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At 23, Jasmin Kozowy is merging her love of investigative journalism and philanthropy to produce her first feature length documentary. Traveling to Afghanistan and filming there for a total of two months, Jasmin focused on the next generation of Afghans and the means to get them educated. She’s passionate about the rebuilding of their nation. Coming from a ‘family of activists’ it’s embedded into her soul to take action on subject matters that don’t have a voice. Talking to her it’s clear how much passion is behind this project -along with every other facet in her life. Jasmin’s journalistic endeavor also saw her generate a fund of $1500 to purchase and deliver 722 boots to various refugee camps in Kabul. Actions like this go back to the heart of giving - you don’t need bells and whistles in order to make a difference, as long as you have the drive and determination you’ll find the means to do your bit.
Tell us about your recent trip to Afghanistan
I just shot my first feature documentary in Afghanistan, and essentially what that means for me is a huge career move because I was in straight journalism - Working for the ABC for two years lead me to find a lack of good investigative journalism and the funding behind it. The big bodies aren’t wanting to fund investigative journalism today, which is upsetting for me because I look up to Journalist like Marie Colvin, John Pilger and John Cassidy, who delve deep into a subject matter.
Did you get funding for your film?
No, I funded it myself. A lot of times when you do investigative pieces, you can get commissioned through SBS or ABC and if you get commissioned it means that other parties will come on board and will want to have their own input. I’m the type of person that prefers to work independently and would like to have my story come across the way, avoiding other peoples motives. There are individuals and companies out there who like to influence stories for personal or corporate gain.
Do you find that there is a lot of censorship with Afghanistan in particular - when it comes to the media?
Yeah, Western media portrays a skewed view of Afghanistan, so one thing I want to change with my documentary is the way we view Afghanistan today in the western world. I’m a 23 year old female going into Afghanistan and there’s a lot of risk involved going to a place like that, but I also found was fear mongering in the country, which I didn’t respect when I got on the ground. We don’t need the US military, NGO’s, the UN and the expat communities being fearful of the local afghans, because the only way forward is creating an open dialogue with them and saying ‘what do you need’? There’s barbed wire and compounds everywhere. If you look at Afghanistan in the 1970’s - this place is where hippies flocked and socialites from the US vacationed, it was a very hip destination where you could sip tea in beautiful rolling hills and wear the most beautiful afghan clothing. I met this one woman when I was there who has been teaching at the Kabul university since 1952 - here is a western woman, 87 and still living in Afghanistan. You know it is a dangerous place but it’s how you approach it, that’s how you approach any third world country. If you come in with negative thoughts then that’s usually what’s going to happen as a result of it. So I came in with a positive attitude - I went in with good intentions and Afghans could see that in my eyes. There is a big saying in Afghanistan - ‘The man with a gun is your enemy and the man with the pen is your friend’.
How did you go navigating your way around as a 23 year old western woman?
I had a fixer while I was there who worked with different international journalists. I pitched him my documentary idea with only a bit of money to give. He believed in my story and took the job. Without wearing a bulletproof vest and working out of an unarmored 1985 Toyota Camry, I really embedded myself in the afghan community. I didn’t hang out with expats, I actually made a point of not being with expats because my story had nothing to do with them, it had everything to do with the afghans. My fixer was absolutely amazing and one thing that was shocking and admirable about him is that he has a hit on him from the Taliban for working with foreign journalists. Traveling to Wardack, Panjshir and Jalalabad, I automatically felt safe with him, but he took huge risks for what he does as a fixer, as all fixers do in Afghanistan. It’s amazing that they believe so much in their country and that they are willing to help out a foreigner to write a good story about their home.
Are there many good stories coming out about Afghanistan?
There’s definitely some, but the majority are quite politically driven, and unfortunately the political scene in afghanistan is quite dire. There’s a lot of surface based reporting. But if you go a bit deeper into Afghanistan you’ll find good stories like myself - that goes right back to my ideals and morals in my job as a journalist, I want to uphold good investigative journalism and getting to the source. Journalism at its best is when there’s an open discussion and a debate, where two opposite sides have a conversation creating an dialogue/debate to the mass public. It’s important to read articles that are more than one pages long to get a deeper understanding on a subject matter so when we do have the discussion we are well informed and it’s not just a heated conversation because ‘its personal to me’, but rather its about knowing the facts and being across a complex subject matter.
Do you see corruption in Afghanistan shifting any time soon?
Yeah I definitely do, and thats what my documentary touches on. It’s about how the next generation is going to fight for a new future and overcome the current corruption in government. In Kabul you can find an increasing student body having lengthly conversations about their worries for the future. Many of which are dedicating their lives to create a sustainable political future for Afghanistan. They want to change the political landscape and see the brotherhood AND the sisterhood sit down at the same table having conversations about the near future. Its exciting to hear this come from young locals.
Will you be working more with film now that you are completing this project?
I love journalism, documenting and telling stories - that’s always been a passion. I was that little girl in the grocery store asking random strangers the most personal questions. I was very inquisitive and I think I will always be asking questions.
We will keep you posted on the release of Jasmin’s film in late 2013.