The Fruit of Our Labor

Afghan Perspectives in Film

Summary

The 10 films of The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film 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.

Community Supported Film “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”

Project Outcomes:

  • Non-fiction mediamakers working across ethnicities and genders and committed to social issue documentary storytelling;
  • The completion of ten short stories that raise critical concerns and accomplishments of Afghan communities;
  • Ten trained documentary filmmakers who can find employment and contribute to the future of Afghanistan through documentary films that deal with issues central to Afghan development;
  • Deeper community and institutional engagement in the assessment and critique of development interventions, international aid and socio-economic policy.

Training

Building Local Capacity: Giving Voice to Afghans through Filmmaking

These films were made by Afghans during an intensive 5-week training in documentary production provided by Community Supported Film.  After three weeks of rigorous exercises, each student developed and produced a character driven short documentary.  For most of the trainees, this is their directorial debut as a documentary filmmaker. Trainees have gone on to produce commissioned films for broadcast, to work for government and NGO production units and to freelance.

Testimony from Afghan trainees:

“I have lived some of the most fantastic weeks of my life. This training is equipping me to make a difference in the future.” — Abdul Majid Zharand, Water Ways

“Documentary filmmaking is my medium of choice for communicating the realities in Afghanistan. This training is giving me the knowledge I need to pursue this work.” — Reza Sahel, Searching for a Path

“This training, besides teaching documentary cinema, encourages coexistence. People from different backgrounds and ethnicities are sitting around the same table. It’s amazing.” — Sayed Qasim Hossaini, Death to the Camera

“This training is teaching me to discover my true potential.” — Mona Haidari, Bearing the Weight

“Revealing the realities of Afghanistan has been a dream of mine. Now I have a chance to realize this dream.” — Aqeela Rezai, The Road Above

Voice of America produced a special report on our training and production work in Afghanistan. Special thanks to Philippa Levenberg for her work on this and to trainee Hasib Asmati’s participation.

‘L’ is for Light, ‘D’ is for Darkness (Original, 12:20; Excerpt, 3:55)

Filmmaker: Hasibullah Asmati
Editor: Hamed Alizada; Additional Sound and Camera: Zarah Sadat

After the refugees returned, post-Taliban, there was no girl’s school in the village. Waseema took things into her own hands, organizing the women, pressuring the resistant men, and setting up ‘classrooms’ in an abandoned, roofless, building on the outskirts of the village. The sounds of the girls calling out their lessons doesn’t disturb anyone – except for those who won’t follow their Mullah’s advice and allow their daughters and sisters to attend.

Hasibullah Asmati

Hasibullah Asmati

Hasibullah Asmati’s family is from Takhar and he lives in Kabul. He worked as a production assistant on the documentary Addicted in Afghanistan, and as a freelance production assistant with the Takhar province TV channel. Hasib is currently working as a freelance videographer.

Searching for a Path (Original, 13:25; Excerpt, 2:53)

Filmmaker: Reza Sahel
Editor: Rahmatulah Jafari

The streets of Kabul are clogged with pushcart vendors of every sort. After the fall of the Taliban, the vendors were left in peace, as there were few cars on the streets. Now they are beaten by the police and chased from corner to corner – unless they pay a bribe. Fruit selling is the product of choice in the fall season. In the summer they rot too quickly in the 105˚ heat. It’s not a profitable living, but in a country with 40% unemployment, the choices are slim. Will these vendors’ children still be facing the same limited opportunities when they seek employment?

Reza Sahel

Reza Sahel

Reza Sahel is from Ghazni province and lives in Kabul. He works as a freelance photo-journalist with BBC online and also works as a cameraman for Nagar TV on spot and feature news. Reza is a multimedia trainer for NAI in cooperation with Internews, and is a founding member of Third Eye Photography.

Hands of Health (Original, 11:37; Excerpt, 2:54)

Filmmaker: Zahra Sadat
Editor: Jawed Taiman; Additional Sound: Hasibullah Asmati

The maternity clinic has been built but there are no doctors and no medical equipment. Who’s to blame, the Ministry of Health or the Men’s Development Council? The Women’s Council handed over their National Solidarity Program funds to the men when they agreed to build a maternity clinic. But with it still not open pregnant woman like Farida continue to make the long trip to Kabul to get medicine and medical advice, including birth control. After ten kids, the father thinks it might be time to stop having children – but says it’s in the hands of God.

Zahra Sadat

Zahra Sadat

Zahra Sadat is from Bamyan province and lives in Kabul. Zahra works as a freelance journalist for Jadid Media online and in multi-media production. She founded and directs the Open Society Organization and volunteers with Afghan Youth for Peace.

The Road Above (Original, 5:49; Excerpt, 2:28)

Filmmaker: Aqeela Rezai
Editor: Jawed Taiman; Sound: Reza Sahel; Additional Camera: Reza Sahel and Baqir Tawakoli

It is estimated that out of 28 million Afghans, 1 million are addicted to heroin. Mona tried once to get her husband into treatment, but he escaped and she hasn’t seen him since. Now she works street construction, but does the manual labor wearing a burqa to protect the honor of her family.

Aqeela Rezai

Aqeela Rezai

Aqeela Rezai stars in Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf’s film Five in the Afternoon and appears in many other TV dramas. Since 2009 she has worked part time for the Independent Election Commission. She previously produced and appeared in a documentary on the challenges faced by actresses in Afghanistan.

