Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul

In a country plagued by decades of violence, mired in poverty, and embroiled in a protracted war, it’s nice to finally see some positive glimpses of Afhganistan for once.

The documentary, Skatistan: To Live and Skate Kabul, is a great short documentary about Kabul’s nascent skate scene that’s been developed through the efforts of Skateistan.

Breathtaking shots take you inside the capitol of the war torn country that has filled our headlines for the past decade. Shots of abject poverty, brutal violence, and exotic third world culture are juxtaposed against the relatively mundane act of skate boarding.

It’s nice to finally be able to see a window into a country where more than 1,300 American lives have been lost, while thousands more have been irreparably damaged with lost limbs, head trauma, and PTSD.

The documentary follows several members of the local Kabul skate scene as they detail their lives, why they skate, and some of the hardships they face.

In stark language young skaters share their stories.

Fazilla has a particularly gut wrenching story. She is a twelve year old child who is forced to sell gum in the streets to help her family purchase food. It’s been hard to make ends meet and she and her family often don’t have enough to eat.

She said, “At Skateistan I don’t feel that my surroundings are ruined, I feel as though I’m in a nice place.”

Or Murza, a seventeen year old kid, who says rather simply, “Life is hard in Kabul. It is solely because of the support of Skateistan that I am standing now."

No matter what you may think of the war, the future of kids like Murza and Fazilla hang in the balance and there is a very real human cost to what our actions in Afghanistan.

I first came across the skate park at my day job covering national security issues, so it’s nice to see the more human side of it beyond just the news stories.

Started by Australians Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan, Skateistan focuses not only on bringing skate culture to Afghanistan but empowering young girls in a highly oppressive society and educates them in a country where  schooling for girls is often banned.

In exchange for a place to skate, kids are required to attend classes.

The film is an Official Selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Watch the powerful short below and learn more here.

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