Singapore-based Pakistani filmmaker Shehzad Hameed Ahmad’s documentary series on Afghanistan has won two Silver awards at the prestigious World Media Festival 2020 at Hamburg, Germany.
According to a press release, the award-winning documentary had only last month swept two awards at the recently held New York Festival 2020.
Mr Ahmad’s insightful and captivating documentaries on the war in Afghanistan, Caught in the Crossfire and The Battle for Kabul won the awards in the Global Issues and Political documentaries category, respectively.
He along with his crew spent 15 days in Afghanistan, travelling to Bagram Airbase, Ghazni, and surrounding areas of Kabul to film the two-hour long documentary.
On the first day of his filming, a suicide bomber belonging to the militant Islamic State group blew himself up inside a gym full of young Afghans in the Dasht-i-Barchi Shia neighbourhood. Mr Ahmad and his crew reached the emergency hospital to film, only to find out there was a second bomb blast that resulted in the death of Samim Faramarz, a local Afghan reporter standing on the blast site.
These nerve-racking moments were filmed and became the opening scene of the series.
Mr Ahmad’s first silver award for the night came for part 1: Caught in the Crossfire, a documentary that was filmed to understand Afghans stuck in the battle between Allied Forces and the Taliban.
It focused on the lives of three ordinary civilians: a journalist, a female street artist and a young army cadet, who are stuck in this never-ending war between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
In Caught in the Crossfire, Mr Ahmad gained unprecedented access to the Kabul Military Training Centre where Afghan and US forces train against guerrilla warfare.
His second silver award is for The Battle for Kabul. In this film the director and producer obtained rare access into Taliban Badlands near Ghazni to understand why the Taliban are gaining control of more territory 18 years since America invaded the country.
The local Taliban commander only gave one hour for filming and warned that the area could be targeted by a drone for which they would not take responsibility.
On this documentary, Mr Ahmad later embedded with the Afghanistan Army on an operation against the Taliban outside Kabul to investigate the reasons why the Afghan National Security Forces were fast losing soldiers to conflict and attrition.
Originally published in Dawn, May 18th, 2020