Page 1

TO BE A HUMAN BEING Memoirs of a Documentary Project


TO BE A HU


Memoirs of a Documentary Project

UMAN


NOTE ON LANGUAGE AND TRANSLATION The book of To Be a Human Being is, like the Series itself, a compilation of many voices, viewpoints and accents. The challenge for the translators has been immense. Many of the contributions have been translated and in some cases re-translated from the original, trying to retain the distinctive tone and “voice” of each writer. This has not always been easy and inevitably some of the “flavour” of the originals was lost in the process. Our thanks to all those who worked to ensure that the views of each contributor have been accurately translated and made universally accessible.

All rights reserved Copyright © 2011, Ediciones EICTV ISBN: 978-959-7202-12-7 Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV) La Escuela de Todos los Mundos Apartado 40/41 San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, Cuba CP 32500, eictv@eictv.org.cu www.eictv.org


CONTENTS 7. Prologue 9. A New Humanism to Build Bridges 11. A Global Apprenticeship to Help Us Grow ORIGINS OF THE PROJECT 14. A Seed That Germinates 18. The Map of Life and the Stars DESIGNING THE PROJECT 22. The First Steps 26. Call for Entries 30. Reaction to the Proposal 35. A Continental Footprint THE ORIGINAL PROPOSALS 38. The God Makers 45. The Wayuu Community 51. El Rastro, Madrid 54. The Bedouins, Little Petra, Jordan 57. Harlem Communities, New York 59. Regoufe – Mountain Village in Portugal 63. Voices of Oceania 64. Mata los Indios THE FIRST MEETING 70. The First Meeting 72. Proposal for an Agreement Between the EICTV and the Participating Schools 77. On the Process of Searching for Aesthetic References

80. 83. 84. 86. 91. 94. 109. 110. 112. 113. 115. 116. 117. 120. 127.

137. 139.

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

AND THE SHIP SAILS And the Ship Sails Reflections Manifesto Things We Have to Remember as We Begin Production A Turning Point THE SHOOTING BEGINS The Shooting Begins Editing Script Workshop Listening, Editing, Thinking On Dreams and Utopias I Dream, Therefore I Exist The Long Road Ahead The Future of To Be a Human Being: the Humanza Foundation Epilogue APPENDICES Documentary Esperanto Papers from the Meeting “The Documentary and the Human Community” (excerpts) Profiles of the Participating Film Schools On the Filmmakers


Prologue If anything can save humanity from disaster in the centuries to come, it will be poetry. As an expression of universal understanding, a language both common and heterogeneous. poetry transfigures reality and projects our dreams and our anguishes, the noblest aspirations, the smallest pettiness. Poetry aims to express the essence and the meaning of everything. It is what distinguishes human beings from the other beings that inhabit the planet. It is the capacity to dream the impossible, to recreate our vital impulses, to fight and keep going forward, in spite of the obstacles that humanity itself has created in the course of our transit through history, a wall that humanity and only humanity can destroy if we decide so to do. A poetic act understood in this way would be an act of justice. The space of the fine arts or the solitude of reading and aesthetic contemplation are not enough for poetry. Poetry also means fascination with the reality that surrounds us, and that is what it is about when at times it delivers to us images like blows, like stakes nailed into the hard stone of memory, reminders that we all one, and to make us understand that, as José Marti wrote: “fatherland is also humanity.” That is why a goal such as that which drives the project To Be a Human Being, an initiative of the International Film and Television School (EICTV) of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, from an original idea by filmmaker and professor Russell Porter, becomes in its own right a poetic act, an act of justice. Straddling between the utopian and the possible, the idea of creating a documentary series about human beings in all out variety, examining the communality between different expressions of our species, aroused the interest of film schools, organizations, filmmakers and students from around the world. There was something different in the proposal that did not correspond to the conventional popular television canon or to the commonplace that entails the making of cultural documentaries, in which the different expressions of universal cultures are exhibited as fairground postcards, without caring about the peculiarities and links that unite us. What then distinguishes this project from others, perhaps superficially similar ones? What does it have that is interesting or pertinent? Why make

Prologue

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

7


six documentaries and a book, why call together so much effort and so many resources when there are hundreds, thousands of documentaries, books and other mass cultural products in the world that broach perhaps similar ideas? To Be a Human Being, in the first place, is a multicultural experience. From the workshops and work sessions to the filming and completion of the documentaries and this book, the project has brought together creators from Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, India, Jordan, Spain, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Australia, the United States, the Dominican Republic, Portugal and others, in the urge to construct a common universe from the specificity of each one of the regions and cultures. It is in the fragmentation, in the complex displacement from one situation to the other, from one character to another, from one culture to another; in the web of spaces, times, interests, expressions, wishes, fears, frustrations, feelings and oblivions that the abstract—and at the same time precise—map of the human being is created, with all our virtues and imperfections, joys and sadnesses, and particularly with the indisputable truth that we are part of a whole that is bigger than each of us, that comprises and unites us, to inspire in us a sense of mutual acknowledgment and harmony in spite of our subtle differences. It is no coincidence that this project has been promoted by another exceedingly humanistic one, the EICTV, which for a quarter of a century has been a standard bearer of a philosophy that includes and does not exclude, that appreciates and conjugates diversity as an authentic expression of art. It is not only in the work itself, but in the relationship between the artist and the public, not only the end product but the thought behind it, the approach to life, to ethics and to a culture of respect for each other. To Be a Human Being transcends. It is more than an artistic and media event, it undoubtedly demonstrates that dreams are possible when they are accompanied by high doses of effort and faith in our convictions. The links established between the subjects of the communities, the filmmakers, the institutions and all the actors that, in one way or the other, have made it possible to carry out the project, will spread in time and space and will build a new network of complicities, one that will make us feel a bit more united, a bit closer to that Other that is nothing more than our own image reflected in the diffuse mirror of culture. Without the walls that separate us, the poetic act may therefore be transformed into true justice, as a sword, a flower. Maykel Rodríguez Ponjuán Coordinator Cultural Division EICTV

