SAVING MES AYNAK follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in Afghanistan from imminent demolition. A Chinese state-owned mining company is closing in on the ancient site, eager to harvest $100 billion dollars worth of copper buried directly beneath the archaeological ruins. Only 10% of Mes Aynak has been excavated, though, and some believe future discoveries at the site have the potential to redefine the history of Afghanistan and the history of Buddhism itself.
China is investing nearly three billion dollars in Afghanistan's untapped copper reserve, the second largest in the world worth an estimated $100 billion. The cash-strapped government of Afghanistan signed away the rights to this deposit with little oversight. The Chinese government-owned company plans to mine the copper using an open-pit method, the cheapest, most environmentally destructive style of mining. By doing so, the archaeology site, as well as the entire mountain range, will be completely demolished.
SAVING MES AYNAK examines the conflict between cultural preservation and economic opportunity through the lens of the Afghan archaeologists and local villagers who work and live near Mes Aynak. Qadir Temori and his fellow Afghan archaeologists face what seems an impossible battle against the Chinese, the Taliban and local politics to save their cultural heritage from likely erasure.
"Advocacy filmmaking at its best and most chilling... That rare doc that needs to be seen." —IndieWire
Winner, Silver Plaque, 2016 Chicago International Film Festival Television Awards
Grand Jury Prize, 2016 International Archaeological Film Festival of the Bidasoa
IDFA Honorary Award, 2015 The International Academic Forum Documentary Film Award
Abu Rayhan Biruni Award, 2015 Ahvaz International Science Film Festival
Grand Prize and Audience Favorite Film Award, 2015 Arkhaios Cultural Heritage and Archaeology Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2015 CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival
Best Film and Best Public Education Value, 2015 The Archaeology Channel International Film & Video Festival
2015 18th International Vera Film Festival
2015 Millenium International Documentary Film Festival
2015 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
2015 American Documentary Film Festival
2014 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
2014 Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels
"SAVING MES AYNAK shows the sheer determination of the Afghan archaeologists to protect their culture against overwhelming odds... Huffman has crafted a remarkable film of courage, heroism, and hope." —Current World Archaeology Magazine
"SAVING MES AYNAK is an engrossing look at the conflict between cultural preservation and economic opportunity." —Audiences Everywhere
"A powerful and compelling work from Brent Huffman and Kartemquin Films." —Chicago is the World
"A call to action that needs immediate attention... This is a movie that demands you at least tweet your congressman after viewing." —Inside Pulse
"I couldn’t help thinking of Indiana Jones as the film depicts archaeologists scraping away in the dust and sand. The film is also well paced, and the images are gripping... What’s it going to take for people to care about Mes Aynak? The actual visual of it being obliterated?" —Tom Roston, PBS.org.
"This powerful story sheds light on the significance of cultural heritage." —Iza Wojciechowska, IndyWeek