Great new media ideas this year -> IDFA DocLab 2009

This year’s IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) is off and racing. For those interested in keeping abreast with documentary’s new media “genre”, check out their rich IDFA Doclab 2009.

Their blog says “IDFA’s Doc Lab investigates the relationship between documentary film-making and new media. The program is open to all media that can be used to tell a documentary story. During the festival, Doc Lab presents films, web documentaries, and installations that innovate the documentary genre.”

From the projects I’ve explored so far, I am impressed with multi-format, interactive “choose you own adventure” story of  The Big Issue (although the content is very graphic and confronting). The global film wiki idea behind Man With A Movie Camera: The Global Remake could definitely be applied to other globally themed topics. The beautiful serenade Waterlife, shows us an example of how tone can be achieved in new media. And, for documentary boffins, dig deep into a lively discussion about Capturing reality: the art of documentary.

by Citt Williams on November 20, 2009 - Comments (00)  

In the fields with the locals: documenting and raising awareness of climate change in Central and Inner Asia

TIAN SHAN MOUNTAINS, KYRGYZSTAN – Outside, the hot sun beats down. A flock of sheep, horses, and cows munch summer highland grasses. Inside our little felt yurt, it is cosy. Kyrgyz shepherd Dootkasy and his wife Anarkul, head our small circle. We sit crossed legged around a smorgasbord of fresh cream, butter, wild berry jams and homemade bread. Later, Anarkul brings the boiled goat’s head. The eyeball is a treat.

For over 2 months now, Russian filmmaker, Ivan Golovnev and I have been travelling through rural Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russian Altai. Working closely together with local storytellers, NGOs and scientists, we are recording and screening local people’s perspectives of climate change for the United Nations University and The Christensen Fund.

[Picture: An informal Our World 2.0 screening in Dootkasy and Anarkul’s Kyrgyz Yurt]

Grassroots perspectives on climate change are valuable and most importantly local. With deeply spiritualized and centuries old knowledge of the earth’s systems and cycles, local people guide livestock, plant crops, and shift winter camps. Often, none of this knowledge is written down. The traditional songs, carpet motifs, clothing, architectures, daily rituals and the mythological epics of these places are encoded with the survival information. Moreover, these cultural peculiarities provide an ancestral code of how to live harmoniously with and within the local nature.

Imagine, at minus 30, when the sacred mountain pass is blowing its blizzard and you’re bringing home the sheep, great-great grandpa’s knowledge of how to live is useful… you remember his pattern of conduct or perhaps sing his specific clan song.

Today, the national assessment reports flowing into the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention for Climate Change) website are chock full of statistic, long term modeling projections, and serious expert recommendations. The country’s leading scientists add their Institute’s research whilst Government’s task force committees implement achievable solutions and damage control.

Out in the fields and pastures where the livestock is born and dies, people are also talking and taking stock. Everybody has an opinion about the weather… as if they know life depends on it.

“The glaciers that provide all life are getting smaller or have disappeared completely.” “The rich sunny slope grasses are drying out and changing species variety”. “Dry highland animals like yaks, camels and horses are being incorporated into sheep flocks”. “Rain patterns are extreme and unreliable”. “Sacred totem animals, plants and geographic sites are taking on new behaviors”. “Sun’s radiation is increasing and damaging the children’s skin.” “Planting calendars and thanksgiving ceremonies are moving weeks later. Unseasonal heavy rains are eroding valuable time and soil… “.

Further towards the bigger villages and power lines, government built community housing and infrastructure is sinking into melting permafrost. River levels and their hydro-electric power outputs are decreasing. The fresh produce yield in the markets and bazaars is not as big or as juicy.

All the while, the old people try to remember and teach great-great grandpa’s language, whilst their young immerse themselves within foreign entertainment screens.

[Picture: Our World 2.0 climate change video festival screening where a big crowd gathered in Khorog Park, Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan]

After travelling many miles and sharing tea in many rural kitchens, it can be observed, those amongst us still living closely with nature, are consciously and rapidly participating in a process of short-term survival and climate change adaptation.

Remarkably, its can also be observed, swift local awareness and adaptation often correlates to how well a community has maintained its bio-cultural relationships. Noticeably, this ancestral survival knowledge also bestows the custodian with a guidebook to wise climate adaptation.

In some places, traditional resource management systems, almost eradicated with the event of techno-industrialization are being discussed, revitalized and even systematized. From diversifying crops, flocks or architecture, an ancient encyclopedia of simple adaptations is being identified. For example, there is much to learn from traditions that understood and culturally enforced zones of environmental conservation centuries before today’s ecological movement.

