After Ahadi returned to the States and earned his master’s degree from Johns Hopkins, a friend recommended him to documentary filmmakers looking for a translator. It was an opportunity to again help bring together the countries he loves. The project: FRAME BY FRAME, an intimate look at the lives and work of four Afghan photojournalists.
“They are real heroes,” Ahadi says. “They put their lives in danger every day to capture the truth.”
Under the Taliban’s rule, photography was forbidden in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led offensive in the country ousted the Taliban, but as the troops withdraw and the world’s news cameras go away, the Taliban is making its comeback.
“Journalists are messengers of truth,” Ahadi explains. “And in the case of Afghanistan, the Taliban and other insurgents are attacking journalists because they believe that journalists are ‘misrepresenting’ them to the Afghan population and the rest of the world.”
The tactic is used to instill fear in the population and to increase the groups’ legitimacy in the country, he adds. And as Massoud Hossaini, one of the photojournalists featured in the film, says, “There’s a big possibility that the world forgets us again.”
Ahadi’s work on the film evolved from translator to storyteller, making him a co-producer. “Having recently returned to the States after spending three years in Afghanistan, I was able to explain the intricacies of the language, as well as provide linguistic, cultural and political insight,” he says.
FRAME BY FRAME was released in November 2015. It’s been screened by the U.S. Department of State and the Afghan president. Now Ahadi is bringing the film to American audiences across the country.
“When I’m not in D.C. working, I’m doing this,” he told a group of alumni and students during a screening at Susquehanna’s annual Break Through conference in February.
By humanizing the conflict in Afghanistan, Ahadi says, the film “gives viewers an understanding of how devastating decades of war have been on the Afghan people, their lives, their society, their culture and their sense of identity.”
Moreover, he hopes the film gives people a “greater sense of empathy for those caught in the middle of this conflict.”
People everywhere in the world want peace, security, stability and hope for a better tomorrow. “But with the insurgency gaining momentum and people’s lives growing more insecure, it’s hard for people to rest assured that their lives will get better,” Ahadi says. “That sense of not knowing is hard. People aren’t able to build their lives when they can’t count on tomorrow."
As the old adage goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ but in the case of FRAME BY FRAME, the most important word is empathy.”
And between this message of empathy and Thompson’s message of encouragement, these two Susquehannans are out to empower the world.
Victoria Kidd is associate director of advancement communications and editor of Susquehanna Currents.