Afghanistan – Choices

Date: 29.05.2016
Category: Making Of, Travel, Video

In October 2015, just after commencing production on our “In Their Own Words”¬†documentaries for UNICEF MENA, I received an¬†email from Kabul. The UNDP in Afghanistan wanted to make a film which explained their diverse work in the country in a concise way, perhaps through the life of a single individual. There was a tight deadline and as we needed to shoot before winter made conditions difficult.

In our initial discussion about the vast scope of the UNDP – from training and paying the police to building roads and bridges running the elections, to We quickly fleshed out the concept into “Choices”, based around the blue effect and transitions, and Berlin-based animator Tony Mines drew out this great pre-visualisation.


As the film was going to require a lot of visual effects I recruited two people who had a lot of experience in these fields. London-based Tim Drage – to do the post-production and to consult prior to filming on the work-flow, and fearless Odessa-based cinematographer, Igor Ryabchuk who could shoot it on his RED Scarlet camera, and who also is a great drone pilot.

Myself and Igor flew to Kabul at the end of October for a 10 day shoot and on arrival we met our UNDP hosts and went straight to meet our potential actors from a Kabul theatre group. We were severely limited on our options – in particular for the young woman, but we divided up the rolls as best we could between Dunya, Behroz, Omaid and Arzo and Zarif. With Behroz and Dunya playing our lead characters. We stayed in the luxury of Green Village in Kabul, where they have a great Canteen and all mod cons – in addition to bunkers and a regiment of Ghurka’s to provide security.

Most of our filming took place in the beautiful Panshir valley beautiful 5 hours drive away. One of the local staff made a great making of video about the bridge featured in the film.

The shoot went pretty much to plan except for the drone shot – which was rained off on our final day of shooting. When we returned to fly the drone – we were informed that it was impossible to shoot in our previous location due to a tragic bereavement. In the end we had to shoot our final shot in another, very different village.

The post-production took place in London with English voice over recorded by Orzala Ashraf Nemat, music by Roma Yagnik and visual effects by Tim Drage.