Issues & Analysis

Screening: Belmont World Film with Afghan dinner

Many thanks to Belmont World Film and Ellen Gitelman for organizing this screening!

Monday, January 23
Dinner: 5:30 Ariana Restaurant, 129 Brighton Avenue, Brighton
Screening: 7:30, Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Road in Belmont
See details below

The Fruit of Our Labor is comprised of 10 short films made by native Afghans as part of Community Supported Film’s (CSF) intensive 5-week documentary production training program in Afghanistan in late 2010, each documentary offering a personal and first-hand point of view rarely seen or heard in the US, even after 10 years of intense media coverage. Together the films bring to life Afghans’ 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 goal of these films is to promote discussion about the lives of individuals in Afghanistan and our role there, as well as more generally, about war, peace, effective aid, gender issues, and cross-cultural understanding.

Optional Afghan dinner: The screening is preceded by an Afghan dinner with CSF Founder Michael Sheridan at 5:30 PM at Ariana Restaurant (129 Brighton Avenue, Brighton) for a separate cost of $29. Ariana will also provide a traditional Afghan snack at the screening.

Speakers: Community Supported Film Founder Michael Sheridan and several native Afghans. Michael is a filmmaker, educator and activist whose films address issues of social and economic development who was the co-founder of Oxfam America’s documentary production unit in the mid-90s. For nearly 20 years he 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. His films have aired on PBS, ABC, TLC, and the Discovery Channel.

Purchase advance dinner & film screening tickets online here or to reserve your spot for the dinner and pay by check, send an email with the number of people to  Space at the dinner is limited, so please reserve early.

Tickets to the screening may also be purchased on day of show at the Studio Cinema box office, 376 Trapelo Road in Belmont, Massachusetts.


This program is supported in part by a grant from the Belmont Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Screening: AIB Conference on Artists and Activism, 1/26

Thanks very much to Nathan Felde and the staff and students at Art Institute Boston for organizing this conference and including a screening of The Fruit of Our Labor

Presentation and screening of The Fruit of Our Labor  

Thursday, January 26, 2012 from 7:00-9:00pm
University Hall Amphitheater (Room 2-150), Porter Campus,
Lesley University (1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge)


Michael Sheridan, founder of Community Supported Films, will be present to talk about and show this film, a collection of ten remarkable short films made in Afghanistan about ordinary Afghans’ efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions. 




This screening is the Kick Off for the
Artist & Activist Conference: Public Spaces, Forbidden Places
Friday, January 27, 2012, 9:00am-4:00pm
Please visit for more information.

1 Afghan woman in 11 will die during childbirth

FACTBOX-Why are maternal deaths so high in Afghanistan?

12 Dec 2011 10:01, Source: Reuters // Reuters

An Afghan midwife puts a newborn baby next to its mother at the Razai Foundation Maternity Hospital in Herat province November 30, 2011. Mohammad Shoib

KABUL, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Afghanistan has the worst rate of maternal mortality in the world, the latest World Health Organization data shows, with a toxic mix of inaccessibility, poverty and cultural barriers to women’s healthcare conspiring against expectant mothers.

One Afghan woman in 11 will die of causes related to pregnancy and birth during her childbearing years, the WHO says. In neighbouring Tajikistan, that figure is one in 430, while in Austria, it is one in 14,300.



The silent illness stalking Afghanistan – Mental Health

11/24/11 Report— Tearfund
No one knows the true impact that years of war and instability have had on the mental health of people in Afghanistan.

Research suggests the psychological consequences of insecurity, trauma, migration, poverty and poor education are far-reaching.

A study of 300 children in Kabul showed that 90 per cent believed they would die in war, 67 per cent had seen dead body parts and 80 per cent said they felt frightened, sad and unable to cope with life.

Another report showed that large parts of the population in one Afghan province were suffering the symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Help lacking

Help for those with mental illness is desperately lacking, with psychotherapy and counselling almost unknown to most of the population.

