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Filming a secret marathon

Master of Digital Media student documents her first marathon – in Afghanistan
November 24, 2016
Ryerson Master of Digital Media student Kate McKenzie runs marathon in Afghanistan

Master of Digital Media student Kate McKenzie documents her journey to Afghanistan to run her first marathon. Photo credit: Latif Azimi.

If you asked Master of Digital Media (MDM) student Kate McKenzie last year if she would run a marathon, she would have said she didn’t understand why anyone would run for that long. So why did she not only run a marathon, but also one in Afghanistan? It took an amazing story.

As an MDM student, McKenzie has been studying storytelling and knew a good story when she heard it. “At a time when we hear many stories of us versus them and of building walls, this film provides an alternative narrative – it’s a chance to build a bridge.”

McKenzie’s film will document her own journey to run her first marathon in Afghanistan, along with fellow Canadian Martin Parnell, external link and three Afghan women. McKenzie was inspired by the Afghan women who overcame many obstacles in order to train for the marathon. Last year was the first year a marathon was held in Afghanistan and there was only one female Afghan runner. She had to train in her courtyard to avoid having rocks thrown at her or being insulted or threatened. McKenzie was struck by the contrast of her own training, which involved just putting on a pair of runners and heading out the door.

McKenzie has been researching restorative narratives and the way films can help restore, heal or even repair the reputation of a person or community. “When we think of Afghanistan, many of us only think of a war-torn country but this story of an amazing community that has come together to host a marathon helps to paint a different picture of a country that is not just defined by war, but also by amazing acts of courage.”

The entire marathon itself and the route used all had to be kept secret in the lead-up to the event in order to maintain everyone’s safety. Due to security risks, armed guards accompanied runners while they participated. “In the lead-up to the event we knew there was a high risk associated with choosing to film this story,” says McKenzie but she believed that it needed to be told. “The women participating in this marathon are truly courageous. They run because that is when they feel free. We wanted to honour the courage of these women, who are putting their own lives at risk to fight for freedom, by helping them share their story with the world.”

Now that McKenzie is back safe and sound, she’s excited to share her story and invites others to help her take her film across the finish line via a crowdfunding campaign, external link, opens in new window. “My dream is that the credits of our film will not just be a list of funders but also a list of allies, supporters who are willing to let the next generation know that we will not be silent, we will support, stand by and do whatever we can to ensure all people are free.”

Read Toronto Star article

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Watch a CBC video on Kate McKenzie's secret marathon in Afghanistan.