[Picture: Interviewing Altaian Telengit leader and shaman, Slava Cheltuev about their knowledge of the inter-connectivity of natural systems, and human behaviour]

At such a time in history, the harmonic and responsible knowledge of our ancestors should not to be discarded or arrogantly overlooked as folklore. There is no used by date on age-old proven methodologies.

Today, traditional knowledge custodians are as diverse as all the spoken languages on the earth. With this and climate change adaptation in mind, a large challenge lies ahead. Can we globally recognize, nurture and enhance these diverse communities with disappearing traditional knowledge systems?

For the benefit of those generations ahead of us, we must responsibly act like those generations before us. Pay heed to great grandpa’s wisdoms, and re-energize it as a respected opinion and pillar of our globalized culture’s way of being, doing, and of knowing.

[Our World 2.0 climate change video screening to the young minds of Gorno-Altaisk State University, Russia where climate scientists, government officers and local television were also present.]

by Citt Williams on October 20, 2009 - Comments (00)  

Videobriefs in Central Asia

Powering the Pamir Mountains - still from documentary video
In the last months the Media Studio team has been exploring the mountains and valleys of Central Asia to produce a series of videobriefs dealing with energy, land management and climate change issues.

Two of the videobriefs are part of the activities of the Sustainable Land Management in the High Pamir and Pamir-Alai Mountains (PALM) project, a United Nations initiative to support the communities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in the conservation of their environment during their  difficult transition from the Soviet Union into the globalized economy.

The videobrief on Tajikistan traces the problems people face to access energy on the Eastern Pamir mountains after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The high cost of heating and cooking fuel has prompted people here to massively uproot the few shrubs that grow in this high altitude environment, severely degrading the land and drastically reducing its capacity to feed domestic and wild animals.

The videobrief on Kyrgyzstan show the changes in the use of land of Kyrgyz herders after Independence in 1991, which have led to increasing numbers of livestock which in turn is degrading the land, threatening its ability to feed the animals the people here depends on.
It also shows Kyrgyz, Tajik and UN experts and officials  as they try to bring in solutions to the situation.

The videobriefs were shown on October 5 in a PALM project meeting to a group of Kyrgyz, Tajik and UN researchers and officials in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where they were well received. The videobrief on Tajikistan was particularly shocking to participants, as although they were aware of the situation they did not know to what extent the lives of people were being affected by lack of access to energy sources.

The two videobriefs will be soon published in UNU’s webmagazine Our World 2.0

by luis on October 14, 2009 - Comments (01)  

UNU and YouTube Think Green

In recognition of World Environment Day 2009 which takes place on 5 June, UNU is collaborating with YouTube Japan to support a special channel called Think Green.

More than 15 million users access YouTube each month in Japan. In order to help this community find videos that encourage them to think about environmental topics, YouTube has collaborated with some of its premium partners to create this new channel that will remain active for one year.

thinkgreen1In addition to the UNU, the content partners include NHK, National Geographic, Asahi and Diginfonews. Around 100 videos are showcased in the channel, including five video briefs published in Our World 2.0 produced by the UNU Media Studio.

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day’s agenda is to:

- Give a human face to environmental issues;

- Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;

- Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;

    - Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

    The theme for WED 2009 is ‘Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change’.

    by Brendan Barrett on June 4, 2009 - Comments (00)  

    Discovering our Bubu: Indigenous perspectives of Climate Change

    Attending a summit with over 300 Indigenous peoples is an incredible experience. Glancing around the room your eyes are bombarded by a sea of traditional costumes: Amazonian feather headdresses, Mongolian Dels, Saami hats, Maasi head jewllery. Its easy to feel the buzz and excitement of such a collective who against many odds have managed to come together. Waved off by loved ones, from the remote corners of the world they journeyed here to Anchorage. Each having been chosen to carry and intimately share their community’s story and concerns. And with each hour that passes, we hear yet another heartfelt statement from the  frontlines of Climate Change. Stories from traditional peoples whose life is land, whose way of survival and knowing is ancient and whose concerns run spiritually deep.

    I write from Anchorage where I am a part of the small UNU delegation attending the Indigenous Peoples Summit on Climate Change. The summit has brought to together over 300 Indigenous spokespeople to discuss and strategize the best possible position for Indigenous rights within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    Coupling with the UNU-IAS Traditional Knowledge Initiative, the Media studio’s contribution has been the makings of a 5 part video portfolio of “Indigenous perspectives of Climate Change”. The five 6 minute videobriefs were made for Our World 2.0 in collaboration with communities and storytellers in Papua New Guinea, Australia and Borneo, Indonesia.

