In 2010, the war in Afghanistan surpassed Vietnam as the longest war in US history. This October marks one decade of a war that has seen over 2,600 Coalition military deaths, more than 10,000 wounded, and the maiming and murder of untold thousands of Afghan civilians, with 2011 currently on pace to eclipse 2010 as the deadliest year thus far.
Inspired by the 1967 film, FAR FROM VIETNAM (LOIN DU VIETNAM), John Gianvito conceived of FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN as a project to bring together some of the boldest, most politically-progressive US filmmakers. The final version will also include contributions from native filmmakers throughout Afghanistan. Together they will utilize a mosaic of approaches, and explore issues of shared responsibility, history and memory, in a concerted effort to help accelerate resistance to the war. Gianvito brought together filmmakers Jon Jost, Minda Martin, Travis Wilkerson, and Soon-mi Yoo--a strong, diverse group of filmmakers all of whom have embraced the challenge of making an ambitious endeavor, a clarion call for an end to the US war in Afghanistan, that looks deeper at the issues these 10 years of occupation and violence have wrought.
The 10-year anniversary of the war this October underlines the urgency of our goals, and elevates the opportunity to rally for change. In service of this moment, FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN: THE OCTOBER EDITION will premiere on-line for one-week only beginning October 6. This unique edition represents works-in-progress from our dedicated team of filmmakers who have been working tirelessly to realize their contributions to the final film. This week-long streaming event is designed to engage audiences and raise awareness with the general public.
With the help of editors Pacho Velez and Robert Todd, and a production team that includes producers Steve Holmgren and Mike Bowes, platform producer John Bruce, and production coordinator Matthew Yeager, FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN will exist ultimately as a feature-length film, which includes five 10-20 minute segments from the roster, alongside interstitial scenes from daily life in Afghanistan. BUT, we can’t do this without your help. With the October Edition, these filmmakers working out of their own pockets have taken the film as far as they can. To complete the editing, color-correction, and sound-mixing of these nearly completed self-funded films, please take a moment to watch our video and learn a little bit more about our team. If this is an issue that you care about, we hope that you will consider donating to our campaign to aid in the completion of FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN with the shared goal of ending the war and redirecting our humanitarian efforts to the people of Afghanistan.
FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN seeks to generate vital dialogue around the war and the broader ways that US foreign policy impacts people here and across the globe. In so doing this, we hope to foster partnerships and collaborations with individuals, groups, and organizations at home and abroad. Most centrally, the project plans to connect with and provide assistance to humanitarian organizations with aligned missions, both in Afghanistan and domestically. Please help us in spreading the word and don't hesitate to reach out.
Finally, this undertaking was put together without any financial backing. We are open to and actively looking for contributions and investment of various levels beyond this campaign, and encourage you to reach out if you or someone you know might be interested.
/ THE FILMMAKERS \
JOHN GIANVITO / My Heart Swims in Blood
While Afghanistan burns, America fiddles… a mosaical journey through a dark night of the soul.
As fog descends upon the landscape, a man attempts to lull himself to sleep. Across the nation, Americans embrace their pleasures. 7000 miles away U.S. and coalition forces leave behind a trail of death, destruction, and profound resentment among many of the people of Afghanistan. Business as usual. A tirade and indictment against a decade of slaughter and occupation, and the “fruits” of American exceptionalism. With André Gregory.
/ John Gianvito is a director, teacher, and curator based in Boston. Gianvito's 2001 feature "The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein", a three-hour dramatic exploration of the United States during the period of the first Persian Gulf War received the Jury Prize at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, the first "Rosa Luxemburg Prize" and Best Independent Film at the New England Film/Video Festival. His 2007 film "Profit motive and the whispering wind" received considerable acclaim, earning 8 awards including "Best Experimental Film of the Year" by the National Society of Film Critics, and was cited on various Top Ten lists including in Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cahiers du Cinema, and Cinema Scope. Gianvito's latest documentary, Vapor Trail (Clark), a four and a half hour exploration of the impact of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines, past and present, had its premiere at the 2010 Rotterdam International Film Festival and was cited as one of the Top Ten Films of the year by critics in both FILM COMMENT and SIGHT & SOUND. \
JON JOST / Empire’s Cross
As a life-long resistor to American imperialism, as exemplified currently in the war in Afghanistan, that famed "graveyard of empires," how could I decline? While, to be honest, it seems like still another wall to beat my head against, it seems my fate. And America's. - JJ
Empire’s Cross is a completely poetic evocation of the circumstances instigating America's attack on Afghanistan, its methods, and of the deeply seated cultural origins of Western culture's tendency towards warring. As an (ironic) counter-point it uses President Eisenhower's Farewell Speech (1961) and an earlier speech (1953) "Cross of Iron" as a foil. Ironic, as Eisenhower was a much glorified general and a Republican in politics; today he would be deemed a radical leftist for his words in those speeches.
