Herat Gets Creative On Civic Sense

Elaha Sahel receiving an award for ‘Dying at an Address’
Elaha Sahel receiving an award for ‘Dying at an Address’
City officials organize a film competition to get Herat’s residents thinking about their city and civic responsibility
When a recent survey of residents of Herat revealed they knew little or nothing about municipal services, local officials realized it was time to get creative. With support from USAID’s Regional Afghan Municipalities Program for Urban Populations West (RAMP UP) program, Herat municipality organized a documentary film competition titled Herat From a Citizen’s Perspective.
It was an attempt to get the community thinking about civic responsibility and their city, capital of Herat province in western Afghanistan. They invited entries between three and 10 minutes long on various aspects of urban life. Contributions flooded in, exploring different topics such as garbage collection and taking care of green spaces. A panel of judges, including an academic, a poet and a newspaper executive shortlisted 11 entries and chose three winners. ASR, the local television station broadcast the award ceremony, which was attended by more than a hundred people.
 “The criteria for selecting the winning documentaries was that they convey clear and concise, relevant messages,” explained one of the judges, Ali Ahmad Kaveh, who teaches sociology at Herat University.
Jawad Salehi’s ‘Silence’ won first prize for its depiction of municipal employees at work in and around Herat.  Khaled Yaqubi’s ‘Thirsty Boulevards’ focused on efforts to keep Herat green. Elahe Sahel won third prize for ‘Dying at an Address’, which documented the problems that come with living in a city which does not have street names and identifiable addresses.
It was Elahe’s first film and she says it came from the heart. Herat does not have many identifiable addresses, she points out, and “I often wondered what that might mean for someone who’s just had a heart attack and who’s family is waiting for an ambulance?” How would they explain where to come? Would the ambulance get to the patient in time?
Herat municipal officials say the contest was a great success they plan to have another in summer.
Elahe says that’s a good idea because “such contests increase public interest in the municipality and motivate young people to be more proactive toward civic matters. It can only encourage cooperation from residents.”

Last updated: January 16, 2015

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