8

Prologue


A new Humanism to Build Bridges As the United Nations agency responsible for culture, UNESCO promotes the process of mutual receptiveness among peoples with the purpose of contributing to the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity by combating ignorance and prejudice. UNESCO helps thereby to build the “defences of peace in the minds of men,” as provided in its Constitution of 1945. Following its foundation, the Organization stressed the need for developing a new world community of understanding and mutual respect, which should take the form of a new humanism in which universality is achieved by the recognition of common values in the diversity of cultures. Culture is the soil for growing and thriving communities but, beyond our diversity, we all share one common human culture. Irina Bokova, when appointed Director-General of UNESCO in 2009 recalled that such a universal human community must be built drawing on the fundamental values of humanity. In this sense, she stressed that “an accomplished human being is one who recognizes coexistence, equality with all others, however far away, and who strives to find a way to live with them. This new humanism calls for every human being to be able to truly participate in our shared destiny, including the most marginalized among us.” Today, in a rapidly changing world, all countries are actors in a single globalization process in which all must be able to participate. Accelerating globalization processes place a premium on intercultural competencies, both individual and collective, which enable us to manage cultural diversity more effectively. Without such competencies, misunderstandings rooted in identity issues are liable to proliferate. The initiative To Be a Human Being shares these views. Through the eyes of young filmmakers, the lives, values and hopes of eight communities from all continents are presented. All together they offer a portrait of humanity reflecting the rich diversity of our cultures and identities, as well as our common

A new Humani sm to Build Bridges

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

9


purpose when dealing with today’s realities. The people presented in the documentaries allow us to know more about their daily lives, but they also give us the opportunity to better understand ourselves in the way we deal with the same daily challenges. All together we are part of a global human community that shares the same destiny. A new humanism is needed to build bridges, since no lasting peace and prosperity can be secured without the intellectual and moral cooperation of humanity. It is therefore with great satisfaction that UNESCO supports this initiative taken by the International Film and Television School EICTV. It is our sincere hope that many other documentaries will follow this first series of six, thus contributing to give form to a new human community of understanding and mutual respect. Herman van Hoof Director UNESCO Regional Office for Culture for Latin America and the Caribbean

10

A new Humani sm to Build Bridges


A Global Apprenticeship to Help Us Grow Several years ago, when I was working as a volunteer in Nicaragua, I wanted to see one of those sunsets that characterise the Pacific coast of that beautiful Central American country. When I arrived at the beach I stood right behind a boy of about eight years old, who was sitting down, and without moving his eyes from the horizon he said to me: “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I sat by him and answered: “Yes.” We had never before seen each other, we never again saw each other, but together we discovered the pleasure of sharing. More than 6,900 million people live and nearly 7,000 languages are spoken on the earth we inhabit. With these figures, and seeing what is happening, it seems impossible that we may come to an agreement in this big Tower of Babel. If we are not capable of appreciating the values offered to us both by human and biological diversities, we run the risk of disappearing. In Kultura Communication and Development (KCD), when we had the opportunity to get acquainted with the documentary series To Be a Human Being, we immediately identified ourselves with the idea, since it totally coincided with our vision of the world. We deem it necessary to invest in the global apprenticeship to contribute to our growth as human beings. An apprenticeship that may allow us to react to the different societies to put an end to some ever greater environmental catastrophes, to the continuous wars, chronic hunger and thirst, to the lack of equity between genders, to the violation of human rights. A good way to achieve these aims is the use of audiovisual tools, since they have an essential role in the socialisation processes. If we make good use of these tools, positive values and reference models can be transmitted to all kinds of publics. That is why it will be a pleasure for us to inaugurate the 3rd International Festival of Invisible Film Sozialak, Bilbao 2011 with this series. Orain dela hainbat urte, nikaraguan kooperante gisa lan egiten nuenean, herrialde hau ezaguna egiten duten eguzki-sartze nabarmenetako bat ikusi nahi

A Global Apprenticeship to Help Us Grow

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

11


nuen. Hondartzara heldu nintzenean eserita zegoen 8 urteko haur baten atzean jarri nintzen, eta hodeiertzetik begirada kendu gabe, honek esan zidan: polita, ezta?. Berea aldamenean eseri nintzen eta baietz erantzun nion. ez ginen aurretik ezagutzen, ez genuen berriz elkar ikusi, baina konpartitzeak duen atsegina aurkitu genuen. lurrean 6.900 milioi pertsona baino gehiago bizi gara eta 7.000 hizkuntza mintzo dira. Zenbaki hauekin Babel dorre honetan ados egotea ezinezkoa dirudi. Hainbeste giza eta natura aniztasuna ikusteko gai ez bagara, desagertzeko arriskua dugu. Kultura Communication y Desarrollo, KCD erakundean, Ser un ser humano dokumental bilduma ezagutzeko aukera izan genuenean, ideiarekin berehala identifikatu ginen, munduaren gure ikuspenarekin guztiz bat egiten du eta. Gizaki bezala hazitzeko ikaskuntza globalean ahalegin guztiak jartzea beharrezkoa dela pentsatzen dugu,. Gero eta handiagoak diren inguramen hondamendiak, etegabeko gerrak, gosea eta egarri kronikoak, genero arteko berdintasuna, giza eskubideen bortxaketa, eta abarrei aurre egiteko ikaskuntza bat zehazki. Hau lortzeko, ikusentzunezkoa tresna baliagarria dela pentsatzen dugu, honek sozializazio prozesuetan jokatzen duen eginkizunagatik. Tresna hau ondo erabiltzen badugu ikusentzule guztietara zuzenduta dauden erreferentzi ereduak hedatu daitezke. Honegatik, dokumental bilduma honekin 3garren nazioarteko Zine ikusezina - Filme Sozialak Bilbao 2011 Zinemaldiari hasiera ematen diogu atsegin handiz. J. Carlos Vรกzquez Velasco Director / Zuzendari Kultura Communication Desarrollo (KCD) ONGD