Against such a background, Tearfund has this year been working with an Afghan partner to improve the lives of thousands of people.

Our partner’s Primary Mental Health Project in Western Afghanistan provides psychiatric training to doctors, nurses and community health workers so at least basic mental healthcare will be available even in remote places.

The idea is to integrate mental healthcare into the existing local health clinic structure as it offers accessibility and, because it is already accepted, less stigmatisation.

The project also works with community members who are non-medical specialists yet have an influential role, such as traditional healers.

Family conflicts

Educating traditional healers, mullahs and sheikhs, is particularly important as historically they have been seen by Afghans as the only people capable of providing mental health care.

They are being given basic knowledge of priority mental health disorders and are learning how to educate community members on mental health issues.

Partner staff are also working with community health supervisors who are receiving basic knowledge of common and severe mental disorders and how to refer patients for treatment. They’ll also understand more about family conflicts and counselling. In turn, they will train community health workers.

Suicide bids

The project is also building awareness and understanding across wider areas of Afghan society, such as government officials, teachers and the legal system, for example by producing quarterly magazines and promoting participation in World Mental Health Day.

Our partner’s community-based work started in 1995 as a response to seeing many women suffering extensive burns after setting light to themselves in suicide bids.

Bruce Clark, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Afghanistan, said, ‘Our partner over time has built up a mental health support programme that has developed into a national leader in the field.

‘Clinical diagnosis and treatment, psychiatric doctor and nurse training, mental health resource development and an extensive community awareness and training programme have followed.’

Bruce said partner events to mark World Mental Health Day recently attracted key local government officials, the Pakistan and Iranian consuls as well as six TV crews.

‘It was fantastic to see mental health, a largely hidden and misunderstood illness, get national coverage and for our partner to be recognised for their excellent work,’ he said.


Go hungry, or sell my daughter for food?

November 23, 2011
Report— ActionAid
I met Khadicha, a woman with four children and a disabled husband, in the village Khan Arigh of Murdian district, Jawzjan Province, Northern Afghanistan. We sat down together in her modest one-room traditional mud-brick house, joined by the elected chief of the Community Development Council (CDC).

Afghanistan is currently experiencing a severe drought, affecting over 14 provinces and over 2.6 million people. Murdian is one of the most severely affected districts in Jawzjan province. Farmers have been unable to harvest 80% of crops and livestock have died in their thousands.

Khadicha became her family’s sole breadwinner four years ago when her husband suffered paralysis in both legs. She makes a living from weaving carpets – she’s able to complete two per year, which gives her an annual income of around 10,000 Afghani (approximately $200). But her husband’s medical needs mean the money doesn’t stretch far. To make ends meet she also works in other people’s houses and farms her neighbours’ land. But even then, what she earns lasts barely three months at a time.

“I thought 2011 would be a good year for me,” says Khadicha. “I became a member of the women group formed by ActionAid, my husband started walking slowly, though cannot do any hard work. I received a goat and some food grain as a part of ActionAid’s support to the women group. I learned a few things about back-yard farming and also received some vegetable seed. But the drought of this year has taken away all my smiles. I have lost my wheat production, and I could not cultivate the vegetable seed as there has been no water for the last six months. We are surviving with almost no-drinking water though we received supplies from ActionAid which helped us a lot. My husband went to Murdian center to take care of livestock for a big family, even though he can walk only with a stick. The price of my carpets has gone down and the dealer will not give me a similar price to last year.

“I have bought some wheat with the advance from the carpet-dealer and spend most of 1000 Afghani [approximately $20] for my husband’s medicine,” Khadicha continued.

We have food for another 25-30 days. I don’t know how I will survive with all my children and husband after that.

“Due to the drought there is no work on other people’s farms and many people have gone to towns and cities in search of work. In the last four years we have only eaten roti (from wheat), potato and sometimes a little rice. We cannot afford tomatoes or any other vegetables. We can have meat only during Eid e Kurbani [a religious festival] when people share their meat with us.”

