Afghan Trainee Projects

Story submissions for documentary TV proposal

Four of our trainees from the recent five week intensive documentary production training submitted story ideas to a Request for Proposal and have been accepted as finalists. It is an incredible achievment for emerging filmmakers who have not written proposals before. Here is a sample of their story proposals:

Story submitted by Ahmad Wahid Zaman

Project description:
Three decades of war has left Afghanistan with no infrastructure. All Afghans, one way or the other, took part in Jihad (the holy war). As a result fundamental aspects of social life like education, security, social, cultural and economical developments were greatly jeopardized.

However, there are things considered positive steps in the life of Afghans. For example, the presence of international aid agencies and international military forces, an elected government by the people for the people, and re‐establishments of the Judicial and enforcement institutions made people optimist about the future. Therefore, they started participating in the construction and development projects initiated by national and international, government and non‐governmental organizations.

Former Mujahidin’s laid their weapons down and integrated into society through, Demobilization , and Reintegration (DDR) initiatives project. They chose to help their villages by participating in development projects throughout the country. Mirbacha Kot is one of those villages in Kabul province that, since 2003 has been engaged in the DDR process.The Afghan Government’s National Solidarity Program (NSP) is one of the agencies that has been operating in Mirhacha Kot.

The NSP is the flagship development program of the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development and has reached 27,000 villages (70% of the total villages in Afghanistan) and completed 46,000 community‐led reconstruction projects since 2003. MRRD is working to provide economic opportunities for villagers and through this to establish legitimacy for the central government. The NSP uses locally elected Community Development Councils (CDC) to negotiate local complexities and tensions before reaching a final decision on development priorities and strategies. Village based grants range from 30,000‐60,000 USD per project, ten percent of which is paid for by the locals.

The NSP approach is community development. Villages are approached and asked if they want to participate in the program. If so, then outside facilitators oversee the election of representatives. The elected Community Development Council (CDC) consults with villagers to determine project priorities. Upon approval of the project by the central government, the CDC oversees the implementation of the project.
Throughout the country the NSP and Community Development Council have overseen the reintegration of former combatants and the construction of bridges, schools, roads and health clinics irrigation systems and much more. The majority of the villagers are in favor of and dedicated to the implementation of NSP projects.

In Mirbacha Kot the NSP and the Community Council have built a maternity clinic, and schools and community counsels that won the hearts and minds and commitment of the villagers.

Mr. Abdul Basir Siddiqi, a former Mujahidin, lives in Mirbacha Kot village of Kabul province. He laid down his weapon and was integrated back into non‐combatant life through the DDR program. In 2003 he attended the national Loya Jirga that created a new constitution for Afghanistan. He was elected to be the chairman of his village’s Community Development Program, in 2004, to facilitate the development work of the national Solidarity Program.

Subsequently he represented his district on the Provincial Development Council. Mr. Siddiqi has a passion for contribution. He has no doubt that time and situations change the medium of the contribution but teaching at the village high school is the ideal and perfect way to help this community. His father, too, used to teach at the same school. Teaching is more a family heritage to him. However, life has not been that easy for him to realize his dream and pursue his passion.

For example, when Russia invaded Afghanistan he quit teaching at the village high school and joined the Mujahidin groups. He was taking part in military operations but he maintained his role as an instructor. He was a member of the education committee of Mujahidin and also taught at the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan.

As soon as the Russian invasion was over, he returned to the village and started teaching at school again. The temporary peace didn’t last long and followed by civil war. In order to survive, he had to join Commandar Masoud’s Northern Alliance. But he still kept giving classes in different villages and that happen to continue even to the rise and fall of Taliban regime. He was in Panjshir province and was teaching at refugee camps.

Mr. Siddiqi returned to his village in Kabul when transitional government was put in place. After joining the disarmament program, new doors of opportunity opened for him. He worked different key positions in his village. For example, representative of the village at the national Loya Jirga, representative at the provincial counsel, chairman of the community development counsel (CDC) of NSP.

Now he has a lot more options to contribute and responsibilities than being only a high school instructor. As the head of CDC he has to priorities the core needs of the villagers. He proposed and initiated the idea to build a new school building at the village. He has to confront with the villagers who does not approve of the decision and convince them to back the idea.

He already started the school project but run out of budget. He is trying to encourage the villagers to donate money to the project. Not only that but he also has eyes on the international organization to help them finish the school building.

This film tells the story of how a patriot man makes decisions for the best of his country and people. His struggles to improve the quality of life and build the fundamental infrastructures of the village would be another aspect of the film.

Story submitted by Fakhria Ibrahimi

This film will tell a story about Afghan women in business. Through the experiences of Aziza Mommand’s sporting goods manufacturing company the viewer will experience the challenges faced by women, how they are trying to improve their place in Afghan society, what has happened historically to Afghan business women and how their success improves all Afghan women’s self‐confidence.

The story will revolve around Aziz’s business life and include her work to develop the Afghan Women’s Business Federation (AWBF). Through AWBF women can hold meetings, exhibitions, workshop and conferences. They attend national and international conferences to present Afghan women’s businesses at exhibitions. They are constantly searching for international partnerships and independent financing. For the first time a catalog of their products is published in January 2011. The catalog will be distributed in airlines and international hotels. The businesswomen will also develop catalogs to use for marketing.

