The Alive and Well in Pakistan project provides independent reporting from and about Pakistan, humanizing Pakistanis for a global audience and giving Pakistanis worldwide an honest, sympathetic portrayal of their situation in the contemporary world that goes beyond the headlines and cliches, in film, print and other media such as short videos, still photography, and audio.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Speaking of Pakistan ...

A special message from Fawad and Ethan about where our project came from, where it's at, and where it's going:

Throughout 2008, as part of our work together on a feature-length documentary highlighting Pakistan's human dimension - real-life experiences from the lives of ordinary Pakistanis are up front; politics and violence in the background - we traveled extensively around North America, introducing ourselves to Pakistani communities in places like Chicago, Silicon Valley, Vancouver, Washington, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

We began to realize that there are many interesting stories right here: stories of immigrant struggle and ambition and generational change; Pakistani stories that are also American stories. We also began to understand the particular challenges that face the Pakistani community in the United States, and we started a conversation about these in a speech in San Jose, California.

During the second half of 2008 we shifted focus toward the mainstream American public, whose need and hunger for reporting and understanding about Pakistan, and the Muslim world in general, is poorly served by traditional media. In November we spoke to large audiences at events sponsored by PILLAR in Colorado Springs and St. John's Cathedral in Denver. These talks were prototypes for what we will be doing much more of during 2009 and beyond.

In late February, along with Seattle-based photographer Peter Sabo, we'll be spending six weeks in India and Pakistan. After we return in mid-April, Ethan will be writing article-length reports for the Web and possibly a new book, and Pete will be editing his photos in time for our first post-trip public presentation, at Town Hall Seattle. Fawad is working on a book about the experience of being Pakistani in America. And we're booking speaking engagements nationwide.

In an era of dying newspapers and shrinking coverage in traditional media of both global topics and the arts, we're blazing a trail made possible by digital media: we're doing it ourselves. We're doing what Professor Jay Rosen of New York University praised one of our role models for doing six years ago:

"In 2003, Chris Allbritton said, in effect, I can get to Iraq, you can't; I'll send back reports, post them on the Net, and some of you will pay me something. Trust me, it will work. This was a public transaction, and it did work. It had an idea built into it that journalists have been reworking since about 1760 or so."

If you share our goals of improving Americans' access to international perspectives and enhancing the conversation between the West and the Muslim world, you can support us in a couple of ways. You can make a financial contribution in any amount (see the right column of this page).

Think of your contribution not as a donation to charity - it's not tax-deductible, unless you donate through the Northwest Film Forum - but like a subscription to a newspaper or magazine: you give us a little money, we give you reporting from Pakistan in various forms. If you value what we offer, please give us some of what we need in order to offer it. Any contribution in a multiple of $100 entitles you to the same number of copies of the book Alive and Well in Pakistan (e.g. for $500, in addition to our thanks, you get five copies of the book to share with friends and contacts).

You can also invite us to present our slide show to your place of worship, university or high school class, or civic group. If your group or institution can pay our travel expenses and an honorarium, thank you; those are welcome and needed. Personal contributions also help us defray our costs.

Finally, you can purchase the book Alive and Well in Pakistan and, soon, other media products we plan to offer for sale.

We're starting the Speaking of Pakistan public speaking initiative offering the two of us as speakers either separately or together. Fawad is based in Chicago, Ethan is based in Seattle, and each of us is happy to speak to small and local groups in and around our home cities. Joint engagements are the most effective, especially to larger and more formal audiences. We also hope soon to begin offering selected other speakers from among our extensive network of relevant contacts.

Fawad Butt and Ethan Casey