12

A Global Apprenticeship to Help Us Grow


Russell Porter

A Seed That Germinates What does it mean to be a human being? This most fundamental of questions lies at the heart of the human condition. It is a question that has occupied philosophers and poets for millennia, yet it is one that offers no simple answers. We either take the profound mystery of our collective existence for granted, or else we create ever-more elaborate cosmologies and theories that eventually offer no clear answers. Perhaps we are trying too hard. In a brief conversation over a quarter of a century ago, a poor subsistence farmer in Africa offered me a clear and wise insight into our universal humanity, and by so doing, sowed the seeds of this project. Like a plant in the desert it has waited patiently until now, when just the right combination of nutrients and conditions have converged to allow that seed to germinate. In documentary filmmaking as in life, the most carefully made plans seldom work out. I advise my documentary students always to expect the unexpected, to take big risks, to dream big dreams. Of course dreams, like plans, usually don’t come true either, but given time and hope, reality will occasionally transcend anything we could have imagined. This is one such project, an ancient dream that was put aside, but never forgotten. To Be a Human Being has finally found its time and place and is now a glorious reality, a testament to the virtues of patience and belief in an idea. This series of six films is a kind of collective portrait of humanity, and like humanity itself it came out of the great savanna plains of East Africa. I was in Kenya, researching a documentary that was to be part of Australia’s contribution to the International Year of Peace, 1986. The film that emerged from that research has long since faded into obscurity, but this project is the true legacy of that experience. The project I was working on was based in part on research by Australian and Kenyan agricultural scientists, working with subsistence farming communities in the semi-arid Machakos and Kitui districts of Eastern Kenya, trying to improve soil fertility and crop yields.

14

Origins of the Project


The scientists took me to a small, isolated community where they were doing field trials, and there I met a woman farmer, single parent of twelve children. She supported her family entirely from a patch of dusty arid land and a small herd of goats and cows. This strong, gentle Kenyan woman—I never knew her name—spoke three languages, Swahili, Kikuyu and English. She told me that she had never sat in a car or made a phone call. The continued survival of her family depended entirely on rain coming within the next few months. She took me aside and made tea from a ceramic pot, balanced on three round stones. As a privileged white male from the overdeveloped world, I could only apologize for interrupting her daily chores. “You don’t need to apologize. I know you” she said. “How do you know me? I replied. ”You are a human being” she said. “So I know you—because what we have in common is very big. And what is different between us is very interesting.” This wise woman’s clear, unadorned humanist creed has stayed with me ever since, as a maxim for my work as a filmmaker, as a teacher and as a person. She went on to explain her philosophy: “I know what it means to be a human being. There are six things we all share that make us human.” She then gave me her insights into what she had observed to be the universal characteristics of our species. This is a brief summary, retold in words that I hope accurately reflect hers, of the Kenyan woman’s ideas about the universal characteristics of our species. Firstly, she said, we all need basic sustenance— food, water and shelter. “I have never eaten the food that you eat, and you have never eaten my food—but we could, and we would still be human.” Secondly, she said, we all need love. We need family, friends and neighbours. We need each other, we are a social species, we depend upon each other for our survival. The third universal human need, she said, creative expression. “Without stories we don’t know who we are.” She showed me a small, carved baboon figure above the doorway, the only ornament in her adobe house. “My grandmother gave that to me and told me the story of the baboon, and I tell it to my children.” She described her love of songs and music, of dancing—the centrality of culture to the human condition. The fourth thing we have in common is faith: “You have to believe in something—but it doesn’t matter what.” We need rules for life… religious, ethical, political values to guide us. Without ideals, we lose our humanity. The fifth thing we need to be a human being is to be free from fear and oppression. She had witnessed both - raiding cattle thieves who had brutalized communities in their wake. She told me that she had seen how both the oppressors and the victims had lost their humanity. Fear gives us strength to resist. “And what is the sixth thing we need?,” I asked “To be human we need hope” she said. “Without a sense of the future, life is without meaning.” Origins of the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

15


Since that conversation I have retold this story many times, in many places around the world, and it never fails to move the people I tell. It rings true, in every context. While the actual words she spoke were never recorded, I believe the spirit and meaning of what she told me have remained unchanged. A few years after I returned from Africa, I tried to develop these ideas as a documentary series. I followed the conventional steps—seeking interest from broadcasters, production companies and funding bodies to make it as a commercial television series. The plan was to have three production bases—one in Australia, one in Europe and one in North America. I assumed that these three prosperous parts of the world were the only places I could find the finance and production skills necessary to make such an ambitious project. The idea was for each production base to be responsible for documenting the lives of a chosen community in each of two continents—Australia and Asia, Europe and Africa, North and South America. But of course the idea was far too idealistic for the hard-nosed world of television, the timing was wrong and the costs of mounting such an ambitious global series were impossibly high— one estimate was three million dollars. Like many other fanciful dreams, the proposal was abandoned—filed and stored away, never (or so I thought) to see the light of day again. I worked and scraped together a living as a documentarian for many years, trying to find the balance between being true to my own values and paying the rent. Like many documentarians, I focused on social issues—the complex relationships between cultures, working especially with indigenous people in Australia and Latin America, and also on films dealing with the relationship between science, technology and society, One of the great rewards of working in documentaries is the access it gives to new experiences and knowledge. My work has taken me into worlds as diverse as cosmology and oceanography, climate change and cultural survival, and to all continents except Antarctica. It has given me the privilege of knowing people from many places and cultures, from Amazonia to China, from Africa to Cuba, and this has helped shaped the values that propelled this project. My life has been particularly enriched by the access filmmaking has given me to indigenous communities and cultures, especially the Aboriginal peoples of my native Australia who taught me how to understand my own land through their eyes, and to witness through them the devastating effects of European colonization in scarcely more than two centuries. Many times as I entered a culture that was foreign to me, people would be justifiably suspicious of my intentions, and I felt the anxiety of the outsider. The words of the Kenyan farmer were always there as a source of strength and reassurance: “You are a human being, and what we have in common is very

