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Saving Mes Aynak to Premiere in U.S.

Al Jazeera America will air award-winning documentary

EVANSTON, Ill.  --- Saving Mes Aynak, the award-winning documentary about the race to save a 5,000-year-old Buddhist archaeological site from destruction by a Chinese copper mining company, will be aired by U.S. cable network Al Jazeera America on Monday, July 12 and Saturday, July 18 at 10 p.m. EST. 

Located within a Taliban-controlled region in Afghanistan, Mes Aynak is a significant cultural and historical site, potentially comparable to Machu Picchu or Pompeii. A sprawling, epic city, it is home to over 600 life-size or larger Buddhist statues, dozens of temple structures and an enormous circular complex. So far, only an estimated 10 percent of the site has been excavated.

But beneath Mes Aynak lie huge copper reserves worth an estimated $100 billion. The site’s owners, a state-owned Chinese mining company, plan to begin excavating this year. In the process of open pit mining, the entire site could be destroyed.

“The threat is pretty enormous and it comes not only from Chinese government-owned company but the threat of looters and instability in the region,” documentary filmmaker Brent Huffman said on the CNN program Amanpour. “Only a skeleton crew is working at the site now, so it’s a perfect storm of threats in different ways at Mes Aynak. But the threat of complete demolition of the site now is the most pressing one, and now is really the time to take action.”

Huffman, who spent four years documenting the work at Mes Aynak and trying to save it, plans to travel to Kabul next month to present Afghan president Ashraf Ghani with a petition to stop the demolition.

On July 1, Saving Mes Aynak was available online to those living in Afghanistan. Last week, people from over 43 countries watched Saving Mes Aynak via the Indiegogo campaign on VHS. The movie’s broadcast on Al Jazeera English reached thousands worldwide.

Huffman is an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

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