Monday, August 17, 2009


The news of Afghanistan is almost always present in the media and it is rarely good. Yet when delivered to us by the perfectly coiffed newsreader from the comfort of their newsrooms, the intensity of what is going on there is hugely diminished. The distance between our living rooms and killing fields of that country feels so great that any real connection to the people caught in the strife and violence is impossible. In a few minutes they have moved on to other news of the day. We may have caught a glimpse of this war-ravaged country for thirty seconds, heard an abbreviated testimony from a captive journalist and so on. Life goes on.

With HBO's documentary Fixer : The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi, we have the unique opportunity to understand what kind of personal sacrifices and life threatening risks journalists have to take in order to bring those three to five minute mentions of Afghanistan in mainstream media. Naqshbandi was an Afghan journalist - or more accurately a fixer (defined in Wikipedia as "a local guide who assists foreign journalists in volatile countries, they often provide interpretation, personal connections, and transportation as a service")

The story weaves in an out of the events leading up Ajmal's capture by the Taliban, the interviews he helped fix preceding that and reactions of his friends and family at his execution. He comes across as a man wise beyond his years, with a deep understanding of the politics and power play that makes Afghanistan the hotbed of violence and social unrest that it is today.

This film is also a moving testament to misplaced trust in one's countrymen and the plight of a people who have nowhere to turn to for help when they need it most desperately. The deaths of Nasqbandi and several others like him would not have been completely in vain, if thanks to this documentary, at least some consumers of news pause to consider the people who become stories about Afghanistan or better do something about their plight.

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