The West overthrew a flailing Taliban government 20 years ago and pledged to rebuild Afghanistan in its image. We know how that ended. What the hell happened?
How did a military incursion to rid the world of terrorists, followed by a tsunami of eye-watering amounts of humanitarian aid result in the Taliban returning with more money, more territorial control and more reach than ever before?
Much was pledged to Afghanistan, much was invested, and many promises were made to never abandon it. But it seems the West is keen to forget it and consign Afghans to a fate no one in the West would accept.
Was the whole exercise simply another ill-advised foray into colonisation? How could more than one trillion dollars be spent in ‘nation building’ and not one standardised hospital be built? Did the foreigners involved in these efforts ever foresee this outcome?
Kabulians seeks answers to these questions and many others. It is an uncomfortably honest look at the lives of the civilian foreigners - intertwined with the lives of Afghans they worked with or fought against - involved in remaking a country during the West’s longest war in modern history.
Kabulians captures stories of incredible happiness, sadness, and hope against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s colourful cultures and sweeping landscapes. The characters you’ll meet include an armoured car salesman, a cyclist and women’s rights activist, Afghanistan’s number 1 media fixer, a NATO psychological operations specialist, a female Kandarhari graffiti artist from the Taliban heartland, a Kabul University debate club vice-president, photojournalists, a TV producer and the meditation guru who schooled Taliban prisoners in yoga.
Drawing on over 100 hours of footage and interviews filmed in Afghanistan at the height of the war and the foreign presence, Kabulians probes the expats for why they risked a war zone. What were they hoping to do? What did they accomplish? And what do they regret?
As each character reflects on their tim
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
The West seems to be washing its hands of Afghanistan, more intent on justifying the rise of the Taliban than taking any responsibility for the Islamic extremists’ return to power. Kabulians seeks to fill some of the gaps by asking what the West missed in its 20-year effort and what can be learned from the mistakes.
The monumental defeat of the US military and more than 45 other nations who supported it raise critical questions about the impact of war, even an apparently “legal” and “just” one, and the humanitarian aid machine that functions alongside it.
The brutal cultural and social reversion happening in Afghanistan today
Lack of respect of private space and cultural space by occupying forces
Lack of Rule of Law for both Afghans and Foreigners with access to influence and power
Functionality of current model of democracy enforced on emerging nations
Lack of accountability for aid organizational operations
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
Through our characters, Kabulians provides a lens on Western foreign policy in Afghanistan. It will raise awareness about military and aid funding that has been exploited since 9/11, highlighting the legacy left behind once the foreigners leave and who benefits from it. It raises questions about Western intervention into emerging nations and whether ‘nation building’ is ethical.
It will do so by attracting a broader cross-section of audiences through engaging them with artfully told character-ba
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
To achieve peace, equality, stability when the war in Afghanistan is over and peace is found for the 30+ million people who have lived in a state of conflict for 40 years. Some Afghans and Westerners should be subjected to the international war crimes tribunal. In addition, draw attention to the fact that Arms companies should have stronger restrictions against them when dealing internationally. The overall goal is to influence Western powers to review and change their policies towards emerging nations and in particular Muslim nations and societies.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
Kabulians will be broadly distributed in the UK, Europe, Australasia and America through the following broadcast channels:
- Film festivals, broadcast networks and online platforms
- Schools and universities as a compelling educational resource
- Diplomatic missions, especially those stationed in Central Asia and those still working across the region
International aid agencies
- Lobby groups working on the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, those challenging the crippling economic sanctions from the West
Kabulians will be able to reach more audiences through a structure that highlights personal stories, while still staying true to the events that unfolded and their consequences.
With devastating wars continuing in the world today and the aid complex requiring increasing amounts of funding year on year, the questions raised and insights gained in Kabulians remain relevant today.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
Our director Travis Beard and producer Catherine James share a combined 15-year history of work and experience inside Afghanistan. Our Iranian-born executive producer Navid Bahadori has deep ties and interest in the geopolitical landscape in the region. Through their collective research and access to archive material throughout the 20-year war, the key elements of the film are covered.
Their deep network of contacts in Afghanistan also gives the production unique access to partners with contemporaneous information and material as well as an ongoing wealth of knowledge and experience of living there.
The production has also partnered with Sound Central, a non-profit that historically hosted festivals, workshops and concerts for the Afghan youth. After the Taliban takeover in August 2021, Sound Central pivoted to helping evacuate and resettle Afghan musicians who wished to escape threats the new Taliban rulers pose.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
We want to provide audiences with engaging and in-depth information about what happened in Afghanistan, and more insight into the impact of war and the West’s efforts to shape emerging nations.
We hope they will learn something deeper about foreign policy from the film and they will share it with future generations.
We also hope our audience share their insights and that the film inspires more awareness of the impact of foreign policy. This could be through:
- Host a community screenings
- Intrigue them enough to research the issues further for themselves
- Hold discussions with friends and family about the issues raised
- Write letters to the local and federal politicians about any proposed involvement in Afghanistan or other wars that Australia might contemplate engaging in
- Question our duty of care to the Afghan people we made promises to
- Encourage peaceful protest against injustice and corruption, aided and abetted by more powerful nations leveraging off poorer economies
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
The key success is having more people informed on what happened in Afghanistan and amplifying the voices of those who witnessed the failures and those adversely affected in order to bring about change.
The film’s success will help:
-Improve understanding of the nation building experiment - why it failed in Afghanistan, whether it’s simply colonisation by another name, etc
- Improve accountability measures and transparency in Western institutions, especially those marshalling huge amounts of money purportedly to support emerging nations
- Raise awareness about the slippery goal of “peace” wrought by direct military conflict
- To hold Western nations to account for Afghanistan’s situation and keep them aware of commitments made.
- More transparent audits of military and aid spending and assessment of management.