16

Origins of the Project


big” and I would relax, knowing that I was basically with my own kind, and I could then go about trying to find our common links. I made a short film in 1990 called Koorie Culture, Koorie Control, with a number of Aboriginal communities in South Eastern Australia, fighting to regain control of their cultural heritage, including the remains of many of their ancestors, collected over centuries and stored in museums all over the world. Because of the obvious sensitivities and the film’s wider theme, I went against one of the conventions of documentary—complete authoreal control—and the film’s participants largely determined its content and focus. Partly because of this the film attracted interest, including from a film festival in Augsburg Germany, where I was invited to present it. At this festival, I met a grand old man with a long white beard—the legendary Argentinean-born poet, filmmaker, puppeteer and teacher Fernando Birri. He was also one of the founders—along with Nobel prize-winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Cuban filmmaker Julio Garcia Espinosa, of the equally legendary Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV) in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. Fernando invited me to come to the school to run a documentary workshop and make a film, which I eventually did in 1994, at the height of the “special period,” the collapse of the Cuban economy that followed the fall of the Soviet Union. I have since returned to the school on an almost annual basis, recently several times a year, and I have watched it flourish into one of the world’s truly great film training institutions. It is also built on a unique philosophy that has been called utopian. Indeed there is now a quote from Fernando Birri on a plaque at the school’s entrance that says: “Para que el lugar de la Utopía, que, por definición, está en ‘ninguna Parte’, esté en alguna parte…”. (“So that the place of Utopia, that by definition is in ‘no place’, may it be in some place…”). Initially the EICTV was called “The School of Three Worlds”—Latin America, Africa and Asia—a concept that has now grown into “The School of All the Worlds,” with students and teachers coming from over eighty countries and from every continent. In 2006, the school appointed a new director, Tanya Valette, the first graduate of the school to take the position. It was an inspired choice, because she was able to bring back to the school much of the idealism and spirit of its founders. In that spirit we have conceived this documentary series.

Origins of the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

17


Tanya Valette

The Map of life and the Stars The year 1986 was that of Halley’s Comet. As an adventurer, and anxious to experience extraordinary events, I had been awaiting that year since I was a child, without knowing to what extent it was to change the lines of my hands. Having been born in the Caribbean, in an island painfully divided into the Dominican Republic and Haiti, to me Cuba was a sort of Ithaca towards which I decided to sail, in February 1986. It was an exploratory trip that became a certainty when I discovered that, at the end of that year, the International Film and Television School was to be inaugurated. The comet went by and fulfilled its purpose, because my dreams as a girl somehow became a reality. The world ceased to be small, beyond my window there were many seas and landscapes to discover, and Cuba and its Film School were there to make it possible. The School filled an important space within the audiovisual panorama of the “third world” as it was then known, and that still existed in that moment of recent history. As a commitment of the cultural policy of the Cuban State, with the main purpose of training cadres for the audiovisual industries of our countries, the EICTV—a teaching project of the Foundation of the New Latin American Cinema—was from its inauguration much more than a film school. Its first director, Fernando Birri, one of the most important filmmakers of our cinematography and founder of the Santa Fe School, in Argentina, wrote the Birth Certificate of the EICTV, a key document that declared our territory the space where utopia nourishes and grows. Since its beginning the School has produced a creative and vital energy that questioned everything and stirred us up constantly. Very soon we became aware that we were here not only to master a language and a technique, but also, and above all, to learn to live together with respect for our differences, conscious of their importance, but also realizing that we had the same dreams, though with different textures, and that our wealth was both in the acknowledgment of that diversity and in its similarities.

18

Origins of the Project


After ending my studies at the School I went to France, where I lived for twelve years. My daughter Julia was born there, and I discovered and understood other cultures that enriched my universe and made me conscious of the need for a deep knowledge of the other and of ourselves. Only if we start from there can we grow continuously, only with that deep certainty of our specificity and of the multiple things that make us have empathy toward others, will we be capable of being the humanity that the planet needs to keep existing with the respect and tolerance, peace and love that derive from it. The knowledge of this created much anguish in me, when I saw the difficulties that human beings go through, to create a conscience of the vulnerability and loneliness we are condemned to by the lack of acknowledgment of ourselves in others and in the beauty of sharing our differences. I returned to the Caribbean, to my island, with much expectation and the desire to make documentaries about the road stories of people who traverse La Hispaniola from one side to the other, across the frontier between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I wanted and needed to talk of what we, the inhabitants of the two sides of the one island have in common. At the same time, for twenty years the EICTV had continued to grow and nourish its utopia in spite of the difficulties. It opened up to the world and students came from all continents. Far from disappearing, the dream surpassed the expectations of its creators. And in the midst of that growth, the School resisted the storm of globalization and maintained its specific mission to train comprehensive filmmakers for whom the human condition was as important or more so than the mastery of a technique. As part of the 20th anniversary of the School there was a change of generations in its general leadership, and I became the first graduate student to direct it. I returned with much love and sense of responsibility to the place where two decades ago the universal and Caribbean human being that I now am

