Tribeca film focuses on beheaded Afghan "fixer"

Sun Apr 26, 2009 10:03am EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When the coffin of Afghan journalist and "fixer" Ajmal Naqshbandi was carried through the streets of Kabul in 2007, locals wailed that the world didn't care.

A documentary "Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi," showing at the Tribeca film festival this week, examines the life of Naqshbandi as one of Afghanistan's best "fixers" -- the local people who translate and arrange interviews for foreign journalists. And it questions how the world values an Afghan's life compared to a Westerner's.

"For many Afghans the case of Ajmal proved what they suspected -- that the international community didn't care about Afghanistan, they cared about their own and the life of an Afghan is worth less than that of a foreigner," film director Ian Olds said.

Olds, a 34-year-old American, decided to make the film after seeing the importance of fixers in Iraq, where he shot his previous film, "Occupation: Dreamland" that took an in-depth look at a squad of U.S. soldiers.

Olds was filming Naqshbandi as part of a documentary on fixers. After his death, Olds said he almost abandoned the project but then decided to make him the film's central figure.

"It seemed tragic and very distasteful to me to use a friend of mine's death as a dramatic device," Olds said. "But then the more I thought about Ajmal, the more it felt like an obligation."

In Iraq and Afghanistan, human rights groups say fixers are more at risk of being killed than foreign journalists because they are seen as traitors by their local captors and their lives carry little bargaining power.

Naqshbandi was kidnapped with Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo and Afghan driver Sayed Agha in early 2007 on a remote road in lawless Helmand province, an area most foreigners considered a no-go zone.   Continued...

<p>Afghan journalists hold pictures of the late Ajmal Naqshbandi during a protest in front of the Afghan parliament in Kabul April 9, 2007. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic</p>