Though Provoking

A more intimate view into a family’s life is hardly possible.

Lots of thought provoking films at AFI Docs Festival this yeas, as usual. One of the more immediate films I saw last night was called 17 Blocks. A more intimate view into a family’s home, I could not imagine. Filmed over 20 years, just blocks away from where I live, it provided me a view of the neighborhood that I had only seen from a distance. While I do bike through all parts of the city and follow local political discourse on blogs and neighborhood List-serves, I don’t really know what happens behind closed doors. And if I do know or read about something in the paper, it is still less real than witnessing it from someone’s kitchen and listening to those who have lived it and must deal with the consequences day after day.

The previous evening I watched a similar film about the same topic, After Parkland, which was also deeply moving. The effect of a bullet is the same, whether the victim is rich or poor. Both films take the viewer into their living rooms, where one can see and hear their most intimate thoughts. The subjects’ lives could not be more different, but the pain and sorrow are identical.

Documentary film is ideal for rekindling ones awareness of human suffering. Sparking in the viewer the sense that they should do more to address situations effecting the community in which they live, whether it be a few blocks away, or on the other side of the country. Normally, it is easy to focus on your immediate needs and family, but great documentary film forces you to take a more expansive view, which then demands action. These film will open many people’s eyes to what they would rather not see. It will spur them to take action, whether it be donating money or time, or being more mindful of how their actions/inactions have consequences. It is increasingly more difficult to ignore the fact that as citizens we have a moral and ethical duty to be active participants in the world, not just idol bystanders.

l am looking forward to doing something, perhaps more that just donating money. According to Molly Ivans, the subject of another film at the festival: “What you need is sustained outrage…there’s far too much unthinking respect given to authority.” “You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to.” “In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster.”

Radio Ambulate

Radio Ambulate logo

I recently discovered a great podcast in Spanish called Radio Ambulate. Its episodes are very interesting. It’s creators also do some podcasts in English. There was a recent episode about Guatemala called “Rununcia Ya” (Resign Now). In 22 minutes, it tells the story about how the Guatemalan people forced its President to resign. The Renuncia Ya movement started off as a Facebook post and grew into a series of mass popular protests.

Renuncia Ya episode (Radio Ambulate website)

Renuncia Ya episode (iTunes)

A follow up piece in English with Francisco Goldman is also worth listening to.  He wrote a recent New Yorker Magazine story about the events and the back-story entitled ”

From President to Prison: Otto Pérez Molina and a Day for Hope in Guatemala

Francisco Goldman Episode (Radio Ambulante website)

Francisco Goldman Episode on iTunes

When I lived in Guatemala (in the late-1980s), speaking out publicly against the government would get you killed.  It is heartening that, although corruption, violence, and political killings are still rampant in Guatemala, its people are now able to engage in political dissent in a public way.  Perhaps not always safely, but it appears that there is now more space to voice concerns .

Peace Corps History and the Peace Corps Archive

Were you a Peace Corps Volunteer?  If so, please consider donating letters, diaries, and/or other items to the Peace Corps Archive at American University.

I made the video above about the Peace Corps Archive at a recent history event organized by Jesse Bailey who is the Historian of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington (RPCV/W).  He moderated a panel discussion about the history of RPCV/W.  The participants were all former board members of RPCV/W.  There were even many audience members who were very steeped in the history of the Peace Corps.  The event lasted more than 2 hours.  Here is a teaser:

Part one of the panel discussion can be found here:

A Fast Food Company That Cares for the Environment

Here is an example of a fast food company that sources sustainably raised agricultural products, including Niman Ranch pork.  It has hired small media company to produce a video and an iphone application to tell the story of how industrialized agriculture is destroying the planet.  Watch the video they created (soundtrack by Fiona Apple):

and then what the behind the scenes video:

“Granito: How to Nail A Dictator” to air on some public television stations

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I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala in the late 1980s.  Since that time, I have tried to stay informed about what is going on there.  It is an amazingly beautiful country with a brutally violent history.  It was with great sadness that I recently learned that the United States will no longer send volunteers to Guatemala and many other Central American countries because of an escalation of drug war violence.

(As an aside, I recommend that you watch http://www.thehouseilivein.org/ for why the drug war is a failure.)

The purpose of this post is to highlight the national distribution of “Granito: How to Nail A Dictator,” which I have heard is an amazing film and will be nationally broadcast on public television stations starting on Thursday, June 28.

However, as I explained in the post below, many public television stations have decided not to air it at all (this seems to be true for WHUT and MPT), and some, like WETA, have decided to air this film only in the middle of the night. 

How is it that Antiques Roadshow can air repeatedly occupying many prime viewing slots and an amazing documentary film is relegated to the middle of the nightSee post below to help correct this problem.

If you love great films, Let Your Voice Be Heard!

