Press Releases


Date Released: 11/15/2006

Purchase alumnus Raymond Pagnucco returns to campus for a screening of his film God’s Open Hand, a documentary about the first presidential election in Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of its people and its leaders, November 29 at 7 PM in Room 1064 of the Durst Family Humanities Building. A question-and-answer session with Pagnucco, the executive producer and director of photography for the film, and director Spencer Mandell will follow the screening.  The event is free and open to the public.

Purchase College, State University of New York, is located at 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, N.Y.

Raymond Pagnucco graduated with a degree in history and a concentration in Asian Studies from Purchase. He began his career in television during his studies at Beijing Language and Cultural University in Beijing, China. While teaching English in China, he was approached by Beijing television to host an ESL teaching program called “Modern English.” From there he went on to work with China Central Television and Beijing Film Group Corporation as a camera operator, director and on-camera talent.

Spencer Mandell’s work as a photojournalist and documentary film director has brought him to all corners of the world from the Middle East to Central and Southeast Asia. His work focuses on people and places during times of conflict and has been featured in magazines and newspapers around the world including The Times of London, Le Figaro, New York Newsday, and Paris Match.

God’s Open Hand won Best Political Documentary at the 2006 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, and Best Directorial Debut for Mandell at the Los Angeles International Independent Film and Video Festival. The film also was nominated for Best Documentary at the Mendocino Film Festival and was an Official Selection at the Napa Sonoma Wine Country Film Festival and the Long Island Film Expo.

The film charts the course of fledgling democracy in Afghanistan focusing on Afghanistan’s historic first presidential election as seen through the eyes of the major presidential candidates, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The most compelling voices of the documentary come from the Afghan people, desperate for a leader who can unify and rebuild their shattered country, struggling to understand western style democracy, and longing for peace and stability in a land that has known only war and oppression.

God’s Open Hand begins in the weeks leading up to election day as tensions mount from threats of Taliban and Al Qaeda attacks, rumors of backroom deals, American influence and voter intimidation from candidates and insurgents. Culminating in an election day riddled with problems, this film presents the viewer with an open and balanced look at Afghanistan’s troubled first attempt at democracy.

“What we saw, experienced and documented was incredible,” said Mandell. “The story of a country struggling to recreate itself as a democracy, the scandals, the successes, the danger, the hope, we are both forever changed by Afghanistan. Afghanistan is changed in ways that will have an impact on millions of lives for generations to come.”

The screening is co-sponsored by the History Club, the Purchase Student Film Society and the Asian Studies Program of Purchase College.