ONCE IN AFGHANISTAN
Thursday, February 17 | 7:30 PM
USA, not rated, 70 minutes
As a prelude to its 10th anniversary and the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, Belmont World Film presents this story about a remarkable group of Peace Corps volunteers who traveled to outlying areas with Afghan teams from 1969-70 to help eradicate smallpox. Filmed after 9/11 and sparked by America’s sudden curiosity about Afghanistan, Jill Vickers and Jody Bergedick interviewed the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers about their experiences. Woven together, their stories and photographs of the humor, hospitality, and hardship create a message of hope about a time in Afghanistan before the decades of violence began.
In 1969 the World Health Organization made eradication of smallpox its top priority. Struggling with the challenges of vaccinating in a country of high mountains and vast deserts where many of the Afghan women and older girls could not be seen, much less vaccinated by a male outside her family, the Peace Corps vaccinators began work. American women joined teams of male Afghan vaccinators stationed either over the Hindu Kush Mountains north of Kabul or in the southern, more conservative part of the country, getting to villages by jeep and then on foot, going house-by-house and village-by-village to cover an area. They stayed overnight with their team in family compounds and ate whatever the host family provided.
Vickers’s journey started while learning about video production from Bergedick, who was her mentor at the local community access television station. Vickers had always wanted to bring the untold stories to light, but Bergedick upped the ante when she challenged Vickers to interview the women she served with in Afghanistan at an upcoming reunion, resulting in enough footage to make a 7-minute movie to send to the group’s members. From then on, money, including a check for $4000, flowed in from group members and a few friends to meet the budget for a full-length film.
Speakers: Filmmaker Jill Vickers, who was one of the Peace Corps vaccinators, as well as Training Director Kristina Engstrom and another vaccinator, Deezie Flower, both featured in the film.
All films are shown at the Studio Cinema at 376 Trapelo Road in Belmont, Massachusetts, unless specified.
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