Do you love great documentary films?  Would you like to see them on your local public television station?  A recent Center for Social Media report showed strong public support for public-purpose programming and popular anger that many public television stations decide to repeatedly air programs like Antiques Roadshow during prime viewing hours, while relegating meaningful documentary films few slots, frequently in the middle of the night.  In addition, many public television station choose not to air many meaningful documentaries at all.

Please help make sure that your local public television affiliate knows what you value. POV and Independent Lens both fund and distribute some of the best new docs on public television stations throughout the United States.  They publicize these films and release schedules for when they are going to air.  However, if you have ever tried to watch a documentary on your local public television station, you have likely found that the show that you want to watch is not airing on the date or time that was advertised.    Local affiliates have discretion over which shows to air and when to schedule them.   Here in the Washington DC area, we are lucky to have three public television stations, WHUT, WETA, MPT.   Unfortunately, WHUT, WETA and MPT frequently air ITVS’ Independent Lens, and POV and other great documentaries not on the dates and times advertised for national distribution, but mostly if they choose to air them at all, they air them days or weeks later, in the wee hours of the night.

Nationally, Public Broadcasting Service (“PBS”) has decided to promote documentaries into a more desirable time frame.  This fall, PBS will program POV documentaries to air on Monday early evening time slot.  The purpose of this blog post is to encourage documentary lovers and all lovers of great films to encourage your local PBS affiliate to follow PBS’ lead and air Independent Lens and POV documentaries on Monday evenings, at the times and days that they air nationally.  To the uninitiated, this seems like a relatively minor issue.  However, for documentary filmmakers, the issue is quite important for building audiences and promoting their films.  Obviously, it is not desirable to have your film air at one in the morning, but having it air on a different date in every major city is also a tremendous impediment to viewers like you and me.   Please contact your local public television affiliate and encourage it air these great films during the same days and times are they are intend to be seen nationally.

Click here to send an email WETA: http://www.weta.org/contact

WETA, 3939 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206

Phone: 703-998-2600

Or contact Maryland Public Television here: directconnection@mpt.org

Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Boulevard
Owings Mills, MD 21117-1499

Phone: 410-356-5600
Fax: 410-581-4298

Or contact WHUT here: http://www.whut.org/whut/?page_id=28

WHUT
Howard University Television
2222 Fourth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20059
202-806-3200

For more context, see:

http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/blog/future-public-media/pbs-decides-showcase-indie-work

http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/blog/future-public-media/pbs-finds-spot-independent-lens-and-pov%E2%80%94-where

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/pbs-will-move-series-of-films-to-monday-night/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/business/media/schedule-changes-hurt-pbs-film-series.html?_r=1

http://kartemquin.com/newsletter/4531/pbs-needs-indies-a-success-%E2%80%94-pbs-moves-pov-independent-lens-to-monday-night

http://www.current.org/indies/indies1209treaty.html

Two Great Films

INCENDIES

Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s acclaimed play, Incendies is a moving tale of discovery. Two siblings travel halfway across the world to piece together the troubled history that their mother almost took with her to her grave. Jeanne and Simon are young adults living in Canada, oblivious to their mother’s turbulent past. The siblings are set in motion after their mother goes into a catatonic state. Jeanne seeks to carry out her mother’s wishes and her brother seeks to distance himself from what he sees as the final manifestation of his mother’s incomprehensibility.

Visiting Lebanon for the first time, Jeanne discovers the horrors her mother spent her whole life trying to protect her from. Flashbacks to her mother’s youth during Lebanon’s civil war are effectively used to make Jeanne’s journey vivid and revealing. She walks through the same dusty streets and country lanes as her mother had decades earlier. Many are almost unchanged. The scenery is stark and beautiful. A language barrier is the least of her difficulties. She is fluent in two languages, but cannot decipher her mother’s history without significant assistance and determination. The hostility Jeanne encounters from the women of her mother’s native village, is striking for it ferocity. After all those many years, hatreds have not subsided. After discovering part of the riddle, she convinces her brother to join her to locate their missing family members. Although the story they piece together is brutal, it is also filled with love and sacrifice that is not easily forgotten.

THE HELP

Set in the South in the early 1960s, the relationship of a young white society woman, Skeeter, and a friend’s maid, Abileen, provide an important window into the world of discrimination that was at the time, not only condoned, but by some, even encouraged. It was a way of life that was enforced by law. What starts as a relationship of necessity, becomes a friendship built upon mutual respect. Having been waited on all her life by her family’s maid, Skeeter needs Abileen to provide her the how-to for her newspaper’s household advice column. As an aspiring writer, Skeeter longs to tell a far more important story, from the perspective of the maids in her town. As Skeeter becomes more intimate with the struggles of the black women who raised generations of white children, she, together with the audience, begins to lose respect for many of her white, childhood friends as they attempt to perpetuate the repressive social structure. The maids, who at their time were seen more like posessions than people, are seen through the eyes of Skeeter to be resilient, loving, and beautiful characters. The richness of these characters and the white women surrounding them make this powerful story one that will bring you to laughter and tears. You can’t help but root for Skeeter and Abileen as they traverse the dangerous terrain that must be passed through to arrive at the truth.

