One Bullet Afghanistan

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TYPE
: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production

LOGLINE

“One Bullet Afghanistan” is an alternative version of America’s longest war: a woman filmmaker encounters the mother of an Afghan boy shot by unknown Western military forces, and finds her way into the woman’s room to document the unseen war, a veiled grandmother’s fight for the survival of her family.

SYNOPSIS

One bullet, fired into darkness, hits a boy playing on a Kabul street, sending him into the path of director Carol Dysinger, then embedded with international forces in Afghanistan. The search for its provenance unravels what little faith his family has in the West's nation building mission, and forces this seasoned filmmaker to reimagine what a documentary needs to be.
Dysinger's 2011 film “Camp Victory Afghanistan” captured the story of US National Guard forces deployed to train the Afghan Army, a story of deténte turned friendship between a US Colonel and an Afghan General. As viewers, we slipped into private negotiations and rode along on sorties unacknowledged. After weeks and months over many years on base with these men, Dysinger achieved the verité filmmaker’s goal of near invisibility. “One Bullet” began in the editing room for “Camp Victory” with the footage of Colonel Bob Elliot investigating a civilian casualty; if he can prove the country that fired the bullet, the cost of the boy’s medical care would be covered. We encounter 16-year old Fahim in a hospital bed surrounded by a confusing mix of men, female US Army medics, and a translator who softens the bad news. Haunted by the look in the boy’s eyes as he stared out at her, Carol returned two years later to find out his fate. Here, the story shifts to Fahim’s mother, Bibi Hajji, a fiercely devout widow and mother of 11. Though devastated by her youngest son’s prolonged suffering and eventual death she welcomes this foreigner with a camera. Breaking through the ‘fourth wall’ she connects directly with the woman behind the lens, insists that Carol sit and break bread. When she hijacks filmmaker and driver to go to the market, an old man says “Don’t let that American film you,” Bibi dismisses him imperiously from beneath her burqa. With “One Bullet Afghanistan” Carol, an NYU Professor with decades of filmmaking experience, is unable to contain her subject in the designated frame. Their mutual curiosity opens a new space for storytelling.
As an American and then as a friend, Carol’s sense of responsibility prompts her to reopen the investigation, stepping outside her role as neutral observer, she asks “how can I make this right?” Mere compensation––even if possible–– won’t bring back Bibi’s son. But the evidentiary requirements and the complex bureaucracy of war time prove insurmountable. In the end, Carol says "I stopped acting like the American savior who could achieve justice, and accepted my status as a women, foreigner and friend." Her story becomes metaphor for the hubris of nation building and reveals help is best offered with humility. Bibi, like Afghanistan, doesn't need saving, she demands respect. She is not a victim; she is a survivor.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

For most of my adult life I have been a film editor. For a while, I made a living writing screenplays in Hollywood; turns out that is editing as well. All of the conundrums of writing a narrative feature play out in filming and editing a documentary, I have been playing with, challenging, and ignoring much of my career. In my work as a story consultant over the years (and teaching hundreds of emerging artists) I have helped many directors navigate establishing intimacy, the breaking of the wall, the subverting of the journalistic assumptions without breaking trust. This is the piece of “One Bullet” I can not put into words that suit a proposal but it is the culmination of a long period of working in the "Art of NonFiction" universe.
Growing up working-class Italian in the American south of the 1960’s, I found comfort in the world of my grandmother, Luigena. A devout Catholic, she brought the superstitions and the culinary skills of her home country to a small Maryland bungalow. Illiterate and unschooled, she was my fierce protector and first teacher. Fifty years later, Bibi Hajii was immediately familiar.
Meeting Bibi Hajji was like encountering a version of my own grandmother, if she had not gotten on the boat to America. But we are the same age.
I came into “One Bullet” with all the tools of a doc filmmaker, ready to make the movie that will tell her story and change the world. But my relationship with Bibi Hajji soon had me questioning all the various illusions documentary relies on.
Kirsten Johnson and I had many conversations while working on Blind Eye/CameraPerson about all the shots she could not believe did not make it into the films she shot; some of which I cut. The fear of being obvious, or boring, or disrespectful or not a good journalist, has drained the life out of a lot of docs. So much of the illusion of authority in documentary is in the editing choices.
One Bullet, in the editing strategy will peel back for you what my ten years in Afghanistan peeled back for me, layer after layer of what stands between our capacity to understand each other.
The film will challenge the need for certainty, the assumption that an act of generosity is the right one. It will remind us that recognizing the dignity of another human being is paramount.
I questioned my own belief that the right space for the documentary filmmaker is behind the scenes, neutral observer, and began to break the frame
In editing the film, breaking the frame, playing with time and eyeline to take you through the layers that stand between an audience and the person on the screen. Privileging the person over the illusion.

KEY CREW

Carol Dysinger - Director/ Producer

 Carol Dysinger is a documentary filmmaker who brings years of film editing and screenwriting in both Hollywood and New York to her work as a highly sought after documentary film editorial/story advisor. In 2005, she traveled solo to Afghanistan with camera in hand to make her feature directorial debut, CAMP VICTORY AFGHANISTAN. It screened at MOMA Doc Fortnight, SXSW, Human Rights Festivals in New York, The Hague and Prague. She is a member of Writer’s Guild West and a Professor at NYU’s Graduate Film School.

Su Kim - Producer

Su Kim is a Korean-American producer based in New York City. She is entrepreneurial, creative and committed to crafting compelling stories and supporting independent filmmakers. Her films in release include LUPE UNDER the SUN (director Rodrigo Reyes) , KIMJONGILIA (director NC Heikin), ADAMA (director David Felix Sutcliffe) and SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY (director NC Heikin). As a producer, she has been awarded the Women at Sundance Fellowship, CPB/PBS Producers Workshop Scholarship as well as numerous grants from ITVS, The Sundance Documentary Fund, NYSCA, Tribeca Film Institute and the US State Department.

 

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ACCOLADES

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IFP Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2019

 

UPDATE - April 27, 2017

Recently Jesper Jack and his Copenhagen based production company House of Real came on board and together we took the film to the IDFA Round Table Forum.

UPDATE - February 10, 2014

 I am  back from a shoot in November. We are putting all our efforts into getting that material translated and subtitles. T I am speaking to editors, and the minute we raise the money to start cutting we will be ready.

Also, I have engaged MurmurCo to work on “Afghanistan Spins the World” an interactive and dispersive web doc utilizing both Camp Victory Afghanistan and this film to tell the story of the conflict in an on the ground way.

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