Origins of the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

19


began to exist. The documentary, one of my big passions, and the department entrusted with its study was very solid, in spite of being the most recently created—and it became my main interest within the teaching area. I met the documentary filmmaker Russell Porter in March 2007 in one of his stays as guest teacher, and very soon we discovered parallel journeys and common interests. His way of conceiving teaching and the practice of documentary are part of the humanistic principles of our foundational charter, and for this reason Fernando Birri and I invited him to joint the School in a more focused way, as head of the Documentary Direction Department. In one of our conversations, Russell told me about his vital meeting with a Kenyan peasant woman and the wish that had stayed with him to make a documentary series in the six continents where he could search for and find the teachings taught to him by that wise woman. The concept and content of the series, the defining characteristics on which it was based, its way of dignifying the human condition, its support for the infinite possibility that men and women have to believe and reinvent themselves in moments in which there do not seem to exist any possible alternatives, seemed to me to be guided by the same principles that had been established and laid down as foundations for our School. It reached me deeply as part of my personal searches and anxieties. I then proposed to him to think of the way in which the project could be realized from a teaching point of view. And we started dreaming together To Be a Human Being. Later I thought of the coincidences of life. The year when Russell met that Kenyan peasant woman was the same year when the School was inaugurated—1986, the year of Halley’s Comet.

20

Origins of the Project


Russell Porter / Tanya Valette

The First Steps I met Tanya Valette shortly after she took up the position as EICTV Director, and we became instant friends and colleagues. In one of our early conversations I told her the Kenyan story and about my futile attempts to make a commercial documentary series based on the woman’s six precepts. Tanya was enthusiastic about the idea, and recognized that it had strong parallels with her own beliefs and those of the School. She suggested that we could make it from the EICTV, as an international, inter-school project drawing on our many and varied connections with colleagues and film schools around the world, and that it should be called To Be a Human Being. Thus began the germination of the seed that had been sown so long ago. We worked intensively over the coming months on designing and refining the idea, and after an endless exchange of ideas, emails and proposals, it began to take its definitive shape. From the beginning, we were clear that the project had to represent as wide a cross-section of human communities as possible, and that the views expressed were to come from the people themselves, inspired by the six universal characteristics as defined by the Kenyan woman. We also decided that each episode would be based on one of these six themes, (rather than separating them by community) and that there would be no director’s voice or narration or other manipulation of the reality and views of the communities. Our preference was for each of the directors to have a personal connection with the community being represented, and we insisted that this relationship be based on mutual trust and respect. The approach would be the opposite of traditional ethnographic filmmaking in which “the other” was observed and objectified from outside.

22

Designing the Project


The project as conceived by Russell would, from the beginning, be hard to produce if we wanted to retain the spirit of the proposal, given the unlikely probability that commercial television would take an interest in an audiovisual project dealing with the essential values of human beings and a non-apocalyptical view of the future of our planet and its inhabitants. Coming from a place in the world in which dreams have to adapt permanently to the possibilities of making them real, and feeling the need to turn this beautiful project into reality, I thought that the academic space was a good alternative that would fulfill a double purpose: to produce the series and to utilise the process as a teaching project for documentary filmmaking students. Russell’s proposal involved all continents, preferably a community in each one of them. The EICTV, through the associations of film schools and its sustained international prestige during its more than twenty years of existence, holds relationships with the main schools of the world. There we already had a way of launching a Call for Entries that could reach everyone. The idea was to call upon the circuit of audiovisual schools and propose to them the insertion of the documentary series in their annual academic production schedules. In this way each school would assume the local costs of each production as part of the budget allocated to such purposes. The EICTV would have extra expenses in the organization and post-production of the project, and was to seek financing from sponsors linked to organizations and institutions akin to the theme of the series. Russell intended to have the students shoot the films themselves, and if possible to be somehow linked to each community, so that the point of view—far from being ethnographic—would be that of an involved, committed accomplice. It seemed to me that this was the core of his idea, and it was something we should defend and ensure was fulfilled at the time of shooting. It was clear then that one of the indisputable premises of the proposal would be that the schools filmmakers/communities should have a close relationship. The complexity of the process of working with schools whose technical standards and academic levels were sure to be different and perhaps difficult to control, might present all kinds of problems when we brought all the rushes together. To film in communities from very different countries with different crews, that at the same time followed precise shooting rules at the technical, ethical and aesthetic levels, was a challenge. We sent out the Call for Entries, which established that the concept and creative direction would be Russell’s, and the EICTV would take care of the coordination and executive production of the project, and would therefore assume the responsibility for finding a common narrative structure for the filming in each community.

Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

23


In order to work together with a spirit of cooperation—a formula that seemed to us to be the most appropriate, since we had a common purpose that did not involve profit—the schedule design we intended to follow proposed three meetings throughout the development of the project until its post production. The first meeting would be among the academic coordinators of the selected schools or the persons appointed by them. In this first meeting we aimed to reach an Agreement of Cooperation, by consensus, respecting the specificity and capacities of each school. The second meeting was to consist of a documentary production workshop with the filmmakers selected by their schools, The main purpose would be to set down the referential guielines for the project and transmit to the participants a vision and humanistic spirit of the series, as well as to meet each other and form a truly integrated collective approach. The third meeting, once the shooting was finished, would be another workshop, this time on the Editing Script. It would be attended by the same team of filmmakers who would present their selected rushes and a proposal for their editing structure. We would also share our stories and the experiences obtained during the whole process. These meetings would connect with each other through a permanent follow-up both by Russell and myself, via email, through which doubts would be clarified and information shared about each others’ processes and progress (the e-mails would be mainly collective ones), in order to nurture a sense of a large human family working together for a common cause in every corner of the planet. The maturing of the project’s ideas while we waited for the response to the Call for Entries implied not only conceptual but also logistical work, to prepare the EICTV as a center that could coordinate all the activities to which we had committed ourselves as executive producers of the series. One of the most important steps was the selection of the team that was to accompany us along the process. To me, trained at the School under the humanistic principles of its foundational charter, it was a priority to try to have School graduates join us, who would assume the commitment as part of their life project during the months they would be involved in the series. All of them answered the Call for Entries with enthusiasm and have contributed to the project in all its stages, joining the filmmaking teams from the other participating schools, like a big family. As part of the group created during the months of preparation of the Call for Entries we were joined by Nicolás Ordóñez, from Colombia, a copywriter and webmaster of the EICTV since early 2008. Nicolás arrived in the School to participate in a Script workshop, and from the beginning his empathy and compliclity with us became evident. In the same way he committed himself to work in To Be a Human Being, for which he created the concept of the logo that has served us as our insignia since we succeeded in putting the project’s general concept in writing.