YES, I’m still alive

Dear loyal readers, (actually I do have them), it has been quite a while since my past post. For that I apologize. There are many worthy mouse clicks out there and I have not been highlighting them for you.

I think my favorite websites these days are radio stations. In particular, KCRW for eclectic modern music, particularly Morning Becomes Eclectic, KRCC for eclectic music both new and old, and WXPN’s http://www.xpn.org/streams/xponential-radio

I also like to listen to KCRCC’s HD2 station in the morning. It broadcasts Radio Netherlands news in Spanish,La Matinal

Till recently, I would listen to BBC Mundo in Spanish, but they seem to have gone from a daily show to a weekly show.

Obviously, I love my local public radio stations, but sometimes I need some variety. Which brings me to another topic, National Public Radio (NPR).

Granted NPR has been getting some unfavorable attention recently. However, there is nothing like NPR anywhere on dial, and no better source of news anywhere, far better than anything even on TV for that matter. So why is Congress considering cutting funding for NPR stations? Without a doubt, we need to conserve federal resources, but cutting NPR is like poking out your eye to spite your face. It makes no sense, unless of course Congress wants Americans to be blithering, uninformed, idiots. Is that what they want? NPR’s show called “On the Media,” did a very good job of exposing the conservative activist who is partially responsible for the latest anti-NPR rhetoric. What cannot be denied is that NPR provides high quality news and unbiased analysis, something that is hard to find on radio or TV. It also upholds extremely high standards for journalistic excellence, regardless of what its critics believe.

If you reply upon NPR, to keep you informed and/or entertained (This American Life, Car Talk, etc…), please make sure you speak out and put up some financial support of your own behind your local public radio station. I doubt that the Senate would be foolish enough to cut NPR’s funding, but it would not hurt to let your Senator know how important NPR is to you and your community. Preventing local NPR affiliates from using federal funds to buy NPR programming is a despicable ploy by Congress to pull the rug out from under the American people. Don’t let them do it.

http://www.stacyfranz.com/lj/Bentley/puppy/bb_bentley_rug.jpg

Best Film of the year: The Cove

I saw the film today and also heard the producer speak. Here is an excerpt of the talk he gave at SilverDocs: http://boo.fm/b31943

It is a moving film called “The Cove,” about efforts to save dolphins.  Please take action by visiting http://www.takepart.com/thecove/

Below is a review I just read:

From: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/04/the-cove-trying-to-save-23000-dolphins-from-slaughter.php

The Cove – Trying to Save 23,000 Dolphins from Slaughter

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California on 04. 9.09

the the cove diver underwater with dolphins photo
Photo via TheCoveMovie.com

Each year, starting in mid-September, 23,000 dolphins are slaughtered in near secrecy in a cove in Taiji, Japan. Richard O’Barry, the leading dolphin trainer in the 1960s and trainer of the dolphins used in the TV series Flipper, has been trying to stop this slaughter for years. We covered the stories of activist Hayden Panettiere trying to expose the slaughter. And last year, we covered the story of a brave set of film makers lead by director Louie Psihoyos who have teamed up with O’Barry and other activists in an effort to show people the intolerable killings. They’ve now created a film called The Cove showing their efforts to get through the intense security and record what happens there.

the cove slaughter of dolphins photo

The Cove is a powerful documentation of more than just this mass killing of dolphins, whose meat is later labeled as some other type of larger whale and sent for sale in markets, despite the incredibly high levels of mercury it contains due to pollution. The film is also a story of the power of commerce, the government corruption, and the culture of loving something to death that all culminate at this tiny cove where anyone trying to see what happens is intimidated until they leave.

the cove film team photo

Psihoyos and his team undertook an operation to set up secret cameras and document what happens in the cove – the round-up, the selection of a few dolphins for sale to aquatic entertainment centers, and then the slaughter of every animal left in the ring of nets.

The International Whaling Commission does nothing to stop Japan’s extreme whaling habits. The citizens of Japan do nothing simply because it is kept under such tight wrap, people don’t even know that dolphin meat is being consumed. It has taken the activists involved in this film to get it as exposed as it has become so far.

The film is intense, it’s message clear and urgent, and its passion contagious. Right now, it is being screened in various locations, but needs funding to be completed and shown on a larger scale. And time is running out – the slaughter is set to start again this September.

If you want to see the film, try to catch one of these screenings. You can also watch snippits at TheCoveMovie.com. And, of course, if you want to take action immediately, there are ways to do that too through petitions and changes in your own daily life.