The Watch or the Time is a window into ‘nation building’ through the lens of the 20-year effort in Afghanistan. Thousands of civilian foreigners lived and worked in Afghanistan to build a new democracy as their armies fought “the war on terror”. This film is the story of these people and of the Afghans who worked alongside them, all believing a more prosperous and safer nation was within reach. But after 20 years, it came crashing down.
At a time where invasion, occupation and military spending globally seem to be peaking, The Watch or the Time unfolds many layers of complex modern day warfare versus the civilian cost. An Afghan female graffiti artist, a German armoured car salesman, an American women’s rights activist, a Canadian NATO Psy-Operations specialist, Kabul University’s debate club vice-president, an Australian war photographer, Afghanistan’s Number 1 media-fixer and a jubilant Taliban commander are the voices entangled in the West’s failed democracy project. The Watch or the Time ultimately asks; Was it all worth it and where it all went wrong?
How could two decades of Western elite armies, money, and power result in the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan? How could eye-watering levels of foreign aid leave such little development behind? As foreign governments wash their hands of responsibility, their citizens who believed in the democracy project grapple with their legacy.