During my 2012 visit to Afghanistan, researching the book and film, Disaster Capitalism, I spent time with the country’s reportedly last remaining Jew, Zablon Simintov, and filmed an interview with him. Living in the centre of Kabul, his house was a tiny apartment with a Christmas tree in the corner. Remarkably, he had remained safe during the civil war, Taliban years and post-US invasion period. He was a grumpy man. He managed a synagogue near his home, attended by Jewish, Western diplomats and aid workers based in the country. He said that these people brought him Jewish food such as matzoh on Passover. He lived a simple and poor life. This video shows Simintov praying in his small, one room apartment:
I lived in Juba, South Sudan during 2015 and witnessed the world’s newest nation descend into chaos. Near the beginning of the year, I accompanied the then top UN humanitarian official Valerie Amos with Hollywood actor and activist Forest Whitaker to the remote town of Wai in Jonglei state (here’s my Guardian report about it). I shot this short film to show how the local community welcomed us.
For the last five years I’ve been working on the documentary, Disaster Capitalism, partly inspired by my book of the same name released last year. I’m working with film-maker Thor Neureiter and co-producers Media Stockade. It’s a truly international team; I’m based in East Jerusalem, Thor is in New York and Media Stockade are in Sydney, Australia.
Today we are launching a fund-raising campaign to generate money to complete a rough cut of the feature documentary (editing is well underway and we aim to finish soon). We’re excited to share a new video, details about our recent successful pitch at the prestigious Hot Docs film festival in Toronto and facts about how to donate money (tax deductible in the US and Australia). We are aiming to raise US$80,000 in the next month.
Here’s the video:
Please support us now and share online with your friends and family. Independent film-making is a challenging business and it needs your support.
Disaster Capitalism is about people and corporations making money from misery in Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea. It’s topical, controversial and deeply relevant to our world today. We have big ambitions to show the film around the globe.
We need your financial support to complete the rough cut and show the film to over 30 distributors, sales agents and broadcasters from around the world who expressed huge interest in the project at Hot Docs.
Our website has all the required information, details how to donate money, our social media accounts and all relevant news.
Please donate generously to our film today and share the information far and wide.
The following article appears today in the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age and is written by Garry Maddox. The headline is, “Australia’s foreign aid is largely wasted because of corruption, says documentary maker Antony Loewenstein”:
Australian feature films have largely avoided hot political subjects lately – though that may change with Matthew Saville’s planned film on the Tampa crisis – but documentary makers have been far from reluctant.
Well-known journalist Antony Loewenstein has written and appears in Disaster Capitalism, about the “the dark side of moneymakers and aid exploiters” in Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea, which has been selected for North America’s largest documentary festival, Toronto’s Hot Docs, which starts later this month.
And after four years working on the film with director Thor Neureiter, Loewenstein concludes that the amount of Australia’s foreign aid that is wasted is “huge”.
“The vast majority of aid that Australia has given to PNG in the last years, especially in Bougainville, has gone to waste,” he says.
“That’s not to say there’s not been valuable projects. I’ve seen with my own eyes in Bougainville certain medical facilities and support networks that have helped people.
“But so much of the aid in PNG has gone into corruption … too often Australian aid is tied to pushing corporate mining interests.”
Although the country’s involvement with Haiti has been limited, Loewenstein says the vast majority of aid to Afghanistan “was funnelled through the corrupt Afghan government and also warlords that the Australian government partner with.” He sees that as “a huge problem”.
Disaster Capitalism, which is “90 per cent shot”, will feature in Hot Docs Forum, which gives the filmmakers 15 minutes to pitch to financiers, producers, distributors, sales agents and broadcasters from around the world.
Speaking from East Jerusalem, Loewenstein tells Short Cuts the aim of the film is to make viewers more aware of where their aid money is going.
“It’s not a call to stop aid,” he says. “It’s to make it smarter aid, more targeted and more engaged aid with locals on the ground.
“As we’ve seen in Haiti, Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea, aid is not actually helping the people it claims to be helping.”
Loewenstein says Disaster Capitalism has been a tough film to shoot.
“In all three countries logistics are tough,” he says. “Security, particularly Afghanistan, is incredibly shady.”
For over four years I’ve been working on the documentary, Disaster Capitalism. I was shooting footage myself when I started researching the book that eventually became my recent Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe. I partnered with New York film-maker Thor Neureiter in 2012 (and Norwegian film-maker Spencer Austad has shot some amazing footage around the world). The film features Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea and issues related to aid, development and resources.
We’ve just been selected to participate in Hot Docs in Toronto in May, one of the most prestigious documentary film festivals in the world. One of 19 films (out of more than 200 submitted), we’ll be pitching the film for funding, distribution and support.
Over the years we ran a successful Kickstarter campaign (here’s the latest update), received support from philanthropists Bertha (backers of Oscar nominated Dirty Wars and Virunga) and applied for countless grants around the world. We’ve recently started working on a rough cut of our feature documentary and are making good progress.
It’s been a long journey, independent film-making always is everybody tells us, and we’re rapt with the current momentum.
For the last years I’ve been working with New York based film-maker Thor Neureiter on a documentary about Disaster Capitalism. We successfully raised money on Kickstarter last year and we’re currently pursuing funding from a range of global sources. Film-making is a long, painful and challenging process.
I’m happy to release the new teaser that shows the progression of the work. Hopefully this whets your appetite:
Today I’m proud to announce the launch of a Kickstarter campaign with New York-based film-maker Thor Neureiter. Here’s the trailer:
We need to raise US$20,000 in one month to continue shooting footage in Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Afghanistan. All the details about the project are here. Please tell your friends, family, lovers, enemies and everybody else about this independently supported project. It continues the journey, in film form, of my new book, Profits of Doom.
UPDATE: I’m happy to announce that the film has been successfully funded (on 20 September 2013). Stay tuned.
Last December I attended the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo to highlight the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
For the last months I’ve worked on a radio documentary feature for ABC Radio National’s 360 program, the country’s finest space for long-form radio work. Alongside co-producer Sharon Davis and sound engineer Timothy Nicastri, we aimed to create an essay that discussed both the event itself and wider issues about Zionism and Judaism. My photographs from Gaza and Cairo are also published. Full audio below or here.
Here’s the blurb for the show:
Best-selling author Antony Loewenstein joins the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo to test his ideas about dissent and Jewish identity.
Antony was one of 1,400 activists who met in Cairo to protest against the Israeli siege on the Gaza strip, but their plans were thwarted by the Egyptian government.
Antony has spent a number of years publicly challenging the actions of Israel. For these attitudes he’s been called a ‘self-hating Jew’ and an ‘anti-Semite’.
In A Different Kind of Jew Antony examines the role of Judaism in the modern age and the religion’s relationship to the contested Israeli/Palestinian conflict.