    Colin recording narrationMarilyn and Citt work on translations

    I think its important to quickly mention the process…With each videobrief, we worked on telling the story the community wanted to tell about Climate Change. After a day or two developing a rough script with the community designated storyteller, a cameraman and producer shot the film. Afterwards, we stayed on to translate then edit the story with participation from the storytellers. We cared for the Indigenous Intellectual Property by developing a talent consent form that granted us a non-exclusive license to the storyteller’s story.  At the end of the process,  we screened the film to the community involved for translation and cultural consent. Then the community were given a small hard drive with all the raw materials and a non-exclusive licence to use the materials we had created. We took a copy of the materials back to Tokyo for polishing, uploading and eventually back-up archiving. Usually the process took 10-14 days. These films are now to be distributed widely through UN, community and broadcast/online media networks.

    The first video in the series “Walking on country with spirits” was recorded in the wet tropics “Kuku Ngungkal” country (near the Daintree) with Traditional Owner, Marilyn Wallace. She shows Paul Bell (camera/editor) and I how Climate change is being experienced by her mob.

    I needed to be very, very sensitive and respectful to what’s really going on.

    Although not explicit, the learning I received came from a little word called “bubu”. Whilst doing the translations, Marilyn explained to me the word bubu means – my home country, the land, the soil beneath, the ecosystems (all plants/animals), the biosphere above and beyond, my identity and my responsibility.  This idea of bubu is a profound and spiritual paradigm shift and I urge you to also get in tune with your bubu’s needs!

    And so without further a due, I present you with the UNU’s Indigenous Perspectives of Climate Change video brief series… screening tomorrow night at the global summit.

    Local solutions on a sinking paradise, Carterets Islands, Papua New Guinea from UNUChannel on Vimeo.

    by Citt Williams on April 21, 2009 - Comments (02)  

    Wake up, freak out and then act….


    Don’t think that we need to say much about this video, other than it is brilliant.


    Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

    If you don’t like it, let us know why. If you want to know what you can do, starting reading Our World 2.0.

    by Brendan Barrett on February 3, 2009 - Comments (01)  

    Screenings at the Guadalajara International Film Festival

    guadalajaraWe have just learnt that Saving the Ayuquila River and Voices of the Chichinatzin, produced by the United Nations University in collaboration with the University of Guadalajara and the Autonomous University of Morelos, have been accepted to be shown as part of the Guadalajara International Film Festival that will take place from 19 to 27 March 2009.

    The presentation of the films will be on the 22-23 March at the Centro Cultural Cabañas, a World Heritage Site in the historic centre of Guadalajara.

    The Guadalajara International Film Festival is considered one of the most important film festivals in Latin America. Last year it screened a total of 220 titles and nearly 70,000 people participated in the festival.

    by Brendan Barrett on February 1, 2009 - Comments (00)  


    Voices_DVDWe have started selling the DVDs of our documentaries with UNU Press. So far you can purchase both the Voices of the Chichinautzin (in English and Spanish) and the Wisdom Years (in English and Japanese). Later this month, we will add Saving the Ayuquila River (again in English and Spanish).

    We anticipate that these DVDs will mainly be of interest to educators and to members of the general public who follow social and environmental trends.

    To buy the DVDs visit UNU Press.

    If you do buy one, we would be very interested to hear from you about your impressions of the documentaries. So please do not hesitate to contact us.

    by Brendan Barrett on February 22, 2009 - Comments (00)  
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    Change our world through film

    08-09-26_191635Over two hundred people turned up for the Peace and Creativity Salon at the United Nations University on Friday, 26 September. We set up a screen and video projector in the UNU courtyard, and Global Lives built their installation at the front of the campus (photo credit – Jason Hall).

    The event began at 5pm with the first public screening of the Wisdom Years, a new documentary from the UNU and the World Health Organization. The documentary looks at ageing in Japan.

    This was followed by the world premiere of the new documentary from Director Tim Wise, entitled Soldier of Peace. We had a video conference link up with Tim and he explained that his intention when making the filmq was to “put peace back on the agenda in the 21st Century.”

    We then went into salon mode with plenty of time for people to interact over food and drink. At this point in the evening, we held a screening in the UNU Media Studioof the award winnng documentary from the UNU entitled Voices of the Chichinuatzin. We rounded the evening off with a dance performance from PeaceBoat.

    The event was organized by the UNU, in collaboration with Temple University, Global Lives, and many more.

    by Brendan Barrett on September 29, 2008 - Comments (02)  

    Peace and Creativity Salon

    20080926_salonExpand your social network, enjoy a night of global engagement through film, and feel the power of film as a vehicle for positive change.

    To celebrate the 2008 International Day of Peace, UNU invites you to the Asian premiere of the movie Soldiers of Peace. Also screening will be the latest documentaries from UNU — The Wisdom Years and Voices of the Chichinautzin.

    The event begins at 5:00 p.m. on Friday September 26 at UNU in Tokyo. Admission is free.

    Details and registration

    by Brendan Barrett on September 18, 2008 - Comments (00)  

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