Four days and 37 interviews later and I have a fresh understanding of the Afghan experience. These candidates were selected from over 60 applicants from throughout the country. We are looking for people with a passion for storytelling, sensitivity to village life and a demonstrated interest in social and economic development. The candidates do not have to have experience with filmmaking. They can be working for example, as print or radio journalists, novelists, poets, photographers or in the theater.
Asking candidates where they are from and where they grew up typically illicit two different answers. Repeated stories of displacement either during the Taliban reign (96-01) for the younger candidates and/or during the civil war (78-96) for the older candidates. Many have returned since 2002 from Pakistan or Iran, and one from Tajikistan, where they were refugees and not allowed to fully integrate into society or attend university. Most have family in their province of origin but may now be living in Kabul either for work, school or due to insecurity in their home community.
Those from the provinces are rooted in their communities. From the south and east, where the insurgents dominate, they constantly negotiate their security by keeping channels of communication open with those family members who are members of the Taliban. Those from the provinces typically come to the interview in traditional dress while the city folk come in suits or shirts and trousers bearing all sorts of western logos. All are looking for quality education – which is from their experience all too rare in Afghanistan. The Kabul University students repeatedly stated that their time would be better spent skipping school and attending the training. And apparently no one would notice their absence. We are not encouraging this and in general are looking for older candidates with a bit more life experience.