Knocking on Time’s Door (Original, 5:24; Excerpt, 2:28)

Filmmaker: Ahmad Wahid Zaman
Editor: Hamed Alizada; Additional Sound: Majid Zarand

A former Mujahedeen fighter returns to teach at the village school where his father taught. He lives what he teaches: that each of us is responsible to use the time we are given wisely. He’s leading the village development council and trying to build a new school. For many fighters, giving up their gun meant giving up an income and a position of power and respect. Can Afghan government initiatives, like the National Solidarity Program, provide employment and leadership opportunities for men that instill similar pride in the rebuilding of their communities?

Ahmad Wahid Zaman

Ahmad Wahid Zaman

Ahmad Wahid Zaman, from Panjshir province and living in Kabul, trained as an agriculturalist. He works as a journalist, producer, and director of long-form news reports, previously at Ariana TV and now at Bakhtar TV.

Bearing the Weight (Original, 12:05; Excerpt, 3:32)

Filmmaker: Mona Haidari
Editor: Hamid Arshia; Sound: Sayed Qasem Hossaini

Not long after marrying at twenty-one, Shafiqa lost her husband, her newly born daughter, and her leg in a rocket attack. The war in Afghanistan has left some 700,000 disabled. Many – especially disabled women and children – are hidden from view, trapped by their culture. Shafiqa overcame the “paralysis of her soul” and found a way to take care of herself, her two sons, and her community

Mona Haidari

Mona Haidari

Mona Haidari is from Wardack and lives in Kabul. The focus of her works has shifted from painting, to photography, to documentary filmmaking. She is the assistant producer of Focus Reports, a program on social issues, for Negah TV. Mona also participated in cinéma vérité training with Atelier Varan.

Water Ways (Original, 9:25; Excerpt, 2:08)

Filmmaker: Majeed Zarand
Editor: Jawed Taiman; Sound: Majeed Zarand and Ahmad Wahid Zaman; Additional Camera: Jawed Taiman

Neighboring villages – one with access to water and one without – offer very different prospects to their residents. The farmers without water are stuck; unable to feed their families, they turn to work as day laborers. However, working a day job keeps them from solving their water problems. Down the road, villagers have easier access to water and have used assistance from the Afghan government’s National Solidarity Program to improve their lives. Unfortunately, tensions could arise between these villages over access to water.

Abdul Majeed Zarand

Abdul Majeed Zarand

Abdul Majeed Zarand lives in Ghazni and works in Wardack province. He is a reporter for the Afghan War Reporters Agency (AWRA) and Afghan Daily Times. A poet and novelist, Abdul has also volunteered as a local school teacher for the last 7 years.

Beyond Fatigue (Original, 8:37; Excerpt, 2:35)

Filmmaker: Baqir Tawakoli
Editor: Hamid Arshia; Production Assistance and Additional Sound: Reza Sahel

In most corners of the world, a woman’s work is never done. In Beyond Fatigue an Afghan woman walks miles to help her sick mother-in-law and is responsible for the next generation of young minds as she teaches them the language and lessons of the Quran. In between she works at the vocational training center where she hopes to get a loan to buy her own sewing machine.

Baqir Tawakoli

Baqir Tawakoli

Baqir Tawakoli lives and works in Bamyan province. He is a poet and short story writer, and has previous training in photography. Baqir works and volunteers with economic and social development agencies, and was head of his village’s Community Development Council.

Treasure Trove (Original, 10:51; Excerpt, 1:56)

Filmmaker: Fakhria Ibrahimi
Editor: Rahmatullah Jafari

From the inside of a bakery, an unusual view of the daily lives of Afghan women is revealed – unveiled and uninhibited.

Fakhria Ibrahimi

Fakhria Ibrahimi

Fakhria Ibrahimi lives in Kabul and is from Wardack province. She has worked on community-based documentary photography projects in Sari Pul province. Fakhria is also a Kabul-based representative for the Funder’s Network for Afghan Women.

Death to the Camera (Original, 20:06; Excerpt, 1:00)

Filmmaker: Sayed Qasem Hossaini
Editor: Hamed Alizada; Sound: Mona Haidari

A camera moves among woman working their last day on a job site. As they joke and fight – accusing each other of being prostitutes, liars, and racists – the mood repeatedly shifts between belly laughs and rage. The women are left waiting for hours for their pay by the charity that administers the cash-for-work program. As they wait, they consider what debts they’ll pay off, what food they’ll buy, and how they’ll stay warm during the approaching winter. There is lively discussion about what happens to all the aid that never reaches them, and whether Karzai is a crook or a servant of the people. Is the camera revealing anything truthful, or simply inciting these women to present what they think ‘the other’ wants to hear – or what might get them something from the world on the other side of the camera? Who is on the other side of that camera anyway?

Sayed Qasem Hossaini

Sayed Qasem Hossaini

Sayed Qasem Hossaini grew up in Sari Pul and Balk provinces and studied film at the Cinema and Fine Arts department at Kabul University. Previously he produced a short video report on carpet making, served as a sports reporter for a community newspaper, and worked as a freelance production assistant.

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Asia-Society

The Fruit of Our Labor films have been seen by thousands of Americans, Afghans, and internationals, contributing to public discourse and the formation of nuanced opinion about the immediate and long-term future of Afghanistan. The films were the centerpiece of a Congressional Briefing and have been used to stimulate dialogue in dozens of classrooms, conferences, town halls, universities, government departments and film festivals across the country. This included the US Institute of Peace in Washington, DC; the World Bank in Kabul, Afghanistan; and the Asia Society in New York City. Death to the Camera, one of the films in the collection, won Best Documentary at the Autumn Human Rights Film Festival in Kabul, Afghanistan, received a $10,000 award at the Swiss International Short Film Festival in Winterthur, and was an official selection for Hot Docs 2012 in Toronto, Canada.

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Presented & Produced by Community Supported Film
Co-Producer: The Killid Group
© 2011 Community Supported Film