is an ancient Silk Road settlement dating back centuries, but it is built upon
the ruins of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age community. Its archaeological significance
is incalculable, but it is slated to be destroyed by a Chinese mining
community. The fate of Mes Aynak ought to be a leading issue in this interminable
presidential election, but our major party candidates either don’t care or were
probably on the take from the start. Filmmaker Brent E. Huffman sends the world
a warning of what we stand to lose and how close we are to losing it in Saving Mes Aynak (trailer here), which releases
today on DVD, from Icarus Films.
has placed the Mes Aynak site between a rock and a hard place. It is situated
above a vast copper deposit, in prime Taliban insurgency territory near the Pakistani
border. Having secured a mining contract (amid widespread reports of bribery
and corruption) the China Metallurgical Group (MCC) still very much plans to
blast an enormous crater in the ground where archaeological teams now race to
excavate the remains of Mes Aynak. Nothing they uncover that is not portable
will be preserved. They can only document humanity’s losses as best they can.
fact this is happening in the country where the Bamiyan Buddhas were obliterated
is not lost on anyone. In fact, the prospective PR disaster is probably the
only reason the destruction of Mes Aynak has been put on hold for several
years. However, the archaeologists still face the risk of jihadists wishing to
destroy Mes Aynak for reasons of Islamist intolerance (as did Huffman and his
crew). It is therefore no exaggeration to call Afghan archaeologist Qadir
Temori the hero of the film. The devout Muslim family man does his best to
oversee work at Mes Aynak every day, despite the very real threat of violence (including
rocket attacks) as well as constant funding shortfalls. Frankly, he and his colleagues
should be considered heroes by all civilized people.
Saving Mes Aynak is short, but it
makes its points loud and clear through straightforward reporting. The film’s
conciseness could indeed be a virtue for Huffman and Kartemquin Films, who
promoted free online screenings of the film for all interested Afghan citizens earlier
in the year. It is also a film that needs to be widely screened for Americans
as well. You probably did not think over two thousand American lives were
sacrificed in Afghanistan so that China could raze one of the world’s great
heritage sites, but apparently, that is the state of things—and the current
administration (and those seeking to succeed it) have no objections (tellingly,
a search for “Mes Aynak" on the White House website yields no results).
A persuasive portrait of courage and an
infuriating indictment of utterly pointless barbarism, Saving Mes Aynak deserves a much wider audience. The stunning
visuals of the site itself are also definitely worth seeing, especially since
they might not necessarily be there in the future. Very highly recommended, Saving Mes Aynak is now available on
DVD, from Icarus Films.
Labels: Documentary, DVD, Mes Aynak