Aziza Mommand is a businesswoman and owner of a sporting goods manufacture that makes leather goods such as footballs and other apprarel. She is looking forward to the impact of a new catalog produced through a German organization (GTZ). Many different orders come to her company to make leather balls, leather bags and purses. She regularly meets the women who sew the goods by hand. The number of women working in her company is increasing. She provides th materials for production and pays the women by piece.

Through pictures from her album we see the development of her business including the workshops she offers. Her history includes being a university teacher during the presidency of Dr. Najibullah. Her photos show a very different Afghanistan and with other historic photos demonstrate the ups and downs of women’s role in the political, cultural and economic history of the country.

The Objectives of the Film

  1. The experience, qualifications and capacity of business women in Afghanistan.
  2. The impact of women’s work on their family and community.
  3. Historical insights into the changing participation of women in Afghan business
  4. How capacity is now demonstrated through the development of one woman’s business and the formation and activities of the AWBF

I, Fakhria Ibrahimi, have worked as a photographer on the catalog for these busineswomen. During this project, I have developed relationships with these businesswomen and learned about how they face their challenges and how they still try to make themselves independent financially.

Story submitted by Aqeela Resai

Project description:
This will be a pure character driven documentary with short interviews integrated the film. Afghan’s self‐confidence and optimism were shattered during the last thirty years of war. Because of the lack of stability in Afghanistan its people have been focused only on survival.

Today the majority of Afghans continue to be, confused and uncertain about how to cope with the continued instability. However, there are communities pushing themselves forward despite the disheartening challenges. This story will take the viewer on a journey into the lives of blind Afghans who are remaining remarkably optimistic despite the unsympathetic and harsh conditions that they live in.

It is early morning and Reshad – a blind teenage boy ‐ is still in bed. The morning prayers wake him up. He sits on his bed and rub his eyes with the back of his hands. He leaves his bedroom to get ready for the prayers. He is washing his hands, face and feet in a particular way while mumbling Arabic sentences that is hard to hear or understand. Minutes after he is facing west and reciting prayers in Arabic. He folds the prayer cloth and walks to the bookshelves. He picks up a novel and sits on the floor. He has a passion in reading and writing literature.

The sun, now, high above the mountains Reshad with his two little sisters and his parents are circled around a table clothe to take breakfast. Rahim Hassan, Reshad’s father always nags, Hadia his youngest daughter. He cries out loud, “My dear and little lovely servant. Please polish my shoes and wash my socks.” Haida resists that she is not a servant. All these little conversations bring joy and laughter to the family.

Reshad is standing before the mirror and brushing his teeth. He puts on his clothes and intends to walk out of the door. His father shouts from behind, ”Don’t show up late at school today. There are a lot of administrative tasks need to get done before noon. Reshad is annoyed. He tells his father that he wants to go music class. “I don’t know why the hell you stuck with the music. You better look for a well‐paid job. You can’t make money on music in Afghanistan.” says his father.

Later in the day, Reshad is in a music class with a great deal of music instruments. Reshad is sitting among his classmates and is playing piano. As soon as the instructor walks in, the piano sound vanishes and all the students sit up right. The instructor briefly greets the students and goes right on to the lesson. The students are quiet and carefully pay attention to the instructor’s explanation. The class is almost over, Reshad is sitting close to the instructor playing the new notation with a guitar.

Reshad leaves the class with a guitar on his side. On the way home small children makes fun of him. They call him The Blind Musician. Some call him Afghan Star (A music competition show for Afghan youths on a local TV channel.). But Reshad never gets mad on the children. He just smiles on all the comments he hears. However, there are some neighbors who respect Reshad and encourage him on his journey to become a great musician.

Music is the main subject often discussed in Reshad’s family. Rahim Hassan is a music instructor at vocational institute of blinds. He always tries to influence Reshad not get into music world. He believes music doesn’t have audience in Afghanistan. As a result music seems to be the most low profile and low‐income career. Rahim Hassan has gone through terrible financial problems during the years he functioned as a music instructor. “I can’t let my son experience what I have been through. He should live a prosperous life”, he says. But Reshad never seems to give up on his plan to become a musician. With his limited knowledge of music he tries to convince his father to agree with his intention.

Most of the time Reshad locks up himself in his small room that is full of musical instruments and books. With his laptop on his lap he listens to the recorded music he already recorded. He concentrates on his future intentions and goals. Sometimes he writes them down but most of the time he just review in his mind.

Reshad has been informed through his friends of a music institute that is free of charge. Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan Trust for Culture are organizing free music classes for Afghan youths who are interested to learn music. Wahid Qasimi the famous Afghan singer is in charge of the program. Reshard visits the institute to collect information on how to get admission? When he walks into the room, he cannot believe his eyes. He finds himself in front of Wahid Qasimi one of his favorite singers. He talks about his interest and passion for the music and show great enthusiasm to pursue it. He also mentions of his dream to team up and work with Wahid Qasimi.

PS: (I will interview Reshad to talk about his intentions and works in detail. Short pieces of the interview will be edited through out of them film to give more insight on his work and life.)