STEVE INSKEEP, host:
There's a different kind of effort to bring an end to militancy in Afghanistan. It's led not by U.S. troops, but by a filmmaker and a film star. Filmmaker Jeremy Gilley is promoting the United Nations International Day of Peace. It is supposed to be a day of cease-fire, and it's coming up next week, which is why the filmmaker was in Kabul recently with the actor Jude Law. They were finding it's not so easy to convince people in a country like Afghanistan to lay down their arms, even for a day. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Jeremy Gilley says he learned the hard way that filmmakers don't necessarily make good diplomats.
Mr. JEREMY GILLEY (Filmmaker, "The Day After Peace"): I got it badly wrong. Let me explain how my journey began and why my film camera was capturing such a public disaster.
NELSON: What the British filmmaker is talking about in his new film, "The Day After Peace," is his attempt to persuade the Arab League to support the United Nations Peace Day. He meets with Arab leaders who've just seen a video endorsement from Israel's Shimon Peres. Not a good move, Gilley discovers, given most Arab states view Israel as a warmonger, not a peacemaker. Gilley documents such setbacks in his second movie about his difficult quest to make Peace Day a reality. And as is often the case in films, Hollywood stars come to the rescue, like actor Jude Law. He accompanied Gilley to Afghanistan this month to promote the film and to persuade Afghans to mark Peace Day. It's a message they deliver at the fortified United Nations compound in Kabul.
Mr. JUDE LAW (Actor): Everything starts with one step, or one brick, or one word, or one day.
NELSON: Unshaven and sporting a close-fitting suit, Law embraced his role as an ambassador of peace in a war zone. The actor, who has played war-weary soldiers in films like "Cold Mountain" and "Enemy at the Gates," calls "The Day After Peace" the most important film he's ever done, even if his family wasn't too crazy about him coming here.
Mr. LAW: There was a certain amount of concern, but you know, I'm proud to be a part of something very constructive and positive. And I think sometimes it's very easy to sit in the West and discuss change, and discuss what's going on in the world, and think you know what's going on. But I think you've got to go places and see it and sometimes put yourself in that situation.
NELSON: He and Gilley stress the success of a similar appeal they made last September during their first trip to Afghanistan. On last year's Peace Day, UNICEF joined with other aid workers to vaccinate some one and a half million Afghan children after the Taliban gave them a rare guarantee of safety. Many of the vaccinations were administered in Taliban strongholds like Helmand province.
(Soundbite of song "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)")
EURYTHMICS: (Singing) Sweet dreams are made of this.
NELSON: The movie shows the vaccinations as well as this concert in London, where Law tells the audience that Peace Day in Afghanistan is working. He says 82 separate events promoting peace were held across the war-torn country last September 21. But what the movie fails to mention is that on that same day, NATO announced that 82 people were killed in Afghanistan, all but one of them in Helmand province. Jude Law thinks the day's accomplishments should not be overshadowed by the death toll.
Mr. LAW: Unfortunately, the history of this country the last 30 years has been that it's not that extraordinary that people have lost their lives on whatever side and civilians have been involved, you know, for whatever reason. What is extraordinary is that something positive happened.
NELSON: On the streets of Kabul, many Afghans lauded the actor and filmmaker for their effort, but few of those interviewed felt it would make any difference. Like Taweed David, who bought DVDs in a store where Law's movies were on display.
Mr. TAWEED DAVID (Resident, Kabul, Afghanistan): Day by day, the people is dying in Afghanistan, you know this. The world knows this, and our country will never be in a good situation, I think.
NELSON: Reached by phone, a Taliban spokesman dismissed Peace Day as Western nonsense. But he says that Taliban leaders are considering allowing health workers to come into their strongholds again on this year's Peace Day to vaccinate more children. Two of those workers were killed Sunday in a Taliban suicide attack. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.
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