Now I am seriously thinking about selling my younger daughter to someone, I don’t know who, to get some money to survive this drought and save my other daughters, my son and my husband.

The CDC chief, one of the most senior people in the village, explained that at least 70 more families out of three hundred in the community are facing a similar situation and planning to migrate to at any time. Other families are surviving by selling their livestock and sending their sons or husbands to other places in search of work.

It’s clear that these people need immediate support to survive this drought. The government of Afghanistan recently declared a drought-assistance package for 10,000 families in Jawzjan province, but many people seem unaware of this. ActionAid is responding to the drought, providing food and water for thousands of families who’ve been pushed to the brink of survival. But as long as media attention and the eyes of governments across the world, continue to focus on the ongoing conflict and war on terror, the suffering of those affected by this disaster will continue.


Afghan families hit by severe drought could be cut off by extreme winter weather within weeks, aid agencies warn

Save the Children and Oxfam Report
18 Nov 2011

More than 2 million Afghans are at risk of hunger and many are bracing to be stranded for months without help as the country prepares for a harsh winter, Save the Children and Oxfam warned today.

The agencies called for a redoubling of the aid effort to reach people in need before the onset of heavy snows cut off huge swathes of the country.

Poor rains earlier this year mean families in the 14 drought-affected provinces have not been able to grow enough wheat to feed themselves over the winter.

According to a UN assessment, in some provinces almost 100 per cent of the harvest has been destroyed, and food prices have soared, with the price of wheat in some areas doubling on average since this time last year.

Typical Afghan weather patterns mean that those living in mountainous areas- up to half of the affected population –will almost certainly soon be cut off from help as winter closes in.  Read Full Story


“There is one thing missing in Afghanistan, which is the people’s voice”

Afghans tentatively seek a voice after 30 years of conflict

15 Nov 2011 00:40

Source: Reuters // Reuters

An Afghan woman and her children walk past a destroyed building at the old part of Kabul August 3, 2011.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

By Christine Kearney

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Nov 15 (Reuters) – After three decades of occupation, civil war, Taliban rule and a NATO-led military campaign, ordinary Afghans remain powerless and without a unified voice.

Many are too afraid to talk. The few that do speak out are barely able to share ideas with each other, much less address authorities.

“There is one thing missing in Afghanistan, which is the people’s voice,” said Saeed Niazi, an activist based in Kabul who aims to get ordinary Afghans much more involved in nation building as the country prepares for the exit of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.  Read full article.


79% decline in the harvest of irrigated wheat and an 80% decline in the harvest of rain-fed wheat

Drought Response: Cash for Work Programmes
The World Food Programme’s August 2011 Drought Emergency Food Security Assessment for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan found that in 2011, there was a “high percentage [of] wheat losses compared to 2010”. The report stated that Badakshan province had experienced a 79% decline in the harvest of irrigated wheat and an 80% decline in the harvest of rain-fed wheat in comparison to 2010 figures. These statistics are consistent with Concern-Afghanistan’s findings from the field, with farmers from Yawan, Badakshan reporting serious decreases in wheat harvests.  Read full report.

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.


Death to the Camera wins Best Doc award

…Death to the Camera, directed by Sayed Qasem Hossaini, received the award for the Best Afghan Documentary. The film simultaneously weaves together various issues – labour, gender, ethnicity and aid – and also questions the medium of documentary itself. An employer accuses a woman of being a prostitute for appearing before the camera. An argument ensues off-camera; the woman returns to a group of co-workers to vent her grievances. A spirited exchange follows with accusations of ethnic discrimination against the bosses and cynicism about the current political situation. The camera crew eventually pulls away, taking us with them. Said Hossaini, “This retreat makes explicit the distance between the audience and the documentary subject. It also raises the question of mediation, central to this whole project: are we watching actuality or simply seeing something shaped and framed by those behind the lens?” Read full article


Aid and Afghanistan’s Economy

Global development podcasts 

What is there to show for the $57bn spent on aid in Afghanistan over the past decade, and what lies ahead for the country’s economy and people? Our panel explores the key issues: Aid and Afghanistan’s Economy