/ Born in Chicago to a military family, Jost grew up in Georgia, Kansas, Japan, Italy, Germany and Virginia. He began making films in January 1963 after being expelled from college. In 1965 he was imprisoned by US authorities for 2 years 3 months for refusal to cooperate with the Selective Service system. Self-taught as a filmmaker, he made his first full-length film in 1974, and has since that time focused on a wide range of American issues in his films. Since 1996 he has worked almost exclusively in digital video, completing twelve features and many short films. Among Jost's most recognized works include, "Speaking Directly: Some American Notes" (1973-75), "Bell Diamond" (1986), "All The Vermeers in New York" (1990), and "The Bed You Sleep In" (1993) among others. He is the recipient of DAAD, Guggenheim, and NEA Production Grants; given full retrospectives at MoMA, UCLA Film Archive, Bologna, Turin, Lisbon and elsewhere, circa 1993. Since 1996, Jost willfully withdrew from applying for grants, or having much to do with the "official" film world. \
MINDA MARTIN / The Long Distance Operator
An experimental narrative film short about a drone pilot in Palmdale, California who learns about the impact of his role in the war in Afghanistan from on-the-ground soldiers. I was compelled to volunteer my time to contribute a film that could give Americans a way of thinking about their own distance from the war in Afghanistan. The idea for the story came from US Army war veteran, Ethan McCord, who testified about the impact of an aerial strike that killed several innocent civilians in Baghdad. Placing McCord’s testimony in the context of the pilot’s screens (available on Wikileaks), I came to see parallels with how Americans have been experiencing this war. I explored these feelings with the actors, all of whom are war veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
/ Minda Martin is a critically acclaimed, award-winning director, editor, and producer of documentary and narrative films that explore the underpinnings and disparities of social class in America. Her collection of documentary and narrative shorts titled Love, Loss, & Longing (2007) and two feature documentaries AKA Kathe (2000,Video, 55min) and most recently, Free Land (2009,Film/Video, 63min) have been critically praised by Variety, New York Times, LA Weekly, CBC, and others. Minda received her Bachelors of Arts degree from University of Arizona in creative writing, classics, and media arts. She then received her Masters of Fine Arts degree from California Institute of the Arts in film and video production. She is currently an Associate Professor in the department of Visual and Performing Arts at California State University of San Marcos. \
TRAVIS WILKERSON / Fragments of Dissolution
/ A chance meeting in Havana with legendary Cuban film propagandist Santiago Alvarez changed the course of Travis Wilkerson's life. He now makes films in the tradition of the "third cinema," wedding politics to form in an indivisible manner. His best-known work is an agit-prop essay on the lynching of Wobbly Frank Little called "An Injury to One." His other films include "Accelerated Underdevelopment" (on the filmmaker Santiago Alvarez), "Who Killed Cock Robin?", and the National Archive series. In 2007 he presented the first ever performance art at the Sundance Film Festival with "Proving Ground," a live multi-media rumination on the notion of technological prowess outstripping our moral and ethical development. His work has screened at scores of festivals worldwide, including Sundance, Toronto, Rotterdam, Marseille, Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, Hot Docs, Vienna International Film Festival and Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. His latest film, "Distinguished Flying Cross" had its world premiere in April at the Cinéma du Réel Film Festival where it received the International Prize. \
SOON-MI YOO / Afghanistan: The Next Generation
They said the Korean War was a “Forgotten War.” Is sixty years enough time for a war to be forgotten? But then how is it possible for the American War in Afghanistan to be forgotten when it’s still unleashing death and destruction? I too am guilty of forgetting. This film is my small gesture against forgetting. It incorporates various forms of archival footage - military, news, amateur and fiction– from different historical moments and seeks to expose the hypocrisy of the American occupation. Propaganda turned against itself.
/ Korean-born Soon-Mi Yoo works with various media and genres, including photography, film, installation and text to explore marginalized histories. Her work has been exhibited at festivals internationally, including Oberhausen, Pompidou Center, New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, and Seattle IFF, and galleries across the country, including the International Center of Photography and Boston Center for the Arts. Her films include PINK (2011), DANGEROUS SUPPLEMENT (2006), ISAHN (2004), ssitkim: talking to the dead (2004), faith (1999), Do Roo (Circling Back, 1994). Her photographs of the Comfort Women (victims of sexual slavery in the Japanese “rape camps” during WW II) survivors are published in “Comfort Women Speak: Testimony from Sex Slaves of the Japanese Military ” in 2000. "When I encountered the Comfort Women survivors in 1998, they taught me to focus on specific personal experiences and memory and to pay attention to the meaning of silence in the historical narrative... By crossing the boundary between documentary, personal essay, and experimental film categories, I seek to disorder the standard narratives of history and to produce an alternative telling. Through uneasy juxtaposition of fragments, the layers of memory reach for the power of feeling. It opens up a space of imagination where it is possible to make connections between personal experience and public memory, historical perspective and private suffering." Soon-Mi Yoo is a recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Media Arts Fellowship, a fellowship from the American Photography Institute, the Corcoran Alumni Award for Excellence, and the National Asian American Telecommunications Association Grant. \
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