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“Saving Mes Aynak" Filmmaker Receives $50,000 Grant

Film details last-ditch effort to save ancient archeological site in Afghanistan

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January 20, 2016 | by Julie Deardorff
Brent Huffman

Filmmaker Brent Huffman in Logar province with Qadir Temori, lead Afghan archaeologist at Mes Aynak and the main subject of the film. Courtesy of Brent Huffman

EVANSTON, Ill.  -- The Reva & David Logan Foundation has awarded a $50,000 social justice grant to Northwestern University professor Brent Huffman and Kartemquin Films to help raise awareness about the plight of an ancient archeology site featured in the documentary film “Saving Mes Aynak.”

The film, produced and directed by Huffman, follows the frantic efforts of archaeologists working to save the ancient Buddhist site of Mes Aynak in Afghanistan from imminent destruction. 

A Chinese state-owned mining company plans to demolish the site to harvest an estimated $100 billion worth of copper buried directly beneath the archaeological ruins. But only 10 percent of Mes Aynak has been excavated, and some believe future discoveries at the site have the potential to redefine the history of Afghanistan and the history of Buddhism itself. 

Huffman called the grant a “game-changing development” because it allows him to hire an outreach team and to keep traveling with the film to lecture about the importance and significance of Mes Aynak.

The outreach campaign has three goals: to preserve Mes Aynak as a protected cultural heritage site; to widen public perspective of Afghanistan's cultural heritage; and to strengthen the Archaeology Department at the Afghan Ministry of Culture in Kabul to protect Mes Aynak and other important historical sites in Afghanistan, Huffman said.

Mining, originally slated to begin this year, has been delayed by several factors, including the documentary film, security and the Chinese economy. “But the Afghan Ministry of Mines is still pushing for mining to happen as soon as possible and the site is still under threat,” Huffman said. “My work and the film’s work – to raise awareness and save Mes Aynak – is still not done. But I will never give up the effort or give up hope.”

“Saving Mes Aynak” has won more than ten domestic and international awards and will be screened around the world in the upcoming months, including at the Louvre in Paris as part of the Film International Conference on Art, 9th Edition. It will also air in India, Nepal, Australia, Czech Republic, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Huffman and “Saving Mes Aynak” also have partnered with Icarus Films, one of the world's leading distributors of documentary films. Icarus will oversee the North American educational, home, and digital release of “Saving Mes Aynak.”  

The Reva & David Logan Foundation is a Chicago-based family foundation that provides strategic grants to support the arts, investigative journalism, scholarship and social justice.

The foundation is designed to serve as a catalyst for well-chosen projects that would not be successful without its creative or financial support. Through the grantees, “we expect to learn a lot about our choices and ourselves,” David Logan said. 

“Saving Mes Aynak” has premiered at a selection of high profile film festivals including the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, American Documentary Festival Palm Springs and Dokufest Kosovo.

Upcoming screenings of Mes Aynak:

Topics: In the World, People