Students and community members crowded Chumash Auditorium Tuesday night to watch a film co-produced and co-directed by sociology professor Maliha Zulfacar. The viewing of the movie was part of “An Evening in Afghanistan,” a two-hour event hosted by the Social Sciences Club.
Club president and social sciences junior Audrey Porcella said she wanted students and the public to walk away from the film with a bigger awareness of Afghanistan and to see a “raw Afghanistan” the public doesn’t see in the media.
“This will be a voice for the Afghans, and we can see how they live and what issues they are living with and stuff like that,” Porcella said. “Just a different side, a different perspective of Afghanistan.”
The movie, which was filmed in the fall of 2003 in Kabul, Afghanistan, was funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. David Edwards, recipient of the grant and anthropology professor at Williams College in Williamstown, MA, said the movie was filmed to paint a portrait of what the city was like when Americans first entered the country.
“It’s a time capsule of a city that has seen many upheavals in its history and is occupied by people side-by-side, foreigners and Afghans trying to understand each other, but not understanding each other, people trying to make the best of what they had under a difficult circumstance,” Edwards said.
Zulfacar and Edwards had more than 100 hours of footage of children playing with kites, a man and his son scrounging for bottles, the living conditions of NATO soldiers and Afghans talking about their destroyed homes and neighborhoods.
The filmmakers were also able to film inside a doctor’s office where a 40-year-old man was being treated for hemorrhoids, a stomach ulcer and who complained of feeling weak. The doctor noted the differences between people in Afghanistan and the rest of the world, saying that in Afghanistan, people’s lives begin to take a turn for the worse starting at age 40.
“Elsewhere, people are young at 50,” the doctor said in the video.
Zulfacar said seeing the people of Kabul living in difficult circumstances and still having hope for the future was a pleasant surprise. Zulfacar, who was born and raised in Afghanistan before leaving in 1979, said that even though the people have endured a great amount of suffering coupled with a war-torn past, they have a strong desire to learn.
“I’ve been teaching in Europe, I’ve been teaching in America, I’ve been teaching in Afghanistan and that thirst for knowledge that I see among students in Afghanistan, I don’t experience that at Cal Poly, not in Europe. They’re hungry to learn, they’re hungry to change their lives, they’re hungry for a better future,” Zulfacar said.
Zulfacar said that Americans often take for granted the simple privilege of getting a free education without fear of being killed and that the rest of the world should work to aid a generation of people in a war-torn country in learning how to lead themselves.
“We have one generation without education, one generation that they have seen nothing but violence, poverty, destitution, desperation and we should expose the world to their life situation and how we can assist them, how can we become facilitators to provide opportunities for them to learn, to know how to lead their country,” Zulfacar said.
Watching the film helped give one student a different perspective on the American position in Afghanistan and Afghans in general. Sociology senior Kasey Franks initially went to the event as part of an extra credit opportunity for class but left two hours later feeling glad that she stayed.
Franks said showcasing events such as this is important to increase awareness for the next generation who are so involved in what is going on right now.
“There’s so much that our country is doing in other countries that the other countries don’t want, and often times, as American citizens, we don’t see that the other countries don’t really need us there,” Franks said. “Oftentimes, I feel like the U.S. can make the other countries worse while trying to make it better for the U.S.”
Zulfacar just wants students to become better global citizens, more aware of the surrounding world rather than just their own personal world.
“Never before have we been so interdependent and interwoven in what’s happening around the world, and we used to perceive ourselves as very isolated and nothing can touch us,” Zulfacar said. “But I think with a globalized world we cannot be without impact with what’s going on around the world. For today’s students, for 21st-century students, I think we have to have exposure to ground realities around the world, because our well-being really depends on the well-being of the rest of the world.”