Mountainfilm: Afghanistan

For much of the past decade, for Mountainfilm’s Moving Mountains Symposium, we’ve chosen environmental themes, issues we’ve felt were essential to the global conversation. This year, we’re changing directions and will focus on Afghanistan.


Kabul, Afghanistan ©Aaron-Huey-AFGHAN

Mountainfilm has not selected a theme directly tied to a country since 2006 (Mongolia), so we’re ready to revisit Afghanistan, where the situation has changed considerably since we last spotlighted the country during the 1997 symposium and since  “Mountains of Islam” was a symposium subject in 2002.

I had a chance to see what was happening there myself when I traveled to Kabul in December 2013. I made the trip with my eldest daughter to film the third act of The Diplomat, a documentary I’m making about my father, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who was President Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Like my father, I was taken by the country’s unique cultural flavor and, even more, by its stark mountain landscape.

After spending time in Afghanistan, I realized there’s a much richer and deeper story to tell about the country than what we read in the news. The war (the longest military conflict in U.S. history) figures into the conversation, but it’s just one facet of a much larger picture we intend to explore through the symposium’s prism of art, poetry and food.

As always, the key to the success of our symposium is our guests.

We’ve invited a diverse array of speakers, including Sebastian Junger, who co-directed the film Restrepo (Mountainfilm 2010); Robert Nickelsburg, a photographer who has worked extensively in the region; Eliza Griswold, who spoke at the 2012 symposium and wrote the book I Am the Beggar of the World that features poems by Afghan women; and Fawzia Koofi, a courageous Afghan female politician who, despite multiple attempts on her life, continues to work for a better future for her country. (See her interview with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.)

We’ll have additional names to add to this roster as we confirm more speakers. Meanwhile, we’re interested in your thoughts: Who would you like to see at the 2015 Moving Mountains Symposium on Afghanistan?

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