Life in Kabul is difficult, complex, and ravaged by a seemingly relentless war. And while this is understood worldwide, the other tragedies taking place in the Afghan streets are lesser known, including the dangers of its drug trade and the malicious impact of local heroin abuse.
Meet Laila Haidari, known in her community as “the mother of the addicts”, and the courageous subject of the upcoming documentary, Laila at the Bridge. Having witnessed her brother’s 30-year battle with drug addiction, former child bride Laila gives up everything to help the outcast heroin addicts of Kabul. In the face of an exploding HIV epidemic and the drying up of foreign aid, Laila struggles to prevail against a crisis of addiction and a corrupt government in a country on the verge of collapse.
For our September Filmanthropy project, I chose Laila at the Bridge because I believe the world needs to meet Laila Haidari and hear her inspiring story of hope in the face of the insurmountable odds. Courageously risking everything to help support those who cannot help themselves due to addiction and a lack of rehabilitation resources, she is on a mission to pioneer addiction treatment centers.
With no financial backing, support from the government or any organizational infrastructure, Laila’s work is truly innovative. In addition to financing her shelters through her local restaurant, Laila employees the addicts in her program as waiters. Female role models, like Laila, are important to present on screen and on the global stage. It is my hope that by creating this film, we can help the world see beyond the stereotypes about women in the Middle East, and offer a counter-narrative that challenges the old tropes that help hold so many women back. Described by the film team as a “mother and a warrior”, Laila’s work touches on the need for compassion in the face of atrocities, and can serve as an example of the strength it takes to stop at nothing until human decency for all can be met.
This film has a unique opportunity to help educate global audiences about strategies for combatting heroin addiction through a glimpse into the lives of the people on the frontlines. And while the state of the heroin drug trade in Afghanistan is not a subject that graces American newspapers often, the shocking increase in heroin usage nationwide is certainly making the news.
Afghanistan is not only the largest supplier of opium, but it’s also the world’s most addicted country, with an estimated 3 million addicts as of 2015. When nation state’s remain inactive in the face of epidemics like this, it’s time for the global community to step in and mobilize those who will be able to step up.
Through a global screening tour of Laila at the Bridge in embassies, addiction clinics, community centers and classrooms in developed countries, funds could be raised to support community facilities, like Laila’s, through matching funds. Every screening fee for the that’s paid in North America or Europe could potentially be donated to directly to these organizations or used to bring the film to places in Afghanistan where it’s needed most. There is a lot we can learn from Laila, and a lot more we can all do to help end the massive spread of heroin abuse in her country.
There are just 2 days remaining on this fundraising campaign, so please consider donating today. Your contribution will help the team complete post-production on the film, and help turn this beautiful story into a beautiful film. Donate online here.
By Alexandra Pearson: Campaign Manager @AlexBPearson
Alexandra manages Picture Motion’s screening tours and campaign strategy development for select campaigns. Prior to joining Picture Motion, Alexandra Pearson served as a Communication Specialist at the NYC Elder Abuse Center and a Social Media Manager for journalist Katherine Stewart. Alexandra received her Masters of Arts in Media, Culture, and Communication from the Steinhardt School at New York University, where she focused on political persuasion and media systems. She also holds a Bachelors of Science in Political Communication from Emerson College in Boston. Alexandra has a background in political campaigns, media advocacy, and journalism, and is deeply passionate about social justice and environmental issues.