Meena Nanji

Meena Nanji:
View from a Grain of Sand

2006, 82 min., DigiBeta

"Nanji's work deals with the global diaspora of post-colonial peoples. Driven by a passion for social justice, she filters her view of the world through the lens of her camera." Mirali Magazine

Los Angeles premiere
Jack H. Skirball Screening Series

Combining vérité footage, interviews and archival material, Meena Nanji has fashioned a harrowing, thought-provoking, yet intimate portrait of the plight of Afghan women in the last 30 years—from the rule of King Mohammed Zahir Shah to the current Hamid Karzai government to the activist work of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Over a period of five years, she spent months in a refugee camp in Pakistan, where she documented the efforts of three women to rebuild their lives and help others in the process: Shapire, a teacher; Roeena, a physician; and Wajeeha, a social activist.

In person: Meena Nanji

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Curator’s Notes

2001 saw an unprecedented level of international interest in the lives of Afghan women living under the Taliban. Since then however, the media spotlight on Afghan women has fallen, and with it, public knowledge of the current situation Afghan women face. In the last few weeks however, the social and political crisis in Afghanistan is back in the front pages, making Nanji’s film especially timely and poignant.

View From A Grain of Sand reveals how Afghani women have had their rights stripped from them over the last 25 years – and their ongoing battle to (re)gain the most basic human rights. Nanji shot the film over a period of three years in the sprawling refugee camps of northwestern Pakistan and in the war-torn city of Kabul. Through a two-year long process of editing, additional shooting and archival research, she worked to locate the personal stories of the women she met within the larger context of international interference and war in the Middle East and the rise of religious fundamentalists in Afghanistan. Going beyond the surface of sensational news to explore the mechanisms of oppression, View from A Grain of Sand is political documentary at its best.

The main characters whose lives are depicted in View From A Grain of Sand are Wajeeha, Roeena and Shapire. Born in the rural province of Farah, Afghanistan, Wajeeha was, like her sisters, prevented from attending school. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, she fled to Iran, where she met her husband – a resistance fighter who was eventually killed in a Soviet ambush in the late 1980s, as Wajeeha was expecting her youngest son. Traveling to Pakistan, she stumbled on a demonstration by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and decided to join them. They taught her how to read and write, and she is now teaching literacy courses to other women, raising awareness and struggling to make women’s rights a reality in Afghanistan.

Roeena was raised in Kabul and worked as a doctor there for three years before fleeing to Pakistan with her family in 1994 after her younger brother was killed by a random rocket attack. She has since worked for the International Medical Corps, aiding thousands in refugee camps. Shapire fled the Taliban in 1998 with her husband and five young children. As a young girl in Afghanistan, she had aspired to be a pilot or a journalist, but her ambitions were thwarted by her arranged marriage at the age of sixteen. Now she works as a teacher in a girls' school founded by refugees in Pakistan.

For more information on RAWA:
Contact information about View from a Grain of Sand:

About the Filmmaker:
Born in Kenya in an East Asian family, Meena Nanji grew up in London, England, and then Los Angeles, where she received a BA in Political Sciences from UCLA (1985) and a MFA from CalArts (1993). Since then, she has completed a number of experimental and political documentaries that have been screened in international film/video festivals as well as broadcast on PBS stations throughout the US and on European television. She now lives and works between Los Angeles and New Delhi.

She has received grants and awards from the Rockefeller Foundation (2006, 1995), Women in Film Foundation (2006), the Durfee Foundation (2006), Center for Asian American Media (2006, 2004, 1994), the National Endowment for the Arts (2004), Pacific Pioneer Fund (2004), Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department (2001), Paul Robeson Fund (1995) and the American Film Institute (1995), among others.

Selected Filmography:
Voices of the Morning (1992)
It’s a Crime (1996)
Looking for Another Girl (1998)
Living in Color (2002)

The Jack H. Skirball Screening Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud.

Associated Images: 

MON 11/13 8:00 pm$8$6$4

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff