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Skateboarding Becomes Catalyst for Change in War-Torn Afghanistan

June 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel's "Skateistan" follows a Kabul skate park's founders and the kids who come there to have fun and perhaps jumpstart some changes in their country. This excerpt is part of The Economist Film Project series of independently produced films aired in partnership between The Economist and the NewsHour.

JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight, we turn now to a very different story from Afghanistan.

It’s part of The Economist Film Project, a NewsHour collaboration with “The Economist” magazine. Together, we showcase independently-produced documentaries that take us places we don’t ordinarily go.

Here’s an excerpt from “Skateistan” by filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel. He followed the founders of a skate park in Kabul and the kids who came to have fun and perhaps even jumpstart changes in their country.

SHARNA NOLAN, skate park manager: My name is Sharna Nolan. And I’m here managing Kabul’s skate park in the Skateistan program.

Skateboarding is a fantastic way to get kids to communicate with each other and build relationships with each other. The main focus of Skateistan is to build kids’ confidence and give them a voice.

Skateistan is becoming a bit of a hub of female sporting activity, which is very exciting. There’s nothing like watching an Afghan woman roll down a ramp for the first time. And she’s achieved something that she never thought she would.

GIRL: My name is Fazilla. I am 12 years old, and I live in (INAUDIBLE).

I work on the street and I sell chewing gun. Life is hard for me personally because my family is poor. Sometimes, we can’t afford enough to eat. At Skateistan, I don’t feel that my surroundings are ruined. I feel as though I’m in a nice place.

I believe that people have negative thoughts. They disagree with girls wanting to pursue skateboarding as a hobby. My family are mostly on my side. However, my father disagrees with this hobby. When I’m skating on the streets, I can feel people questioning my right to skate. Their opinions are meaningless to me. I really like skating. And I won’t stop.

BOY: It was really miserable during the Taliban period, but there was peace. After the Taliban left, the fighting started again. And we are back to square one. We, the people of Afghanistan, must unite to rebuild the country. I don’t want war anymore.

SHARNA NOLAN: We really believe that if these children are going to inherit the problems that they will, it’s important show them new qualities of what it takes to be a leader.

BOY: My hope is that my country is led by someone who is able to bring peace. Until then, the future is uncertain.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In our next installment of The Economist Film Project, we talk with a filmmaker of “My Perestroika,” a look at some members of the last generation raised under communism in the Soviet Union.