Frontline World

About the Series


images from the episode
images from the episode

Episode Guide
EPISODE 301
Airdate: October 30, 2003

• Overview
• TV and Web Credits
• Press

>>Transcript

OVERVIEW

Afghanistan, A HOUSE FOR HAJI BABA
Life after war in a former Taliban stronghold
After covering the U.S. war in Afghanistan, NPR reporter Sarah Chayes decided to give up her job as a journalist and remain in Afghanistan to help rebuild the country. "I feel like my destiny is tied up with the destiny of this place," says Chayes, who traded her tape recorder for a pickax and shovel to help reconstruct a village outside Kandahar. FRONTLINE/World's Brian Knappenberger chronicles Chayes's bumpy transformation from objective journalist to impassioned aid worker battling bureaucratic red tape, corruption and dangerous warlords. read more

Moscow, RICH IN RUSSIA
The brave new world of young capitalists and tycoons

FRONTLINE/World's Sabrina Tavernise, a New York Times reporter who covered Russia for six years, meets the young capitalists who are remaking Moscow and examines the rise of Russia's oligarchs -- the men who became wealthy during the wild privatization period after the fall of communism. She interviews Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest man in Russia and principal owner of Yukos, Russia's largest oil company, who was recently arrested by Russian authorities. Tavernise also meets Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire who fled to London, where he has just been granted political asylum. read more

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TV AND WEB CREDITS

A HOUSE FOR HAJI BABA

Producer / Reporter / Videographer: BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER; FRONTLINE Story Editor: KEN DORNSTEIN; Sound / Additional Camera: ANTON GOLD; Editors: GREG MACDONALD; MICHAEL SIMOLLARI; Music: JIM DOOLEY; Translation: SAMIR ASEEL; NAIM MAJROOH; Production Assistant: KATE ROMERO; Consultant: EVE LYMAN; Additional Materials: ABC NEWS VIDEOSOURCE; AP / WIDE WORLD PHOTOS: BBC WORLDWIDE; Co-Producers: MARC HALPERIN; MARLA LEWIN HALPERIN; Executive Producer: LARRY HART

RICH IN RUSSIA

Reporter: SABRINA TAVERNISE; Producer: MARIAN MARZYNSKI; Videographer / Editor: JASON LONGO; Additional Materials: TYCOON COURTESY OF NEW YORKER FILMS; Produced in association with The New York Times

FOR FRONTLINE/WORLD 301

Coordinating Producer for KQED: RACHEL RANEY; Associate Producer: SHERAZ SADIQ; Business Manager: SUZANNE ROMAINE; Web Producer: ANGELA MORGENSTERN; Web Editor: SARA MILES; Web Site Design: SUSAN HARRIS, FLUENT STUDIOS; Web Reporting: KELLY WHALEN; Promotion: ERIN MARTIN KANE; CHRIS KELLY; Community Engagement: BRENT QUAN HALL; ELLEN SCHNEIDER, ACTIVE VOICE; Interns: JUVERIA ALEEM; WANG FENG; SHILPI GUPTA; Legal: ERIC BRASS; DAVID MOYCE; Satellite Photos: SPACE IMAGING; Theme Music: SUPREME BEINGS OF LEISURE; Online Editor: MICHAEL H. AMUNDSON; Sound Mix: JIM SULLIVAN; Post Production Supervisor: CHRIS FOURNELLE; Post Production Assistant: CHETIN CHABUK; Series Design: JOHN MACGIBBON; FRONTLINE Coordinating Producer: ROBIN PARMELEE; FRONTLINE Production Manager: TIM MANGINI; FRONTLINE Series Manager: JIM BRACCIALE; KQED VP, TV Station Manager: DEANNE HAMILTON; Executive in charge for KQED: SUE ELLEN MCCANN; Executive in charge for WGBH/FRONTLINE: SHARON TILLER; Series Editor: STEPHEN TALBOT; Executive Producer: DAVID FANNING

WEB SITE 301 (Afghanistan,Mosow)

Web Producer: ANGELA MORGENSTERN; Web Site Design: SUSAN HARRIS, FLUENT STUDIOS; Web Editor: SARA MILES; Series Editor: STEPHEN TALBOT; Associate Producer: SHERAZ SADIQ; Web Reporting: WANG FENG, BRIAN KNAPPENBERGER, LYSSA MUDD, KELLY WHALEN; Interactive Interns: JUVERIA ALEEM, WANG FENG; Web Promotion: JESSICA SMITH; Special Thanks: AMANDA HIRSCH, DAVID JOHNS, SAM BAILEY, WEN STEPHENSON, SUZANNE ROMAINE, ERIC BRASS, DAVID MOYCE, EMILY COVEN, TIM OLSON, JOHN BRIGGS & YAHOO! NEWS

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PRESS REACTION

Sarah Chayes...quit National Public Radio -- where she'd been a Paris-based foreign correspondent -- and became a humanitarian worker in southern Afghanistan.

A wise career move? Maybe not. But Chayes, who has two degrees from Harvard, seems to enjoy her new challenge, as evident by Thursday night's Frontline/World segment, "A House for Haji Baba." Haji Baba is an 85-year- old man in Kandahar (the Taliban's former stronghold) who benefits from Chayes' benevolence. He's everything Chayes is not: poor, elderly and a hostage to circumstances that have reduced his living environment to dust and rubble.

If Chayes and Haji Baba have anything in common it's their outspokenness and determination. Defying tradition, Chayes dresses like an Afghan man in Kandahar (complete with a loose-fitting turban called a lungee), drives her own all-terrain vehicle and directs the rebuilding effort of Haji Baba's house.

Because she is tall and could conceivably be Afghan (some in Afghanistan have similar brown hair and piercing eyes, though her white skin stands out), Chayes is deluged with stares and quizzical looks. "All the time people wonder if I'm a man or a woman," she tells Frontline/World reporter Brian Knappenberger. "I'll hear kids say, 'That's a woman.' I'll turn around and say, 'Yeah, yeah -- that's a woman.' " If the Taliban were still in power they'd want to eliminate Chayes, but this is the new Afghanistan, where many Westerners (including U.S. troops) operate in a country that remains one of the poorest -- and most chaotic and corrupt -- on earth. In her capacity as Kandahar director of the nonprofit organization Afghans for Civil Society, Chayes has to maneuver through the surrealistic bureaucracy that threatens to undermine Haji Baba's rebuilding project. Warlords and former warlords still have an overwhelming amount of power in post-Taliban Afghanistan, as Chayes discovers when the quarry that's supposed to provide her stones suddenly backs out. It turns out the governor of Kandahar, a former warlord named Gul Agha Shirzai, illegally seized the quarry and wants all the stones for his own profiteering. The footage of Chayes trying to meet with Shirzai, then succeeding, is amazing. As she walks toward his office, a drug trafficker -- reportedly the most notorious opium dealer in Kandahar -- walks out. Once inside, Chayes insists on getting stones, which are promised by Shirzai and his deputy. Will those promises be kept? Will Haji Baba get his house? Will Chayes hold up under stress that might fell other humanitarian workers?

Frontline/World found a great story in Chayes and Haji Baba. This 30-minute segment -- part of a hourlong show that also features a segment on capitalists and tycoons in Russia -- has tension, riveting "characters" and themes that are important to understand given the continuous talk from Washington about rebuilding and democratizing Iraq and Afghanistan.

--San Francisco Chronicle

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