Voices of the Chichinautzin in Moondance Film Fest

The UNU-produced documentary Voices of the Chichinautzin is part of the official selection of the Moondance International Film Festival in the Feature Documentary Category. The festival will take place in August 29, 30, 31, and September 1, in Boulder, Colorado USA.

Voices of the Chichinautzin will screen on Saturday, August 30, 2008 in the Shambala Center Community Room, 1345 Spruce Street, Boulder, Colorado 80302.

The Moondance International Film Festival, popularly known as the “American Cannes”, is one of the premier venues for the exhibition and promotion of feature and short films in the US, and one of the leading indie film festivals in the world. Dedicated to celebrating and sharing with international audiences the absolute best in the world of films and screenplays, film scores, and some 25 other genres, the festival features special presentations, retrospectives, workshops, pitch panels, a gala awards reception and ceremony, and many of the world’s top indie film screenings.

You can find a full schedule of the festival here:


by luis on July 13, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Best Documentary

zapataVoices of the Chichinautzin was awarded Best Science and Ecology Documentary at the 2nd IberoAmerican Film Festival held in Tepotzlan, Mexico, 11-18 May 2008.

Luis Patron, from the UNU Media Studio, was on hand to pick up the special Zapata statue. He was also present at the screening and participated in the follow-on question and answer session.

The documentary tells the story of the daily struggles of the local communities as they try to protect a biodiverse region outside Mexico City from illegal logging and development pressures. It was written, directed and co-produced by Patricia Sims, produced and co-directed by Luis Patron and edited by Michael Clark. The graphics and animations were produced by Sean Wood and David Jimenez.

The documentary will be screened on television in Mexico later this year.

Note: The photo of the statue is taken from the festival website.

by Brendan Barrett on November 13, 2009 - Comments (01)  

The Chichinautzin communities remember Aldo Zamora

On the lands of the Tlahuica communityOn 15 May I traveled to the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park in central Mexico to join an event organized by the Tlahuica community of San Juan Atzingo and Greenpeace . They commemorated one year of the death of Aldo Zamora, a young environmentalist from this indigenous community who was killed by illegal loggers. The story of this tragic event is told in the UNU-produced documentary Voices of the Chichinautzin.


For me it was good to meet again Aldo’s father Ildefonso Zamora, and the Thahuica Chief Alejandro Ramirez, two of the key people featured in the documentary. I had the opportunity of giving them a DVD copy of the video, and visit their land and projects for the whole day.

I am happy to report that things had changed a lot in the area since the last time I have been there. Following Aldo’s death, the massive incursion of the army and police forces has caused illegal logging activities to decrease on an estimated 95%. The Tlahuicas have also received lots of material support from several government agencies, which includes trucks and uniforms (see photo) among other things. Their ecotourism project in the Tonatihua lagoon has been built and is already receiving visitors. Perhaps most importantly, after a legal battle which spanned several decades, the ownership of 18,000 hectares of their lands had finally been given official government recognition.

However, this success story has a very bad downside. A year has passed and justice has not been done, as the identified killers of Aldo Zamora have not been captured.

by luis on May 21, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Opening ceremony of Iberoamerican Documentary Festival in Tepoztlan, Mexico.

Some images from the opening ceremony of the Iberoamerican Documentary Festival in Tepoztlan, Mexico. The UNU-produced documentary Voices of the Chichinautzin is part of the official selection of the festival.

by luis on June 16, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Parks Watch interactive media reportage about Chichinautzin

20080307-trevor2We recently discovered an online interactive photography reportage about the Chichinautzin Biological Corridor. The piece was created by photojournalist Trevor Snapp of interactive media company 3Ringstories for Parks Watch, a watchdog and monitoring organization that conduct on-the-ground evaluations of national parks and other protected areas.

We were already familiar with Parks Watch work, as we used the detailed information provided in their website about the Chichinautzin Biological Corridor while doing research for the production of the documentary Voices of the Chichinautzin.