Produced by The Guardian Newspaper
Presented by Madeleine Bunting, produced by Lucy Lamble and researched by Claire Provost, Monday 24 October 2011 10.06 EDT


“Death to the Camera” wins Best Documentary award and meets resistance

Death to the Camera,” produced during CSFilm’s training and included in The Fruit of Our Labor collection, wins Best Documentary Award at the 1st KABUL HUMAN RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Congratulations to director Qasem Husseini, editor Hamed Alizadeh, sound person Mona Haidari and translator and assistant conceptualizer Jamal Aram Amiry.  This acknowledgment reaffirms Community Supported Film’s commitment to offering trainings in documentary filmmaking and to encouragimg new filmmakers to produce films that are daring in structure and powerful in story. As reported in The Hindu Arts Magazine, the film was well received in Kabul and met with protest in Mazar-e-sharif:

In Mazar-e-sharif  …  “The Islamic Sharia Department disrupted the screenings of ‘Paper Boats’ and ‘Death to Camera’ — they pulled down the banners of the festival, shouted slogans and disrupted the screenings,” according to Malek Shafi, the Festival Director. “But we will have this festival every year as we hope that by running it in a territory of war and tragedy we will be able to make the cultural identity of Afghanistan independent from political and militarism aspects”, Shaffi said.

Great respect goes out to Shaffi and the whole AHRFF team who stood their ground and produced this important festival and public service.


NPR’s “Here and Now” features CSFilm

NPR’s Robin Young interviews Community Supported Film director Michael Sheridan on Here and Now.  The show aired on Friday October 7th, the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan.  Listen to the segment here.


Excerpt: “Filmmaker Michael Sheridan 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.”  Robin Young, Host of NPR’s Here and Now



EA WorldView post analyzes Afghan films’ unique perspective

EA WorldView



Afghanistan Special: Presenting “The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film”
Saturday, October 1, 2011 | Author John Horne in EA WorldView: Afghanistan-Pakistan

The Fruit of our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film is a series of short documentaries offering a corrective to Western-centric accounts of life in Afghanistan. Focusing on issues of social and economic development, as documented and told by Afghans themselves, the films work to puncture typical mainstream perspectives centered on conflict, corruption and humanitarian relief. As such, they present intimate glimpses into routine struggles of employment, education and health and of accomplishments and failings at the level of community and infrastructure.

The ten documentaries, produced by Michael Sheridan for Community Supported Film, are available to watch online until 7 October, the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan. They are also currently being screened in cities across America and have just been released on DVD. American audiences to date, observes Sheridan, have been “dumbstruck” by seeing a side of Afghanistan — the everyday life, difficulties and opinions of its citizens — routinely hidden in the view of the mainstream media. Indeed, for some, the films are simply unbelievable, given how removed they are from the national portrait painted by CNN, MSNBC and FOX… Read More


Arlington Film Festival Screening with Q&A. – October 7th

The Festival’s mission is to promote an increased appreciation for all cultures by showcasing the real lives of people all over the globe through independent film and to nurture the next generation of talented filmmakers within our community.

Screening five films from the collection The Fruit of Our Labor followed by Q&A
October 7th, 2011, 7 pm,
Regent Theater, 7 Medford Street, Arlington, MA
More info:


Teaching Video Intensive at Maine Media Workshops

On the road to the Maine Media Workshops to teach a one week intensive in video production and storytelling.  They call it Video Bootcamp.  After my years in Afghanistan, and with tongue-in-cheek, I thought I’d change the name to Video Hoedown – same intensity with slightly different orientation in shoe ware and style.

Check out this unique learning center: Maine Media


Last week to see Afghan made films, hear Afghan voices, experience Afghan concerns – 10 years after the invasion, October 7th

Only one more week – through the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan on October 7th –  to watch online the full versions of 10 unique Afghan made films. These films provide an unseen view, beyond the battlefront coverage provided by western media, of the daily realities facing Afghans. Please share these films with your friends and colleagues to raise awareness of both the plight and capacity of Afghans and to bring a much needed local perspective to the debate about the immediate and long-term future of Afghanistan.

