In 1988 I was fortunate enough to participate in the first Youth Summit between American and (then) Soviet teens. We were hooked up across the ocean by satellite, Phil Donahue was our moderator and Vladimir Posner was theirs. But it was the students who did the talking. For a few short hours, we asked questions back and forth, we performed skits for each other and voiced our perceptions of one another - while discovering how wrong those perceptions could be. :) The Summit was followed up by a trip to Russia where we met students our age in Novorossiysk. We talked, we ate, we danced, we laughed a lot and came back home changed. All the preconceived notions we had going in, all that the mainstream news had shown us about the Russians, was neither accurate nor relevant. It was time to leave the suspicion of the Cold War behind and embrace a more productive, open attitude.
Anytime a bridge is to be crossed among countries I think educators and artists lead the way. Film Annex's Afghan Development Project has taken this lead and run with it. Most of what we see on the news about Afghanistan is footage of a war torn country comprised of dust and rubble. But there's so much more. And thanks to Film Annex we're getting to see the positive face of this country in a very unique way. It's exciting to see what they're doing with the Development Project and it makes so much sense - it's brilliant. They're not only helping to educate Afghan boys and girls but Americans too. Have you seen the "Ushma Neill on Afghan Women and Education" or the "Afghan Women Behind the Wheel" videos on the "Film Annex in Afghanistan" channel? http://www.filmannex.com/webtv/afghandevelopment What extraordinary people! Go watch!
Knowledge and education are power, they're strength, they're our voice. Education is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves - whether in school, or looking something up on the internet, or by sharing fiction and non-fiction films about our lives. I'm thrilled that Film Annex is brining this all together. It's inspiring to see a culture take their country through a defining moment, to fight for what they believe in and for what they want and succeed. Americans have a similar spirit - we're a self-made country. We didn't go to Russia to tell them how to do things, we went to learn - and found we had so much in common.
I wish we'd had the resources then that we do now to get the word out about our trip to Russia. I'm so happy to see Film Annex using social media, video and Skype to make this message far reaching, and to put those tools to practical use and help educate a generation of children who will be the next ambassadors. I look forward to watching more of what Film Annex will bring us in this program and hope they will make it global, and perhaps connect American and Afghan filmmakers. As a mythic filmmaker I'd love to hear their ancient and traditional tales and see how they use them to tell their contemporary story. The possibilities are endless. :) This makes me even more proud to have my films on FA and know that their passion to help reaches so far, and inspires us filmmakers in new ways.