I looked at the substantial and impressive work achieved by Bridge and felt drawn to become involved with the work of this organisation that was achieving so much, so swiftly and with so little.
Shortly after the Fashion show, which was a great success and raised £25,000 for Afghanaid, Firuz and I started to discuss the documentary project.
Just to give you a bit of background, I'm a surgeon and was able to visit Kabul in April this year when I went to the CURE Clinic, the French Medical Institute for Children (FMIC) and the Children’s House. The things that I saw during that visit made me, as a doctor, want to be able to bring back the human stories both good and bad.
For the last few months I've been working with a small team of journalists and filmmakers as part of Bridge Afghanistan to put together a plan for the documentary I envisioned. The principal drivers are to use the medium of healthcare to provide an in road for people outside of Afghanistan to come on a journey with me as I explain what it is I am seeing. The access that a doctor or healthcare professional has to a community is unlike that available to a journalist; the trust and conversations are different. The insight is through the lens of birth and death, of loss and disability, and reflects every aspect of the consequences of conflict on individuals and on their community. The loss of nearly all elements of the infrastructure of a country; security, governance, education, transport, clean water, sanitation and power, are all visible in the health of the people.
The body of the documentary will focus on key players whose commitment to providing healthcare and a sustainable offering go largely unsung, these people are both foreign nationals working in Afghanistan and Afghan men and women who a working to make a change. The context will be set by the women and men who are able to tell of their experiences giving first hand narration to the viewer. The predominant focus is on women as this is where the most disturbing and tragic scenarios are played out, occurring through ignorance, poverty and cultural and religious restrictions. The characters; both the patients and the care givers, give us their human stories and link us to the real people and families of Afghanistan. This perspective gives substantial reason to continue to invest in humanitarian aid and development.
The documentary aims to counterbalance the British media's bias toward reporting only the live conflict, to provide a deeper level of information and understanding of the complex situation which is the current Afghanistan. It aims to reflect the human spirit of survival and to remind of, or explain the relatively developed Afghanistan of the 1970s as a way of visualising a possible future of peace and stability.
A young lad with eye injuries being cared for at the Children’s House in Kabul.
The Children’s House funds board and lodging for families and their children and pays for surgical treatment and rehabilitation costs.
A young girl with a broken leg is accompanied by her father at the Children’s House in Kabul – April 2009.
The French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul
The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Project states eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of which this documentary and additional photographs, film, and recorded material will address:
- MDG 3: To promote gender equality and empower women
- MDG 4: To reduce child mortality
- MDG 5: To improve maternal health
Why now? Afghanistan is the hot media topic with the eyes of the world upon the conflict and the presence of foreign military powers. For countries that have troops and international aid present in Afghanistan there is both human and financial resource at stake. But what of the Afghan people who are living their daily lives in cities and in rural areas, who tells their stories and presents the human face of Afghanistan?
What do we see of the real Afghanistan?
For those living outside Afghanistan the perspectives offered are limited, the media shows a particular slant on events in Afghanistan. The history and the culture of the country provide a picture of a complex society; a myriad of problems that will by no means reach a resolution overnight. Afghanistan is a place where people conduct ordinary lives, live, eat, sleep, and have families amidst the harshest conditions. Many people strive to do the right thing, there is bravery and there is hope for a time of stability. There is beauty and creativity in Afghanistan but these are overshadowed by the media images of military casualties, burhkas, and conflict.