24

Designing the Project


Once we had agreed on the fundamental principles, Tanya and I worked intensively and closely over the coming months, deciding both the practical and theoretical elements that would make the project work. We were determined that the series would be an expression of a set of positive values, an antidote to the prevailing pessimism that surrounds so many documentary projects dealing with the state of the world. At the same time, we didn’t want the series to ignore the hardships and problems facing many of the world’s people and the planet itself, but rather to be an honest exploration of the six principles articulated by the Kenyan woman, and accurately to reflect the often harsh daily realities of each of our communities. We decided from the outset that the project would be untainted by the usual constraints and conventions of documentary filmmaking, with no commercial or market driven manipulations or distortions. The series would draw its integrity and focus from the strength of the human communities themselves. The young filmmakers, we proposed, would have personal links and access to the communities, and in each case the voice and viewpoint would be that of the subjects, not the filmmakers. The decision about which institutions and communities would be selected would be determined by the support of relevant academic institutions, the diversity of cultures represented and the technical and creative qualities we were asking for to ensure that the end product would be of the highest possible standards. What would remain unknown until our first meeting of the young filmmakers was whether we could bring together an otherwise unrelated, unknown and eclectic group of people to share our vision and then to work harmoniously together as a collective with a common purpose, rather than as a collection of disparate individuals. There were a lot of unknown and unknowable elements in the mix, but we had faith in the integrity of the idea. The design, methodology, chronology, technical criteria and conceptual guidelines for the project were gradually developed and refined, until we felt it was ready to be sent out into the world. We sent out the Call for Entries via email and post and in booklets printed in four languages—Spanish, English, French and Portuguese—to the audiovisual training institutions and to our colleagues around the world.

Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

25


Call for entries THE IDEA Participants from six continents and six major film schools working with six widely diverse communities will collaborate to make a collective portrait of our human species in this precarious opening decade of the twenty first century. Humanity in all its variety and despite great inequality of opportunity, is striving with common purpose to deal with realities that were unimaginable even a generation ago. Through the eyes of young filmmakers we will register what it means today to be human in an effort to look through the eyes of others and there to see ourselves. THE PROJECT We would like to invite statements of interest from recognized film schools everywhere to participate in a pilot project. Our aim is to produce an updated collective portrait of humanity and the planet. One of the few precursors—and a useful reference point—is the seminal photographic exhibition and subsequent book “The Family of Man” that helped stimulate a sense of global awareness in the 1950s. The criteria at this stage are that we are looking for proposals that: - are sympathetic to the broad aims of the project; - aim to represent a sufficiently diverse and representative cross section of humanity, and - are feasible within the budget and academic limitations of each of the applying institutions. The EICTV (Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba) is among the most globally focused and humanistic of all the world’s major film schools. Its students and teachers have come from some fifty different countries— and indeed its motto is “The School for All Worlds.” Students from as far afield

26

Designing the Project


as Denmark and Haiti, Canada and Ethiopia, Japan and Panama—live, eat and work together in an atmosphere of intense creativity, absolute equality and brilliant film culture. This proposal is for the EICTV to be the auspicing body for an inter-school collaboration, a co-production between documentary student filmmakers, supported by experienced teachers and professionals, on each of the six continents. CONTENT AND APPROACH Each episode will be based on the six defining characteristics of humanity, as described by the Kenyan woman. The idea is to inter-weave the stories around each episode theme, rather than divide the series by regions. We will therefore ask participating filmmakers to explore in their communities, in depth, each of the following Episode Themes: 1. Sustenance: What are the challenges, cultural specifics, joys and hardships associated with food, shelter and water in your community? How precarious or assured is survival? 2. Love: What is the state of human interaction in your chosen community? How healthy is the family, the state of collective inter-dependence? What are the rites and rules of love, sexuality and child-rearing? How do people care for each other, the old and infirm, the different? 3. Culture: Who shapes and produces and passes on the stories, music, imaginative creativity and cultural identity in your community? Who are the makers of dreams and visions, the interpreters of feelings and meaning, and who do they serve? 4. Faith: What do people believe to be true, to be right or wrong, to be just or unjust in your community? What are the challenges and rewards facing the established beliefs, whether political, religious or ethical? What are the conflicts of faith and how can they be resolved? 5. Fear: What are the threats facing your chosen community? How secure are they, and how resilient? What are the lessons of history in your place and what is worth fighting for? How can your community deal with violence, environmental change, international aggression? How can conflicts be resolved without losing our humanity and destroying that of others? Can we overcome racism and other prejudice, fear of difference, nationalistic domination? 6. Hope: What do we hope for our children and grandchildren? What do they hope for their futures? Who are the people working locally to bring about a better world? How can the next generation of thinkers, activists, and documentary filmmakers help shape the ideas that will become part of the blueprint for the future? It is proposed that each community has a primary protagonist, an articulate and well-informed guide to the place they know and with which they identify. It is also hoped that the very old and very young have a strong role in the project, Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

