Afghanistan is on the verge of momentous change as U.S. and NATO troops prepare to withdraw in 2014. Will this be the dawn of lasting stability or will the country slip back into war? What kind of commitment will be required to address the huge problems facing the country? “The Hard Places” is a new feature-length documentary that will examine these questions about the future by first looking back and chronicling the extraordinary journey of Dr. Tom Little, a man who chose to forsake a life of comfort and security in order to make a lasting difference.
American optician Dr. Tom Little arrived in Afghanistan just before the country entered a relentless series of conflicts that has lasted to the present day – from Soviet occupation, to civil war, to Taliban rule and the U.S. invasion following 9/11. Despite almost constant danger he, his wife and children decided to stay and live among the people they served. Little’s dream was to create a sustainable eye program that would train native Afghans to become eye doctors and to establish eye clinics throughout the country to treat the thousands of people suffering from vision problems in that unforgiving environment. Little believed it was his calling to help those who had no options, who were caught up in violent circumstances, but yet whom he also saw as fellow human beings in need of a healing touch. Today, in large part because of his perseverance and dedication, his organization, IAM, provides nearly 90% of all eye-care in the war torn nation.
In July of 2010, Tom and a team of fellow aid workers backpacked 120 miles into the remote province of Nuristan at the invitation of village elders to serve a population of nearly 50,000 people with no access to medical care. On August 5th, 2010, as he and his team were only a day trip away from solid roads returning to Kabul, they were ambushed and murdered in the wilderness. In 2011, in recognition of his life’s work and sacrifice, President Obama posthumously awarded Tom Little the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon any U.S. citizen.
We need a film that examines the real cost of lasting change and shines a light on those who take on the challenge. In recent days we have seen an increased incidence of aid workers being targeted by militants whose goal is to make bridge building between East and West impossible. The goal of “The Hard Places” is to reveal the lasting impact of Dr. Little’s work and use his story as a lens to investigate the challenges, dangers and successes of international aid work and highlight the continuing need for medical training, sustainable development and medical access for the Afghan people.
Please consider supporting this project by making a donation at Kickstarter — and to appreciate Lukas and Salome Augustin’s talent as filmmakers, watch Afghanistan – Touch Down in Flight: