Saturday, 7 June 2014

Zan Does Afghanistan

After covering and chronicling the South Thailand insurgency in the book titled Operation Nasi Kerabu: Finding Patani in an Islamic Insurgency, journalist and filmmaker Zan Azlee turned his lens towards a conflict zone much further afield: Afghanistan.

A "KL-ite journalist who has lived all his life in non-conflict zones", Zan travelled there "to see if he can come up with the best travel guide for the country. With no idea what he is getting himself into, he dodges suicide bombers and IEDs, and even gets embedded with the army, to plan out the best tourist route in Afghanistan." Okay....

Upon his safe return to Malaysia, Zan has gone on to write articles and produce photo essays and video clips on his trip to Afghanistan. As part of his various Afghanistan-related multimedia projects, Zan, together with creative director Arif Rafhan, brings us his Afghan adventures in a black-and-white graphic novel.

Zan and his fixer's first meeting (as Zan imagined it, I believe)

The monochromatic textures and shades manage to convey the mood of the characters and scenes, bringing home the reality of the Afghan conflict (it's not like Rambo III at all) and its impact on the long-suffering populace. The results are more National Geographic than Lonely Planet, though I felt the book was a bit short.

As I said before, Adventures of a KL-ite in Afghanistan (I suggested a title change, but no) follows Zan the "macho" solo-journalist (he says) on his romp around the war-torn country in his attempt to put together said tourist guide.

Adventures of a KL-ite in Afghanistan
Zan Azlee
illustrated by Arif Rafhan

MPH Group Publishing (June 2014)
136 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-196-6

RM19.90 | Buy from
Going to the ground with his fixer, Ahmad Bilal Raghbat, Zan sees first-hand the plight of the Afghan people and the efforts of those who are contributing towards rebuilding the country and returning some semblance of normality to Afghan society.

Our intrepid protagonist also talks to (allegedly) the last Jew living in Afghanistan; witnesses an orderly, police-assisted march in honour of Ahmad Shah Massoud; meets Oliver Percovich, founder of NGO Skateistan; looks up the empty gigantic cavities that once housed the Buddhas of Bamiyan—the fulfilment of a years-long dream; briefly accompanies Malcom ISAF 2, Malaysia's military contingent, on a humanitarian mission in the war-torn country's Bamiyan province; and more.

Plus, a cameo by a mat salleh who looks like Dave Grohl. Awesome stuff overall - what's not to like?

Zan Azlee is a TV/film director, producer, videographer and writer who's involved in journalism both for broadcast and print, a content developer for new media/Internet, and a content consultant. He also runs Fat Bidin Media. You might have seen some of his scribblings on the online news portal The Malaysian Insider.

Arif Rafhan is a Malaysian creative director of web design agency who loves to draw on anything – from dead-tree media to his computer monitor and his son's bedroom wall. He is also the illustrator for Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us by Melanie Lee.

12/08/2014  Listen to the podcast of Zan and Arif's interview on BFM89.9 about the book.


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