27


as well as the charismatic storytellers, the wise and the witty, the clowns and performers, the strugglers and leaders. Above all we want this global project to celebrate the decency and dignity of the ordinary human beings that we all eventually are. Each participating school will document the specific expression of each of these human concerns as it applies within their chosen community at the time of filming. THE COMMUNITIES The intention of the series is to represent the lives, values and hopes of humanity in it’s most representative and diverse forms. We envisage that each participating film school will find a small cohesive and connected community— it could be a village, a workplace, an extended family, a tribal group, a community of friends or artists or artisans— each of whom interact with the wider community around them. By way of illustration, we suggest the following possible communities, one from each continent: - A village of subsistence farmers in Africa. - An artists’ cooperative in Montreal or Chicago. - A favela in Rio de Janeiro or Santo Domingo. - A small community of artisans in Italy or Portugal. - A semi-tribal Aboriginal group in Australia. - An agricultural community in southern China or India. Of course there is an infinite variety of alternative combinations, and we are open to all suggestions and proposals. The expectation is that the driving voice of each piece will be that of the people themselves, without narration or undue directorial manipulation. We would prefer to observe people in their context, to hear directly from them rather than subject them to formal interviews—but of course each situation will vary according to local circumstances and cultural sensibilities. The project necessarily will depend on absolute access to our participating communities, and a carefully developed sense of trust between filmmakers and their chosen participants. Mutual respect will be the primary criterion for success. GOVERNANCE, RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES To achieve these aims, we will create an inter-school Consultative Committee to select participants and coordinate the project(s), but that the EICTV will assume ultimate responsibility for all production matters, including final creative decisions and post-production of the six episodes. The EICTV, as Project Producer, will also retain all rights to the final six episodes, as well as responsibility for distribution, exhibition, festival entry etc.

28

Designing the Project


The individual participating schools, however, will retain the rights to edit and use all the material they produce, including a self-contained portrait of their own chosen community. The series will succeed only if we work to a common purpose. There are no rigid criteria, but we expect the finished product to be a work of creative and intellectual documentary excellence, innovative in approach but not pretentious in style. The eventual series will serve as a pilot for what could eventually become an open-ended, internet-based project—an ever-expanding portrait of our species, across time and space. PRACTICALITIES, FINANCE AND PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT This is a totally non-profit venture. The hope is that it will prove to be a useful learning exercise for our students, a model of international collaboration, and a brilliant expression of some universally shared ideas. To make the project possible, we will create a design for the production that is readily adaptable to the different educational and production structures of our participating schools. With the agreement and support of sympathetic international organizations and institutions related to audiovisual and cultural education, we will raise the necessary finances to develop and produce the project. This will include a meeting between all the selected participants to give the go-ahead to the project, and in the pre-production phase, a workshop for the Directors of each participating school’s production. Because there may be a wide variation in access to technical resources between participating schools, and to ensure an overall consistency of quality, we will appoint an itinerant Technical Supervisor who visit each production and will also step in when projects are seen to need additional help. We will take into account the widely varying access to resources of our participating schools and students, and to offer compensating financial and technical assistance where needed. SUPERVISION AND RESPONSIBILITY The Executive Production will be undertaken by the school that is initiating the project, the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV in San Antonio de los Baños Cuba—and the EP role will be taken by the EICTV’s Director, Tanya Valette. The General Supervision of the project from its development stage to exhibition and distribution will be undertaken by Russell Porter, creator of the concept of the project To Be a Human Being.

Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

29


Reactions to the Proposal The project rapidly aroused interest, and it was not long before we started to get support and encouragement from colleagues around the world. EICTV cofounder Fernando Birri wrote as soon as he had received a copy of the proposal: Wunderbar! Subtle suture, sewn with invisible thread made of memory and ovules and sperm between the School of the Origin and the School of the Future. There it is: tangible, drinkable and nutritious, the New Project (another milestone in the long march initiated by our Birth Certificate). I was highly pleased by the quotation from the project The Family of Man, which I thought had been forgotten by almost everyone and which was a dazzling point in my training in those years (I take the liberty of suggesting that such Weltanschauung be complemented—all the more since it is like a vision made with a big wide angle lens—with another vision, also very formative for me in those years, as if made with a minimal telephoto lens, which is the book of photos and surveys Un paese by Paul Strand and Cesare Zavattini. I more or less recall Gorki’s phrase: “Tell me about the square meter of land that saw you come to life and you will be telling me the world’s story.” The EICTV’s second Director, renowned Brazilian filmmaker Orlando Senna, wrote: “I received and read the project of the documentary series To Be a Human Being, which seems to be excellent. Among the best to have emerged from the creative furnace of the School (applause for Russell, the Australian with seven lives or more).” From Columbia College Chicago, Professor Claudette Roper, documentarian, activist and author of Culture, Race and Media, wrote:

