MY CHILDHOOD, MY COUNTRY
– 20 YEARS IN AFGHANISTAN
An epic story of a boy growing up in a land ravaged by war.
[Press reviews of The Boy Who Plays On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan (2003) & The Boy Mir (2011)]
“Outstanding” Sunday Times
In 2014 director Richard Linklater released the Oscar-winning Boyhood – his fictional saga of growing up, filmed with the same cast across twelve years. Now award-winning filmmakers Phil Grabsky and Shoaib Sharifi release a real-life epic of boyhood and manhood – filmed across twenty years in one of the most embattled corners of the globe: the feature documentary MY CHILDHOOD, MY COUNTRY – 20 YEARS IN AFGHANISTAN.
“Look at the American planes!” shouts Mir – a mischievous boy of eight when the filmmakers meet him. Now he’s a man of 27 with children of his own – and a fledgling career as a news cameraman. He lived through 9/11, when his homeland became ground zero in the war on terror. He has subsequently lived through the unsuccessful war against the Taliban who are on the verge of regaining power.
He has never lived in a nation at peace.
“Stunning” Sight & Sound
Mir and his family form a portrait of embattled Afghanistan that no other film has ever captured. War, politics, poverty, and heartbreak – all seen from the level of a child frolicking in a muddy, bullet-laden pool, playing soccer on a dirt pitch, and forgoing school to work ploughing in the fields, collecting wood from mountain tops, or digging coal in perilous mines, all at subsistence wages to support his family. The innocence and optimism of Mir contrasts with carefully selected contemporary news footage that also offers sobering comments of leading soldiers, politicians, and journalists offering their own insights into what is going wrong and what is going right.
MY CHILDHOOD, MY COUNTRY – 20 YEARS IN AFGHANISTAN is thus the perfect film to commemorate the 20th 9/11 anniversary and the October defeat of the Taliban. After more than a trillion dollars spent by 40 countries, and countless lives lost, was the cost worth it – for Mir and the world? The film lets the viewer decide. The film is now in the final stage of production, ready to be delivered by the end of July 2021. It has already been called ‘the one film you absolutely need to watch about Afghanistan – and how the West succeeded and failed at the same time’.
19 October 2001. The first U.S. soldiers set foot in Afghanistan – special forces team ODA 555, nicknamed Triple Nickel. Their objective: find and kill Osama bin Laden – the mastermind behind the attack on the United States that destroyed New York’s World Trade Center and killed 3,000 people. The rulers of Afghanistan – the Taliban – have refused to hand bin Laden over. So begins a war in one of the world’s poorest countries. The Taliban retreat, regroup and fight on. Today they are about to retake power. So what has been the cost of these twenty years and was it money and blood well spent? Afghanistan continues to seek peace and join the world while battling the twin threats of tribalism and terrorism. The biggest enemy – poverty – remains as potent as ever.
This film begins in Kabul on 30th April 2018. A young Afghan cameraman hears an explosion. He grabs his camera and jumps on his moped to dash to the scene. En route, he remembers he has no card for his camera and makes a quick phone call. Two minutes later he returns to the streets.
Then – a second explosion. Nine Afghan journalists are killed. The young cameraman’s name is Mir. Is he among the victims?
“Moving” Evening Standard
We go back to 2002. Mir is a boy of eight playing among the ruins of the Buddhas of Bamiyan – the country’s foremost tourist attraction and utterly destroyed by the Taliban. For Mir the rubble is but a wonderful playground. A pair of film-makers – one European and one Afghan – decide to spend two decades following him from boyhood to manhood – through play, poverty, and adventure: From following Mir we see how poverty lies at the heart of Afghanistan’s woes – but young Mir, despite learning the alphabet at a village school that has no furniture, is determined ‘to become president’. As he struggles with adulthood, marries, has a family, and strives to earn a living, he matures. As a young man he declares his resolution “to stay in Afghanistan and work to make it a better country.” He pledges to help his country secure the basic needs of food, health, education, jobs, rule of law, and the absence of corruption.
Yet Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most troubled nations. It remains brutal, impoverished and corrupt. But through Mir’s life we also see progress: far less fighting, clearance of mines, improved schooling – for both boys and girls – and the impact of the internet, mobile phones, and other technology.
The end brings the story of Mir – and Afghanistan – up to date. His journey ends up taking him to the capital Kabul where he finds a job as a cameraman.
Day after day, he rushes to the aftermath of suicide bombs to capture footage for an international audience. On April 30th, 2018 he jumps on his bike to the sound of a major explosion: within minutes, in a second bomb, nine journalists are then killed. Not until the end of the film will we know if Mir is among them. Mir’s journey to this moment embodies his country’s seemingly endless plague over the last two decades. of violence and poverty. Yet his life is also one of fun and excitement. Few films have ever followed one child year by year growing up over a period of two decades. And no other film on Afghanistan can offer the same in depth and nuanced understanding of whether the world has gotten what it wanted from Afghanistan; and whether the Afghan people are beginning to – or will ever – enjoy peace and prosperity.