5.26.2004

GUEST BLOG: or more specifically the posting of some emails from some friends whole just got back from a documentary film project in Afghanistan pertaining to the topic of LANDMINES

to keep it cycling relevant here is a link to that topic; Afghan Amputee Bicyclists

the emails were sent to me from my multitalented friend Rob Myers
Rob was my design mentor as he ran his own businesses; Ion Media and PXL Studios
he also played sitar at my wedding; when not working the wedding circuit Rob makes music with Thunderball, Thievery Corp, and Fort Knox Five

along with his artistic and musical pursuits Rob is also a civic minded individual who loves to travel the world and experience life
it would seem that his work on this landmine project is offering both

on with the emails....
Rob is not the author, another friend Mary is the author and leading the project in Afghanistan
I will cut and paste here...


Greetings from Kabul,

We arrived in Afghanistan a few days ago and have been busy filming the activities of the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines (ACBL), as it hosts an annual regional meeting of ban campaigners. The ACBL, established 1995, is made up of demining organizations, as well as other civil society groups.

We filmed the opening of the campaign meeting and a subsequent press conference, which saw government representatives speaking about landmines, as well as me on behalf of the international campaign. In the afternoon, we filmed a visit to the OMAR landmines museum, an amazing collection of mines and unexploded ordnance cleared throughout the country. We also visited the Mine Detection Dog Centre (MDC), where we filmed various teams from the country's demining organizations that had set up sample sites for the visiting campaigners. This was a great opportunity to make contacts for the filming we plan to do here on demining.

Yesterday, we filmed the campaigners as they met with the Afghan king, or "Father of the Nation" in his heavily-guarded palace. Earlier, we filmed a rally by hundreds of deminers, mine survivors and campaigners as they walked from a park in the center of Kabul past a row of embassies and ministries.

At the conclusion of the rally the ACBL Chairperson, Sohrab Hakimi of MDC, delivered a petition to the to the United Nations mine action center for them to pass on to the governments that continue to manufacture mines.

The campaign meeting concludes this afternoon with a bicycle race at the national stadium by mine survivors and other Afghans with disabilities. I will be leaving in a couple of days, but the film crew will stay on until 13 April: Brian Liu on camera, Luc Vanheel on audio, and Rob Myers, field producer.

Cheers,

Mary


Afghanistan #2

We are continuing our filming in Kabul for the landmines documentary, covering some interesting events this week...

The crew spent Monday morning (29 March) filming stockpiled landmines in the process of being destroyed at a Kabul factory. We had arrived in Kabul thinking we had missed this filming opportunity, but they found some more mines to destroy. The process involved melting a thousand metallic casings of the Soviet-made POMZ antipersonnel mine (the stake or "pineapple" mine) in an ancient-looking furnace. The factory workers, none of whom wore any significant protective gear, poured the molten iron into molds for manhole covers. They then covered the molds with sand to cool down overnight and placed a kettle on one to boil some tea. The process was fascinating and beautiful. With sparks flying everywhere, we were glad the camera, zeppelin, and crew made it out safely!

We then visited the Kabul rehabilitation clinic run by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to interview an engaging Italian, Dr. Alberto Cairo, who has directed the clinic for the past 15 years. Almost all of the clinic's workers are former patients now employed to make artificial limbs and braces for mine victims and others. We were very lucky to get to Cairo before he left for a month of travel. He introduced the crew to a woman patient wearing a burka who agreed to an emotional interview about the mine incident that took her leg.

Finally, in the afternoon we filmed a bicycle race by disabled Afghan men and boys (including mine victims) organized to coincide with the campaign meeting. Girls and women did not compete, but the organizers hope it will soon be possible to include bicycling in their skills training program which has a 4 year waitlist. Competition was fierce for the main prizes of new bicycles and hot water thermoses. We filmed a series of races by competitors entered in various groups such as below-knee (BK) amputee, above-knee (AK) amputee, wheelchair, and youth. The event took place in the national stadium, scene of public executions and other atrocities during the Taliban period.

I'm not sure what footage we got. It was chaotic, but fun to film and definitely an experience to remember. On several occasions I was asked to let people know of their desire to have proper racing bikes and helmets, especially for the athletes entered in the upcoming Paralympic Games that follow directly after the Olympics in Athens this summer.

The next day, we did the rounds of the major demining organizations (HALO, MCPA, MDC, United Nations) interviewing and setting up a schedule to film their various clearance activities in the field. The conference and campaign connections seemed to have helped a lot as all the agencies seem to be keen for us to film their programs; it is difficult to decide which!

On Wednesday morning I left Kabul and the crew (Brian, Luc, and Rob) to travel home to New Zealand for two weeks vacation turned into work. They have a packed schedule to complete by 13 April. I'm quite sad to be missing the experience. Afghanistan is slowly coming back to life. Despite the poverty and daunting challenges, Afghans are keen to reconstruct the country and rebuild their lives. Landmines account for just part of their many problems, but the way in which they have tackled this issue over the past decade is remarkable and rather awe-inspiring. I hope do it justice in the film.

Mary


Ms. Mary Wareham
Executive Producer, Fulfilling the Promise

Next Step Productions, Inc.
2407 15th St NW, #411
Washington, DC 20009, USA
Tel. +1 (202) 352-2968
Email. mary@nspfilms.org
Web. www.nspfilms.org


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