‘Beyond the Border’, a gripping new documentary on the skiing culture of Afghanistan by independent filmmaker from Kashmir Naseer Khanday is all set to be screened at the Fort Lauderdale film festival in November. The documentary received rave reviews when it premiered at Venice film festival in September this year.
‘Beyond the Border’ is Naseer’s second documentary film based on a story from a ‘conflict zone’. His award-winning debut film ‘Iron Khan’ is a journey through 7 years of a man’s life, his coming of age during the peak of militancy in Kashmir and his struggle for survival in the face of precarity and violence.
Beyond the Border captures Bamiyan—Afghanistan’s skiing hub—that sits opposite the cliffs where sixth century statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Yet local athletes continue to pursue their passion, making their own gear out of wooden planks, metal, plastic, and rope. Dave and Mitch, two snowboarders from Canada visit Afghanistan to distribute snowboarding gear which they imported and ride the mighty Hindu-Kush mountain range. They aim to give local youth as many snowboards as possible with a hope to distract them from the state of desolation in which they live.
“There is much more to Afghanistan than just wars and conflict. We want to talk about the possibility of peace and inclusion in Afghanistan’s war-torn countryside set against the backdrop of a budding winter sports scene,” says Naseer.
Naseer further shares an interesting anecdote on how Afghanistan holds a special place in European skiing’s lexicon. “European aficionados of Alpine skiing often refer to a downhill race as a “Kandahar.” The name derives from a British general, Frederick Sleigh Roberts, who won a major victory at Kandahar in 1880 and was subsequently knighted. He chose for himself the title “Lord Roberts of Kandahar”. Later, he was involved with organising the first-ever downhill ski race in Europe (in 1911), which was called “The Roberts of Kandahar Challenge.”
Co-producer of both Beyond the Border and Iron Khan is Suril Desai, an international lawyer at Nishith Desai Associate and an expert on blockchain & cryptocurrency practice. Suril was instrumental in generating crypto funding to partially finance the production of Beyond the Border. According to him, cryptocurrency is a great boon especially for documentary filmmakers that film in conflict zones as they no longer have to worry about converting and carrying cash to meet their production costs.
“Though I have never skied nor snowboarded, I have produced two documentaries about the winter sports culture, both in heavily conflicted regions of the world. I realised that there are a lot of similarities culturally in the two regions. Activities like winter sports can bring about a lot of changes in the lives of the people in these regions. It opens their minds to new experiences and can improve their economic well-being,” shares Suril.