As I have written before [see Get the Troops Out?], no outsider can fix Afghanistan. However, outsiders can, and I think must, help Afghanistan extricate itself from its position as a pawn in the regional geopolitical conflict between countries such as Pakistan, India, [read analysis] Iran, Russia and China [read report]. [You can hear my comment on this subject on NPR’s OnPoint here: “What to do about Pakistan“]. Until this is accomplished, outsiders must – on humanitarian grounds – protect Afghans from a regional war that is being fought in their country and plays off of internal ethnic and economic tensions. To this end the international community, and the war protesters, should be thinking about more than getting troops out and bringing money home. Leaving the mess behind is not a humane solution.

Support peace for Afghans, and thereby regional stability and security at home. This requires slowly removing US-led offensive military forces, replacing them with a large international peacekeeping force (with a ‘right to kill’ mandate), increasing diplomatic pressure to resolve regional conflicts and funding long-term (30-50 year) Afghan led and implemented economic, social, political and security development programs [For further insight read the United States Institute of Peace’s: The Future of Afghanistan].

Watch these films, presented in full through October 7th, and meet the Afghans whose lives are on the line and whose peaceful future depends on a responsible and sustained engagement by the international community. Every week the filmmakers talk to me about their terrible fear of the international community abandoning them to another blood bath and humanitarian crisis. Don’t let our disappointment over the last ten year’s of mismanaged war and development aid cause us to call for action that 10 years from now we will regret and wish we had handled differently.


On NPR “On Point” – Michael raises Afghan perspective on the role of Pakistan

Michael Sheridan called in to NPR’s On Point this morning, the subject: “What to do about Pakistan.”

Listen to Michael’s comment:  Call to NPR On Point.

Hear the full program here: WBUR-On Point

Having lived through a number of attacks instigated by the Pakistani’s, there is no question that until the international community forces the regional players, Pakistan, India, Iran, China, to the table, Afghanistan will continue to be the battle ground of their neighbor’s conflicts.  As I have written here before:  No outsider can fix Afghanistan. However, outsiders can, and I think must, help Afghanistan extricate itself from being a pawn in the regional geopolitical conflict between countries such as Pakistan, India, [read analysis] Iran, Russia and China [read report]. Until this is accomplished, outsiders must – on humanitarian grounds – protect Afghans from a regional war that is being fought in their country and that fuels and plays off of internal tensions. To this end the international community, and the war protesters, should have a plan beyond getting troops out and bringing the money home. Leaving the mess behind is not a humane solution.

Support an end of war for Afghans –  as well as for the international forces in Afghanistan. This requires reducing American led offensive military action, increasing pressure for resolution of regional conflicts and a quieter long-term (30-50 year) commitment to economic, social, political and security development in Afghanistan [For further insight read USIP’s: The Future of Afghanistan].


Screening/Discussion with Kathy Kelly, October 1 – Ten Years After Conference –

Afghanistan: The US Must Change Course

Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee
Perspectives from her recent peace delegations to Afghanistan

Michael Sheirdan, Community Supported Film
Afghan perspective through screening of one film from The Fruit of Our Labor collection and discussion

Moderator: Cole Harrison, Mass. Peace Action & UJP Afghanistan/Pakistan Task Force

12 noon to 1pm
Suffolk University
Donahue Building, Room 207
41 Temple St.
Boston MA


Voice of America releases special report on Community Supported Film

Voice of America produced a special report on the training and production work of Community Supported Film in Afghanistan. Special thanks to Philippa Levenberg for her work on this and to trainee Hasib Asmaty for his participation.

You can also see the report in Dari or Pashto here: VOA facebook

Voice of America Report on CSFilm’s Afghan Training from CSFilm / SheridanWorks on Vimeo.

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