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This project was successfully funded on June 1, 2015

Folk Filmmaking on the Roof of the World

by At Films


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In the Alai Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, you must be careful. You may hunt ibex, markhor, and argali; their meat is purifying, their skins protect from evil spirits. But you cannot hunt to excess. Hunt without restraint and great tragedy will befall you. Men have been struck blind.

For centuries, beliefs like these conserved wildlife. They are conveyed through stories, like that of Karagul, a great but merciless hunter. Tricked by an ibex, he accidentally shot his own son. Another tale describes Kodzhodzash, a powerful but wanton hunter. He tried to slay a sacred she-ibex, the Kaiberen. Instead, she led him to his death, stranding Kodzhodzash on a cliff. 


As times change, these stories fade. With them go both cultural and natural heritage. Retelling these stories through cinema makes them exciting for the next generation. It also recognizes connections between local cultures and wildlife, offering a foundation for a conservation ethic based in local identity, rather than one imposed from outside.

This summer we will work with communities in the Alai Valley of Kyrgyzstan and the Wakhan Valley of Tajikistan and Afghanistan to shoot a series of folk films. Each film will retell an old story offering a traditional conservation ethic. We will then distribute these films to communities and conservationists across the region. 


The charismatic species celebrated in local stories are also often those under threat. In Central Asia, conservation efforts are particularly important for snow leopards and their prey. Though once mythological beings, snow leopards are now at risk from hunting, trapping, and loss of prey. Shepherds kill them in retaliation for attacks on livestock. Conservationists work to mitigate these threats, helping build better corrals, enforcing strict bans on the wildlife trade, designating protected areas. Their efforts need help. Conservation need not be limited to prevention; it can also be celebration. Locally-produced movies celebrate the natural splendor of Central Asia and showcase the long relationship between these communities and the wildlife, evoking pride and recognition. They express the value of wildlife, motivating conservation in a way that locals can both understand and endorse as their own. These films can also help these remote communities garner international respect, featuring not just the beautiful natural diversity but also colorful and distinct methods and messages of conservation with a Central Asian flavor. Other sites of snow leopard conservation: China, India, Tibet, Nepal—have much more international visibility. An ancillary goal of this project is to feature the less familiar folks and habitat of Central Asia.


We will travel to two field sites: the Alai Valley of Kyrgyzstan (June 2015) and the Wakhan Valley of Tajikistan and Afghanistan (July 2015).

At each site we will repeat the same steps:

1. Work with a collaborator and translator to collect old stories and new anecdotes about local wildlife.

2. From these stories, draft a script with storytellers and other interested community members.

3. Scout shooting locations, cast actors, invite community collaborators (especially the storytellers) to produce and direct.

4. Shoot the films.

5. Time permitting, cut and screen drafts of the films for community ideas, edits, and critique.

6. Return home, polish the films, then provide them to collaborators and conservationists in the region (particularly Tanya Rosen of Panthera & the Kaiberen Project) for distribution and use in conservation education programs.


We have specific collaborators, sites, and ideas for each film. As we conduct this campaign, we will post a project update featuring and further explaining each story. Our project is inspired by the research of the Kaiberen ProjectDr. John Mock for the Snow Leopard Conservancy, and Tanya Rosen of Panthera. From their work, we have collected a series of Central Asian animal folk tales. These are a base for the film scripts, but we would like to engage the communities we plan to work with first, to see what stories they best remember, still cherish, and would like to make into movies.


We appreciate any contribution. These can be financial or social. Even simply sharing our project on your social media can be a huge help to us.

We are asking for $4460 for four weeks support including the particular expenses below. We have support from a Charity Pot grant from Lush, which will help cover most of the project in Tajikistan. With Hatchfund, we will fund our work in Kyrgyzstan and further support the entire project.

- Hiring of a local fixer (to act as guide, translator, and producer): $35/day - $980

- Compensation for acting: $20/day/person for 4 local actors (2 films at 7 days each) = $1120

Where we will work lacks tourist infrastructure. We will rely on Central Asia’s legendary hospitality; our room and board will be at homestays. Our daily expenses will support families directly. Your donations support both this project and these communities. Homestays also means costs are uncertain. (A few summers ago, Pamiri families hosted Adam in the Wakhan. They would not accept compensation; he had to leave money under the pillow when he left).  

The following are estimates. We will allocate any savings for contingency funds.

- Accommodation: 2 people at $10/person = $560

- Food expenses: $17/day for 2 people = $1000

- Hiring of public transport from Bishkek to Osh, Osh to Saray Tash, Saray Tash to Alay Valley, Alay Valley to Saray Tash, Saray Tash to Murghab, Murghab to Alichur Valley, Alichur Valley to Darshaydara plus any other small in-town transport expenses = $200/person x 2 = $400

- Material costs= $400

Total: $4460

Additional Funding

Flex Funding will allow us to acquire additional equipment for our filmmaking project including:

- Sound Recording Equipment (we left all of ours with our colleagues in Cameroon):

Zoon H4n $240, SKB Waterproof Case for Zoom H4N $55, Rode NTG2 Shotgun Mic $280, Rode Deadcat Microphone Cover $40, GLS Audi 25ft Mic Cable $15, Rode Micro Boom Pole Telescopic Microphone Extension $50, Audio-Technica Headphones $70, SanDisk 16GB SDHC $13,Duracell Batteries $18 = $780 ]


- Camera traps for the use of our colleague, Shannon Kachel, a PhD student at the University of Washington studying snow leopards in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. A camera trap expert, Shannon will help us with remarkably challenging ask of acquiring footage of Central Asian snow leopards. His work will also help us build a whole collection of wildlife footage for us across the films. 

[ 3 x Bushnell Camera $435, Duracell Batteries $18, 3 x SanDisk 32GB SDHC $70 & 2 x Master Lock Cable $74 = $600 ]

Total Flex Funding: $1,380


In addition to updating our Hatchfund page, we will document our project on our Facebook page and Instagram. All the films we co-produce are first and foremost for the communities we work with. We will distribute these films through our collaborators, contacts, and various NGOs in the region. We will also make our available on our website. 

All video and photos by At Films

Thanks to our collaborators and sponsors:

Hatchfund is a unique crowdfunding platform specifically for artists. We are honored to be featured on their website. Please feel free to share our project with anyone. We thank you for your tax deductible donation & look forward to sharing our project with you!