One of the most fascinating aspects of documentary video production is the opportunity to meet remarkable people and explore issues that are far outside the orbit of one’s mundane life. Working with director Amina Zamani as a videographer (and later editor) offered me a chance to meet many Afghan-American people, and hear a range of personal narratives describing their culture, the challenges of immigration, and the ordeals of a war torn country. Older people suffered language difficulties or culture shock while younger people strived to hang onto the traditional while living with new paradigms.
Because of 9/11, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, anti-Muslim hysteria — there is much misinformation that has dominated discussions in politics, the mass media, Hollywood, etc. Having a chance to meet and listen to actual people discuss their lives is a powerful antidote to distortions and stereotypes. Many of the people we interviewed were women– and far from being shrinking violets in burqas — most stressed their independence and thoughtful engagement with the wider world.
It was enjoyable to attend and videotape at the NowRoz Festival in Pleasanton, California. Outside my role as a videographer, the chances are minuscule that I would have attended the Festival on my own. (I had never heard of it before the start of the project.) It was edifying to see Afghan-Americans enjoying picnics with their families, celebrating food and culture, and listening to Afghan pop music without a dour “terrorist”in sight. Although most people appeared to be of Afghan heritage, it was clear that everyone was welcome.
The requirements of the video production offered me a great chance to learn about Afghan culture and history while listening to the personal stories of many engaging people. It’s an enlightening experience.