Saving Mes Aynak free to watch in Afghanistan

Chicago not-for-profit documentary collective Kartemquin Films will release Saving Mes Aynak free to the people of Afghanistan. The award-winning documentary exposes a Chinese company's plan to turn a 5,000 archeological site in Afghanistan into a copper mine, destroying priceless Buddhist relics.

The filmmakers are offering the free stream, hosted by the digital platform VHX, to anyone within Afghanistan who visits before midnight on July 1, which they have declared Global #SaveMesAynak Day.

For the rest of the world, Kartemquin are currently offering streams, downloads, DVD/Blu-Rays, and public screenings of Saving Mes Aynak through their campaign on Indiegogo, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform. An initial 10% of the campaign goal of $50,000 of raised funds will also go directly to funding archeologists preserving the site. Should the filmmakers exceed their goal before midnight PDT on June 26, they will double that direct donation to 20%.

Saving Mes Aynak, which world premiered at IDFA 2014, follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races to save the Mes Aynak site from imminent demolition by China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), a Chinese state-owned mining company ready to harvest an estimated $100 billion dollars worth of copper. Located within Afghanistan’s Taliban-controlled Logar Province, Mes Aynak is a 5,000 year-old Bronze age site and 2,000 year-old Buddhist Silk Road city of historical and cultural importance archeologists have stated could potentially be comparable to Machu Picchu or Pompeii. Only 10% of the site has so far been excavated, but corruption is rampant, and the site could be destroyed at any time.

Director Brent E. Huffman has been unable to return to Afghanistan since he finished production. Filming solo at the Mes Aynak site, he received kidnapping and death threats from the Taliban, who control the area. The film shows that several archeologists have also faced violence and even been killed while working at the site. Extensive looting of priceless Buddhist relics is regularly taking place and corruption is rampant.

“I want to go back and present the film personally in Afghanistan, but even if that is not possible we want the film to be seen there above all else. This is our gift to the people of Afghanistan, but also a challenge to those with the power to reverse this decision and save Mes Aynak,” said director Brent Huffman. “My film shows that while the Taliban, the Chinese company, and the Afghan government are all trying to secure access to this huge amount of money, Afghan archaeologists were the only ones trying to do something selfless and save this enormous archaeological site, and really do something for their own country. Afghanistan is not a rich country and they are under immense pressure to develop their mineral resources. But it will be very hard for anyone who sees the beauty of Mes Aynak, and the corruption going on, to still think mining this site will be beneficial for the country.”

Huffman first visited Mes Aynak in 2011 after reading about it in the New York Times. His initial blogs, photos, and videos from the site helped spark worldwide protests that may have directly led to the Chinese company delaying mining. The new Indiegogo campaign may also have contributed to a stunning recent declaration by Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum Dawood Shah Saba that the current mining contract is “not in the interest of the country.” But with the threat of destruction still imminent, the filmmaker will not rest until the site is permanently safe from harm.

Said Huffman: “It is my hope that #SaveMesAynak Day will spark worldwide protest, conversation, and action. It will be the launch of a long-term educational campaign to reach as many people as we can with the message that humans need to protect their cultural heritage. After the world watches the film together on July 1, I hope to travel to Kabul and present both the film and a petition asking Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, his government, and to the people of Afghanistan. We plan to show the film to UNESCO officials, and the international community of those with the power to ensure this magnificent Buddhist archeological site is preserved. But we need support in doing this, and with translation services.”

Saving Mes Aynak world premiered in November 2014 at IDFA, the world’s largest documentary festival, and debuted in the US in 2015 at American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs and at Full Frame Documentary Festival. It has won festivals wards in the US and in Iran, and was praised as “Advocacy filmmaking at its best… unique and immediate,” by Indiewire. Following #SaveMesAynak Day, the film will be broadcast in a number of countries around the world, including on Al Jazeera America and Al Jazeera English, and will be available to screen to a combination of educational institutions and community venues.

Film Synopsis
Saving Mes Aynakfollows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in Afghanistan from imminent demolition. A Chinese state-owned mining company is closing in on the ancient site, eager to harvest $100 billion dollars worth of copper buried directly beneath the archaeological ruins. Only 10% of Mes Aynak has been excavated, though, and some believe future discoveries at the site have the potential to redefine the history of Afghanistan and the history of Buddhism itself. Qadir Temori and his fellow Afghan archaeologists face what seems an impossible battle against the Chinese, the Taliban and local politics to save their cultural heritage from likely erasure.

FULL PRESS KIT with director’s statement, background on Saving Mes Aynak, and POSTER:
Link to #SaveMesAynak July 1 campaign: