. The different reconstruction models in Afghanistan illustrate the various tensions involved when outside nations work to rebuild war torn regions. This activity draws upon a documentary film to consider those issues and asks the following questions: What is the optimal relationship between external aid providers and local participation? What factors are important to consider?

Numerous government and nongovernmental organizations have been involved in rebuilding Afghanistan. The documentary film featured here focuses on two of these programs. The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), was established in late 2002 as a collaboration between the military (U.S.-led Coalition and NATO forces) and the civilian population for the purpose of improving security, government, and facilitating reconstruction. PRTs operated in various regions and were designed to create programs that reached local needs and focused on activities such as building or improving power grids, communication, schools, literacy, vaccinations, and creating jobs. Evidence of the program’s impact is limited, however, some critics of the program claim that these teams often built facilities that the nation of Afghanistan could not afford or sustain long-term and that the programs subverted the Afghan central government.

Similarly, the National Solidarity Program (NSP), the largest development program in Afghanistan, was established in 2003 under the Afghan government (with donor partners that included the World Bank, USAID, the United Kingdom, Japan and other members of the international community) to aid in reconstruction. NSP efforts centered on locally-controlled “Community Development Councils” throughout Afghanistan that allowed local villagers to decide what reconstruction projects to pursue. This greater degree of input from and empowerment of the local community bolstered the success of the NSP, and proponents have hailed the program as a model for other nations.

In this activity, students will watch a pre-production reel of the film Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War to examine how the PRT and NSP programs operated in Afghanistan and consider how reconstruction efforts are negotiated in the aftermath of conflict. Brewing Tea in a Kettle of War, produced by Community Supported Film and filmed by Afghans, provides a local Afghan perspective on rebuilding efforts. The film’s trailer provides an overview of some of these reconstruction programs and allows students to consider how foreigners and locals have worked together to make changes that can last.

For the complete curriculum visit Primary Source.

Curriculum by Ann Marie Gleeson

Primary Source



Muslim Media Watch: “Films by Afghan Women Tell Real Stories of Struggle, Patience, and Hope”



November 15th, 2011

Women in Afghanistan tend to be depicted as enigmatic objects that defy human comprehension. Media sensationalism and selective reporting bear some of the blame. But thanks to projects like an Afghanistan-based Community Supported Film workshop that trained men and women on how to tell the stories on film, Afghan women are now also using media to represent themselves. Read the full article.

Page 1 of 212