Thursday, March 21, 2013

INSTALL, Ethiopia and Afghanistan

Greetings from Kabul!  Woke up to some  exciting news that my short film "INSTALL:  Sound, Light & Craig Colorusso" will be screening at the Independent Film Festival of Boston on Monday April 29th at 7pm.  It's New Years here in Afghanistan so what better way to celebrate than with the knowledge that I'll be returning home at the end of April to a fun weekend of screenings.  Thanks to Adam Roffman for the opportunity to screen the film at such a great festival in my own backyard.

filming at a home in Ethiopia
I've been traveling the last couple weeks with colleague Beth Murphy filming first in Ethiopia for a project around universal health care coming to Ethiopia.  This is my first trip to this country and to the capital city of Addis Ababa.

The city's elevation of 7,700 feet (Denver, CO is 5,700 feet as a comparison) wreaked havoc on my out of shape physique causing me to bend over in exhaustion at the simplest tasks, like walking up a few flights of stairs.  We attended a conference and then spent the majority of our time filming around the city.  We are returning in June for the bulk of the filming so after a short week we headed off to our final destination...Kabul, Afghanistan.

I haven't been back to Afghanistan since April 2009.  Four years later we've returned to continue filming at the Zabuli school, a girl's school just outside the city.  We've spent the first week settling into our new digs in Kabul and reacquainting ourselves with old friends like school founder Razia Jan and headmaster Zia.

Beth and I at the Darul Aman Palace in Kabul
While the city feels very much like the place I left four years ago, there are some differences.  The city feels more put together.  Buildings I clearly remember peppered with holes and partially collapsed from years of war have been reconstructed.  New constructions are springing up all over the place.  A string of fancy new wedding halls lines the road just outside the airport.  And then there's the traffic!  It feels like the number of cars have doubled.  Roads feel more cluttered than rush hour in Boston.  Adding to the chaos is a constant barrage of beggars, bicyclists, donkey carts and pedestrians walking in every direction and showing no fear of oncoming motorists.  While we are without power for hours at a time, at least the infrastructure seems to be better intact than my last trip to Iraq where we were lucky to have a couple hours of power a day

We've done some light filming so far with Zia's family and the school principal, but filming will really pick up when the school opens in a few days.  For now, we're having a mellow day celebrating the Afghanistan New Year, which according to the Persian calendar makes it 1392.  It never ceases to amaze me how life can seem so normal at times in a place where the outside perception screams chaos.  It feels good to be back.


  1. While reading your entry all I can think about is how it must feel to be in a war torn country as an American whose country did most of the destruction. How did the locals respond to your presence? Did you ever feel in danger? Are there still attacks of any sort going on in the area? I think it's pretty amazing you're out there documenting their struggles (while I comfortably observe from the safety of my home)!
    I just got back from CO snowboarding and I can relate to the elevation issues. Of course the only dangers I faced were the double diamonds!!
    Be well, be safe and I look forward to your future entries. Jeremy Schaller.

  2. Hey Jeremy! Great to hear from you. What will always amaze me is how normal life can feel in an area like this. When you drive through the streets there are hordes of people walking to work, manning their shops, conversing with one another, etc... Of course there's also mass poverty, bad sanitation, and all the other elements that distinguishes a stroll down Main Street Torrington from that of Kabul. The signs of 40 years of conflict are everywhere of course, but it's not the chaotic wild wild west you would expect. As far as people go, the majority of people I've met are fantastic. There's plenty of mixed emotions towards America, but people recognize that this bearded dude from Boston probably isn't to blame. So conversations are very normal. They talk about their kids, the struggle for work, concern over education for the youth...very basic human concerns that we all share. If there is any venom for me as an American, I have yet to feel it. And this experience has been true for me in other countries like Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the rest. There are dangerous folks out there but we just stay mindful of our surroundings and try not to linger anywhere too long.

    Snowboarding in CO sounds amazing! Would love to see you sometime when I'm back in T-Town which will probably be soon after I'm back at the end of April. Talk to you soon man!