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‘Saving Mes Aynak’ to Premiere in Chicago

Screening includes panel discussion with filmmakers and archeologists

  • 5,000 year-old archeological ruins in Afghanistan threatened with demolition later this year
  • Estimated $100 billion worth of copper buried directly beneath the site
  • Discoveries may rewrite history of Buddhism and Afghanistan
  • Northwestern documentary filmmaker to participate in Q&A panel

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “Saving Mes Aynak,” a documentary by Northwestern University Journalism Professor Brent Huffman, will premiere in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre, the city’s preeminent venue for independent and foreign films, on June 2.

The documentary follows Afghan archaeologist Qadir Temori in a frantic effort to preserve one of the world’s most treasured digs — a 5,000 year-old site in Afghanistan — set to be demolished by a Chinese state-owned mining company later this year.

Mes Aynak has more than 600 Buddha statues and artifacts from the Bronze Age. The majority of relics are underground, and only a fraction have been excavated; some believe future discoveries have the potential to reshape the history of Afghanistan and Buddhism itself.

“There is currently only a skeleton crew of Afghan archaeologists working at the site,” said Brent Huffman, assistant professor at Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. “The foreign archaeologists have all left, [and] there are rumors Mes Aynak is being looted at night.”

The archeological ruins sit on an estimated $100 billion worth of copper, and the film depicts the challenges that Temori and his team face as they navigate the intense political relationship with the Chinese and the Taliban to preserve their cultural heritage.

This special screening of “Saving Mes Aynak” will include a question and answer panel, featuring Huffman and producer Zak Piper. Other distinguished panelists include archeologist Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago; Lawrence Rothfield, University of Chicago associate professor of English and comparative literature and faculty director, Cultural Policy Center; and Morag Kersel, archaeologist and assistant professor in anthropology at DePaul University.

The documentary will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, at the Music Box Theatre. Tickets are $10. Visit the Music Box Theatre for more information.

Huffman has been independently shooting at Mes Aynak since 2011 and was one of 18 out of nearly 500 filmmakers chosen to receive a MacArthur independent documentary film grant.

Huffman brought his documentary to Kartemquin Films in late 2013 through its KTQ Labs program. “Saving Mes Aynak” premiered in Europe at the world’s largest film festival, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, where work by Americans is seldom screened. The 60-minute film competed in the IDFA Competition for Mid-Length Documentary category.

The film recently won a large award in Iran and played at FIPAa prestigious festival in France. The film is set to make its television debuts in the U.S. on Al Jazeera America and then on Al Jazeera English in the Middle East and Europe.

Huffman has directed, produced, written, shot and edited documentaries and long-form videos for a variety of outlets including The New York Times, the National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel, CNN, PBS and more.

For more information on “Saving Mes Aynak,” visit

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