Afghan Girls Robotics Team

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: Documentary Short
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Pre-Production


This is the uplifting story of six teenage girls from Afghanistan, who come together to compete in an international robotics competition held in Washington D.C.


Afghan Girls Robotics Team (WT) is the story of six teenage girls from Afghanistan, who compete in an international robotics competition in Washington D.C. After they are twice rejected for visas to come to the US, a bipartisan campaign forces the State Department to reverse its position and allow them to attend.


Our film explores a number of current and urgent themes. Girls around the world face discrimination in STEM fields, whether they are coders in Silicon Valley startups or teenagers in Afghan high schools. Telling the story of the passions, obstacles, and perseverance of these girls will shed light on the struggles that women and girls face everywhere. The film will also ask questions about America’s visa policy which is currently a heated topic of debate. The film puts a face to some of the Muslims who, like other immigrants, and refugees, are often scapegoated as they try to come to the Land of Opportunity. The film will also ask what America’s responsibility is to the citizens of a country that it invaded and occupied? These are not simple questions (for example, it was America’s invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban and gave Roya the opportunity to found her own software company). There are tradeoffs around security, financial costs, and humanitarianism, and we are eager to acknowledge that complexity in our coverage, much like the Director, Marshall Curry, did in his film about environmental radicals, If a Tree Falls. Though the film sheds light on social and political issues, it will feel to audiences like a character story, in which we come to know intimately the girls on the team. The film will combine verite footage with beautifully shot, even stylized, day-in-the-life sequences that are “narrated” by audio from interviews with the girls. These scenes will take place in Afghanistan (as we spend time with and learn about the girls’ families, school, mosque, and friends) and in Washington DC, (where they explore tourist sites, meet with press, and participate in the competition). Sometimes, these scenes will enable us to fill in the backstory. For example, we might go to the mosque with one of the girls to make D’ua (prayer) as we hear her explain that she prayed there for her visa before the embassy interview. The girls’ universal “teenager-ness” will be a recurring theme in the film, and we will also make use of footage and photos that they shot with their cell phones and small cameras over the months leading up to the competition.


Marshall Curry - Director
Marshall Curry is a two-time Academy Award nominated documentary director, cinematographer, and editor. His films cover a wide range of interests and include STREET FIGHT, about Cory Booker's run for mayor of Newark, N.J.; RACING DREAMS, which tells the story of three tweens who dream of becoming NASCAR drivers; IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT, which chronicles a radical environmental group; and POINT AND SHOOT, about an American who leaves home to join the Libyan revolution. These films have won top honors at Tribeca and Sundance and have played in theaters and on television around the world. In addition to his directing work, Curry also was Executive Producer and additional editor of MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS about the indie rock band, The National. Curry's documentary writing has twice been nominated for Writer's Guild Awards, and his editing work was honored with the Best Documentary Editing Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He has directed VR/360 video documentaries for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Duke, Columbia, and NYU. He has appeared frequently on television and radio including Morning Edition, Charlie Rose, Nightline, and the Tavis Smiley Show. He is the father of a 13-year-old girl.

Peter Yost - Producer
Multiple Emmy Nominated filmmaker, Peter Yost, has produced dozens of independent and commissioned documentaries that challenge our assumptions about the world around us. His films vary widely in style and approach— from verite to archive-based projects to correspondent-driven investigations— but all are united by passionate storytelling and a deep desire to explore the unknown. Yost’s work has been widely broadcast globally, funded by Sundance and other leading foundations, and highlighted by everyone from Jon Stewart to the New York Times. His work includes INSIDE NORTH KOREA; SOLITARY CONFINEMENT; SEEDS OF TIBET; and RISE OF THE DRONES.  He has extensive experience producing international projects funded by leading broadcasters, including five films for the acclaimed PBS science series NOVA and more than 12 hours for National Geographic’s flagship Specials Unit.  A longtime New Yorker, Yost is a graduate of Swarthmore College.  He is the father of 8-year old and 11-year-old girls.


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