We are delighted to see other organizations using online media creatively and with a high degree of quality to document and raise awareness about a region we have also worked on such as the Chichinautzin.

Take a look here:

English version


Spanish version



by luis on March 10, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Screening the film to the Chichinautzin community

voices_of_the_chichinautzin.jpgLast Monday, March 3, we had the opportunity of screening Voices of the Chichinautzin to an audience of 250 people in an event organized by the Morelos State Autonomous University. The event was part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Chichinautzin Biological Corridor, and Brendan Barrett and I participated via video conference all the way from Tokyo.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the event was the audience, which included people from the local communities of the Chichinautzin, the Chichinautzin Corridor director, as well as students and professors of the biology department of the University. Several of the people that appear in the documentary were present, including Ildefonso Zamora, who also gave a speech.

The film seemed to have a strong effect on people, as the discussions after the screening were quite heated. Most people praised the film before quickly moving into passionate discussions about the actual problems of the Chichinautzin, such as a new highway project that would cut across the protected area. The film was particularly effective in getting biology students thinking, with many of them expressing the view that they should take immediate action and use their knowledge to participate in solving the Chichinautzin problems.

This screening has taught me the importance of showing the documentary to the people whose story is being portrayed by the film. I think the documentary has great potential as an environmental education tool, and we should screen it in all the communities of the Chichinautzin.

by luis on March 10, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Voices of the Chichinautzin at the Trigger Points Conference

Picture 331On February 1st, 2008, the Victoria International Film Festival in British Columbia, Canada, kicked off with its 4th annual Trigger Points Pacific Co-production Conference, a three-day film and television industry event attended by international broadcasters, film distributors, producers, directors and writers.

The agenda included panel discussions on creative television programming, the convergence of online and interactive filmmaking, and lively discussions about the future challenges and opportunities for content producers in the rapidly changing media landscape. Scheduled between the panel discussions were the one-on-one meetings and social mixers, where producers had the chance to talk with executives from broadcast networks, film and digital distributors about their respective projects.

These one-on-one meetings are the signature feature of the Trigger Points conference, providing a good opportunity to meet key television and film industry decision-makers. I had the pleasure of meeting with several broadcasters and internet distributors to talk about Voices of the Chichinautzin, and the possibilities for its distribution within Canada, the U.S., and Latin America as well as discussing the potential for future UNU Media Studio documentaries. I was very encouraged by everyone’s interest in the Voices of the Chichinautzin documentary and the Media Studio in general.

One of the main discussions among the conference participants was the convergence of internet and television and how this connects people and places together, making local stories global and global stories local. The synergy between documentaries and online learning can create engaging, educational tools that are a good fit for this changing landscape of digital content, where new opportunities to distribute important stories of social and environmental relevance outside of the traditional media outlets are continually evolving. In this way, good storytelling combined with in-depth educational content can work hand-in-hand by using these media tools to raise awareness about important global issues that affect everyone.

We’ll have some word in the weeks ahead as to where Voices of the Chichinautzin will be broadcast and distributed so that more people will have a chance to see this documentary.

by patricia on February 7, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Courses on Biodiversity Conservation

The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum of Natural History have just launched a new online journal, Lessons in Conservation (LinC).

Teaching modules contained in LinC cover the following topics:
An Introduction to Marine Conservation Biology
Assessing Threats in Conservation Planning and Management
Ecosystem Loss and Fragmentation.
Forest Fragmentation and Its Effects on Biological Diversity: A Mapping Exercise
Biodiversity Conservation and Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs)

The modules include synthesis documents summarizing a conservation-related topic, field or laboratory exercises with accompanying solutions, and relevant short case studies with teaching notes. These course materials are highly relevant to both the Saving the Ayuquila River and the Voices of the Chichinautzin products developed by the UNU Media Studio. We had the chance to meet up with representatives from the American Museum of Natural History at the workshop we co-organized with the University of Guadalajara in Mexico in November 2006.

