Cultural Diplomacy: Pak-Afghan Filmmaking Opportunity

I spent a wonderful evening with young Afghan and Pakistani filmmakers who met in Karachi at IBA’s Center for Excellent in Journalism making short documentary films on human rights and peace building. The program was run under the auspices of the UN and the Swiss Embassy. Two of the Afghans were from Bamiyan, one from Kabul. Some of the Pakistanis were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Two international trainers from the Fondation Hirondelle in Switzerland conducted the workshops and the films will be screened tomorrow at the CEJ, and hopefully in a film festival and the Alliance Francaise de Karachi in the near future. 
In a time when our two countries are being driven apart by the powers that be, it’s heartening to see young citizens of both countries connect on common ground – promoting human rights and peace. Speaking to the young filmmakers, I was very impressed with their enthusiasm for Karachi, despite the negative things they’d heard about this country back home. They invited their Pakistani colleagues to Afghanistan in return – an invitation I hope is taken up by all the participants of the program, to build on the foundations laid in Karachi. 
There will soon be a similar program run by the Goethe Institut in Karachi in conjunction with the Prince Claus Fund of the Netherlands. Called “Film Talents – Voices from Pakistan and Afghanistan”, the program seeks emerging filmmakers to take part in a series of five workshops in 2017 and 2018. There’s an opportunity for the selected filmmakers to take their films to the Berlinale Talents and other festivals. One of the mentors is the renowned German director Til Passow, who is a frequent visitor to Pakistan since his first trip in 2002 when he made an award-winning film about the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. 
Again, the idea behind this series of workshops is to get Pakistanis and Afghans together to build cultural bridges, using film and media as the medium. There’s quite a wide gap between theoretical knowledge of filmmaking and actually getting into the field to make films, and this program hopes to address that missing link. It’s a great way of getting young filmmakers to learn how to tell the stories of their communities and countries, and take them to international audiences. And creating artistic links between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a kind of diplomacy that lasts well beyond the negotiating table, with completely different dimensions.
It’s also great to note that the programs are focused on equal female representation, so that both men and women will get the chance to develop diverse narratives and address social problems that are common to both countries.
The deadline for the Goethe Institut program is August 13 and more information can be found here.

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