“Saving Mes Aynak” documentary awarded MacArthur Foundation grant

Image of Shakyamuni Buddha in the Gandharan style excavated at Mes Aynak, Afghanistan

We’re pleased to note that professor and filmmaker Brent Huffman has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the MacArthur Foundation to complete his documentary, Saving Mes Aynak. In October, 2012, we spotlighted Huffman’s efforts to capture the struggle in Afghanistan between international archaeologists scrambling to preserve the treasures of an ancient Buddhist monastic complex outside Kabul, thought to be more than 2,000 years old, and a Chinese mining company granted permission by the Afghan government to begin a 30-year exploitation of what turns out to be the world’s second-largest copper deposit, located at the very same site.

The developments in 2013 around the Mes Aynak excavation were not encouraging, from the standpoint of cultural preservation. On October 1, as pointed to by the American Buddhist Perspective blog, Huffman posted on the Buddhas of Aynak Facebook page:

“So I just received some REALLY BAD news about Mes Aynak today – ALL foreign archaeologists have left the site due to safety and Afghan archaeologists are working now with no funding.

“And with Karzai going to China to appease the mining company and let them out of their obligations to Afghanistan like building infrastructure, a railway and a power-plant in the area – I FEAR the worst for this incredible ancient Buddhist city.”

Huffman was buoyed by news of the grant, however, as Saving Mes Aynak is his primary tool for building awareness about the impending destruction of such historical treasures. His film was one of only 18 selected for a grant out of more than 500 applications.

“MacArthur’s media grantmaking supports work that combines exceptional storytelling with high quality journalism about under-reported but important social issues,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “This year’s documentaries illuminate serious issues in approachable, creative, and engaging ways.”

Here is the trailer for the Saving Mes Aynak film:

For further reading, see Huffman’s recent article, “Erasing the History of Buddhist Afghanistan, One Mine at a Time”.


  1. khan Safdar says

    We have to preserve the site at any cost.
    special arrangment needed for the purpose
    to provide security to the experts on the
    site at any cost. Why not to have peace negotiation with Taliban but we need preservation not destruction any more.
    Being conservation Scientest I can offer my services for this great cause. Safdar khan