by Brendan Barrett on February 4, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Reflections on the Voices of the Chichinautzin

United Nations University - Media StudioNow that the Voices of the Chichinautzin documentary has been completed, it may be a good time for reflection. We were really fortunate to get the basic idea to cover the situation in th Chichinautzin from our colleague, Topiltzin Contreras, at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos. Luis Patron and Patricia Sims then worked very hard to put together the entire documentary. I think it is an impressive piece of work.
From the UNU’s perspective, our two documentaries to date (Voices of the Chichinautzin and Saving the Ayuquila River) focus on how scientists and their knowledge can help solve environmental problems. In both cases, local academics worked with all stakeholders to come up with effective solutions. Their work has been inspirational!
While this is true, the stories we tell are complex and the answers are certainly not simple. Both the problems and the solutions evolve over time. So it is like trying to hit a moving target. The struggles can be bitter and the conflicts intense. Bloodshed can occur.
One message that emerged strongly for me personally from both documentaries is that it is impossible to protect the environment, without protecting the livelihoods of the people who live in that environment. In many places, we have been quick to designate national parks, biosphere reserves, nature conservation areas, etc. without concern for the people who actually depend on them for their livelihoods.
Some communities can take these changes/new designations and turn them into opportunities (e.g., eco-tourism), but others can be forced into decline, face a struggle to survive and even take up illegal activities like logging. I am not writing this to excuse the actions of the illegal loggers in the Chichinautzin (we never really had the chance to meet them, so we don’t know their true motivations), but more point to the need to really think carefully about clever ways to create jobs while improving the environment. And more often than not, it is the local people who know how to do this. They just need our support.

by Brendan Barrett on January 30, 2008 - Comments (00)  

Voices of the Chichinautzin: On the Road

Crew PhotoWhile gearing up for the marketing and distribution phase for the “Voices of the Chichinautzin” documentary, I’ve had the chance to go through some of my files and photographs. This one brings back good memories. It was taken on the first day of our production, back in October 2006, and shows our intrepid crew about to embark on an 18-day schedule that would take us throughout the Chichinautzin Biological Corridor.

From left to right is camerman Edson Lopez Pineda, coordinator Flor Zamudio, myself, (director, co-producer), Luis Patron (producer, co-director) and sound recordist/camera assistant Milagros Vargas. On our journey we met many impressive and inspiring people from the communities, coordinators from government, and scientists from the academic institutions, all brought together by the common goal to conserve the rich biodiversity of the Chichinautzin. We learned that the people who live in the Chichinautzin are faced with challenges that are not simple to overcome and require cooperation between many different stakeholders.

This was perhaps most acutely exemplified by the tireless efforts of the Tlahuica people in the San Juan Atzingo community, who have led a ten-year struggle for the protection of their forests from illegal loggers, and on May 15, 2007 had to cope with the tragic loss of Aldo Zamora, a young environmentalist from San Juan Atzingo who was killed in an ambush by members of the illegal logging cartel. Since that time government, NGOs, scientists, environmentalists and members of the community have banded together to put a stop to the illegal logging in the Chichinautzin.

It is our hope that this documentary can make a contribution to this effort by helping to get the message out about the necessity to protect the forests and biodiversity in the Chichinautzin and worldwide, for the benefit of everyone. Fifteen months after this crew photo was taken, I reflect on the importance of this project, as we now embark on the mission of getting the message of “Voices of the Chichinautzin” out into the world. We are seeking international broadcasters, webcasters, and special interest groups who would like to exhibit this documentary. My first stop will be the Victoria International Film Festival and Trigger Points Forum taking place in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada from February 1–10, 2008. Stay tuned for more postings, as I send updates from this exciting event.

by patricia on January 23, 2008 - Comments (00)  

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