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|June 20, 2001||
Torn in Afghanistan
It was shocking, agitating, sometimes innocently funny.
And at the end of an hour and 54 minutes of screening to a packed hall in New York, when Jung: In The Land Of The Mujaheddin, a documentary by Italian filmmakers Alberto Vendemmiati, Fabrizio Lazzaretti and Giuseppe Pettito, ended, it left the 100-strong audience more curious than ever about life in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The film was premiered at the Walter Reade Theater in New York on June 15 as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival from June 13 to 28.
The festival of Human Rights Watch, which has been working in the field of human rights in more than 70 countries, has become a leading venue for distinguished fiction, documentary and animated films and videos with a distinctive human rights theme. This year, it has been co-presented by The Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Director Vendemmiati, photographer Lazzaretti and producer Pettito, who were present at the premiere, have been chosen for the Nestor Almendros Prize for courage and commitment in human rights, one of the two prestigious awards being given out at the film festival this year.
Jung was co-presented by Doubletake, which started off as a magazine but its role in bringing together established and emerging documentary filmmakers, writers, photographers and artists is set to transform it into an institution. "Jung means war and it is an ugly word," says a child in one of the opening scenes of the film, made in Afghani and Italian with English subtitles.
His words are drowned in the roar of tanks as scene after scene shows destruction, grief and pain. Fear is omnipresent; women are beaten up if they do not cover themselves from head to toe; soldiers and trigger-happy and everyone is hungry.
The film follows a war correspondent, Ettore Mo, and an Italian surgeon, Gino Strada, who decides to set up a hospital in the rugged landscape strewn with landmines which are claiming innocent victims every day. The film goes on to show people on the operation table, their limbs, eyes, hands ripped apart by the mines as the doctors despair.
"The film is based on a true story," the three filmmakers told the audience after the screening. "There was no script, so we did about 150 hours of shooting during our three visits to Afghanistan, and you may say the screenplay got written in the editing room," they said.
While shooting was done on the Mujaheddin side of Afghanistan, the filmmakers did not get permission to capture the Taliban-controlled areas.
Vendemmiati told India Abroad that they were in Afghanistan, which has seen 20 years of war. First we shot for two months beginning February 1999; we went back in August 1999 to shoot for two months, and then again in February 2000 we were there for three months," he said.
"Unfortunately, the hospital that was set up in Kabul, as shown in the film, was blown up three weeks ago. The team of doctors and nurses is still there, and the task before them is to reopen the hospital," the filmmakers added.
The locals were cooperative as they could see the good work being done by the team from Italy. "We also built up a good rapport with the families, so there was no resistance," they said. Asked about their own security, Pettito said in lighter vein, "All we can say is Inshallah."
There were no funds when they began shooting. But after the film was completed and broadcast on Italian television, the viewers donated $175,000 for the hospital that was built in Anobah town.
The three learnt a word, Allah, from their stay in Aghanistan. "You don't need to know too many words as there were always translators around," they said.
Asked how they got interested in the subject, the three film-makers said they knew the journalist shown in the movie and had even worked together in a couple of projects. "It was a good story to tell," they said, adding that "it is not just about war, or tragedy. What we have tried to show is this is what is going on in everyday life."
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