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Cooperation: Hidden Treasures – Italy rediscovers Afghan culture

Discovering Afghanistan, its history and its culture, as part of the cooperation effort. It is no coincidence that the event on “Hidden Treasures: 10 years of Italy in Afghanistan” was hosted in the MAXXI Gallery in Rome. “The deep respect we feel for this country had led us to refocus our cooperation policies to include interventions not just to address emergencies but also in sectors that enable the Afghan people to rediscover their identity through their past and their traditions”. Speaking was Elisabetta Belloni, Director General for Italian Cooperation, during the debate at the MAXXI.

The event, organised by the Foreign Ministry’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS), saw Italian experts, scholars and archaeologists bring to light the “hidden treasures” of a country torn by 10 years of conflict. But a country that is also a crossroads of millennia-long cultures and traditions. Architect Andrea Bruno has rescued from oblivion the majestic Minaret of Jam, which until a few years ago was entirely unknown. “The Minaret is a symbol of authenticity”, noted Bruno. “In Europe we have very few examples of monuments that have remained hidden from human eyes for so many centuries”.

Claudio Margottini led the works to restore the niches that once housed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which were blown up by the Taliban over ten years ago. “We worked side by side with the Afghans in a community of intent that represented the added value of our project. A project that has been appreciated at the international level too”, Margottini underscored. The Italian archaeologists who made such a committed effort on behalf of Afghanistan were thanked by Mohammad Musa Maroofi, Afghan Ambassador to Rome. “Their contribution”, he observed, “is of the utmost importance, because it has taken us back in time and reminded us of who we really are”.

No Game

The event also gave space to ““No Game”, a short documentary film produced by Giacomo Martelli as part of a humanitarian de-mining initiative funded by the DGCS. The aim of the film is to teach Afghan children about the terrible dangers of anti-personnel mines: the most harmful “gift” left by war.

It was shot without dialogue or sub-titles: a deliberate choice by the director, to overcome any language barriers and get right to the heart of the problem. 75% of the victims of mines are children who, driven by curiosity and the desire to earn some money by selling scrap metal, are attracted to these “abandoned” objects.

“Our aim”, explained the director, “was to produce a short film that would be accessible to all Afghan kids. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to broadcast the film on all the national TV networks so we were able to air the problem in 60 million homes”.

Giacomo is a successful young Italian director born in Milan in 1976. Squadra Antimafia, which he directed, attracted peak TV audiences for many weeks in 2011. But Giacomo freely decided to put his expertise and his holidays to the service of Italian Development Cooperation. He visited Afghanistan twice, and agreed readily and enthusiastically with the idea that young Italian directors should begin to illustrate a hidden and often intangible element of the “Made in Italy” brand. The aim is to build up a library that combines cinematic talent with the skills and expertise of the men and women working for Italy’s cooperation effort.

Giacomo returned from his second trip to Afghanistan will some beautiful images showing the poetry of far-off lands, a timeless world where laughter and play can defeat even death.

Director and scriptwriter: Giacomo Martelli

Director of Photography and Cameraman: Michel-Clement Franco

Editing and Post-Production Supervisor: Graziano Tontodonati

Music: Andrea Farri

Executive Producer for the Directorate General for Development Cooperation: Fabrizio Falcone


Special feature on Afghanistan: The Mission Continues