30

Designing the Project


I read your To Be a Human Being proposal. It is intriguing, insightful and inspiring! I found myself daydreaming about the vast combination of images and stories from around the globe. The opportunity for students to document humanity up close and personal with this kind of intention and intensity is a truly a gift. I look forward to hearing more about the project as it develops. Alan Rosenthal, from the Hebrew University in Israel, internationally renowned as a teacher of documentaries, filmmaker and writer of classic textbooks on documentary filmmaking, wrote: “It is truly a fascinating idea. I hope it works… After all, twenty years of dreams deserve a reward.” Professor Michael Rabiger—one of the best known and most respected documentary teachers in the world, and author of, among many others, the classic book Directing the Documentary, sounded a note of caution: The proposal is, as I would expect, elegantly and passionately presented. I am certain it will draw a torrent of participation. The Family of Man is a superb inspiration. To my mind it would be enough to ask that schools propose documentaries in its same, now-famous spirit, and that they incorporate some of those—(Kenyan? Porterian?)—criteria, but never to attempt incorporating them all, which is all but inevitable in my opinion…I still fear for you as when I read the first proposal—that you will find out the hard way what après moi, le deluge really means. Michael Rabiger was right to warn us of le deluge. Within a couple of months we received over a hundred expressions of interest and proposals, from every corner of the globe. We were amazed and very pleased with the variety of human communities, individuals and issues that jumped from the pages of the proposals, and by the passionate interest and sense of commitment expressed by the young filmmakers. Inevitably we would have to sacrifice some excellent proposals in the interests of maintaining the cultural and geographical diversity that was inherent in the concept of the Project. The size of the response suggested that this Series could very well be a pilot for an ongoing series of similar projects, based both thematically and by region. More than anything, it confirmed that our initial instinct, that we could make this project happen, was well-founded.

Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

31


Shortly after having sent the invitation to the schools, we began to receive proposals from around the world, both from schools and from young filmmakers who wrote to us and, what’s most amazing, from small, new schools that were not in our original list and had learned about our project through third parties. The reading and the passion with which we plunged into it were intense. My intuition of the need to produce the series with film students was becoming evident. This gave us a special motivation to continue, and even to reconsider the extension of the proposal. Conceived as a series of six episodes, each based on one of the six defining characteristics of which the Kenyan woman had spoken to Russell, we had drawn up a design so that when choosing six communities, they would be intertwined in each chapter with segments of five minutes each. But the richness and complexity of the content that was arriving, made us realize that five minutes would not be enough to represent each community in each chapter. The fact that we were working outside the commercial circuit and having conceived the series as a product not to be sold, but rather as a group work to be distributed free of cost in alternative circuits, gave us the advantage to be able to rethink the initially considered structure. We then decided that the chapters should last an hour and we opened the possibility of choosing more than six communities. When the deadline for receiving proposals came to an end we had received something over 120 portraits of diverse communities from all over the planet. The selection criteria focused on the relevance of the proposals and the communities to the series concept, rather than paying attention to schools with international recognition or with which we had privileged relations. This created an element of risk especially if we chose a proposal coming from an unknown school, but we preferred to bet on a group of individuals where we felt the human species would be represented in its full diversity and specificity within the great universal community. The idea was that each portrait should fit into another, that each episode would flow organically, taking us from one community to another, thereby instilling in us the premise of the Series, that “what we have in common is very big, and what is different between us is very interesting.� We allowed ourselves to be driven by the voice of the Kenyan woman, and over a long week we carefully read what we had received during the previous six months. We were only a bit sad for not having received enough proposals from African schools, which indicated the need to make an effort to have closer contacts with this continent, apart from verifying the urgency of creating in Africa more spaces for the audiovisual training. Some of the proposals coming from there were from filmmakers of other continents established in Kenya or Mali, and although they were interesting, Russell always insisted on having the communities filmed by students who had some close link or emotional relationship to them.

32

Designing the Project


Large cities like S達o Paulo, Beirut or Montreal, indigenous peoples on the border of extinction, families or institutions conceived as communities were among the alternatives. The selection process was difficult and close. We chose eight communities instead of six, a good many of them with a great need to be represented before the rest of humanity. Their dignity to live in the midst of difficulties, the persistence of hope and their cultural stubbornness moved us to draw them out of invisibility. We also chose some communities that, although they had been seen many times , deserved to be represented anew with a more complex and unique dimension. The die were cast. The dream began to take on a granulated texture. October 30, 2009 Dear colleagues, This week we finally concluded our deliberations to choose the proposals and the film schools that will take part in the first season of the series To Be a Human Being. We have the pleasure to announce that the proposals presented by your schools and students have been selected as finalists, since the stories and people of your communities captivated us from the first moment. The task was arduous, since we had many brave and worthy communities that we wanted to see represented in our project. We want to ask you to confirm at your earliest possible convenience your disposition to continue with the process, since we have several proposals in a waiting list in case any of you are prevented from participating. Please check again the details outlined in the Call for Entries, the rights and responsibilities, production management, financing, timetable, etc, to ensure your ability to participate. We also need to confirm your attendance at the meeting to be held at the EICTV from January 19 through January 22, 2010. On that occasion we shall see together everything related with the production guidelines, the structure of the Series, unification of concepts and aesthetic proposals. We remind you that our school will cover the expenses of air tickets, lodging and meals during your stay. For your collective awareness, these are the selected proposals: 1. The indigenous Wayuu community. Film and TV Course, University of Magdalena, Colombia. Professor: Carolina Osma Tapias. 2. The Bedouins of Jordan. The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts, Aqaba. Professor: Rebecca Flores. 3. Voices from Oceania. The challenges facing Polynesian island communities of the South Pacific. Dept. of Film, TV and Media Studies, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Professor: Vanessa Alexander. 4. The Harlem Community. Dept. of Media and Communications, The City College of New York, Professors: Andrea Weiss and Jerry Carlson. 5. The God Makers. A community of makers of religious idols in northern Calcutta. Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. Professor: Indranil Chakravarty. Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

33


6. el Rastro, an old Madrid street market neighborhood. Instituto del Cine Madrid NIC, Professor: Lola Mayo. 7. Mata los indios, an Afro-Caribbean community of the Dominican Republic (declared by UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. EICTV.Professor: Tanya Valette. 8. Regoufe, mountain hamlet in Portugal. EICTV. Professor: Tanya Valette. In this new stage of the project we need to update our website www. humanobeing.org and for that purpose we need more accurate data on the proposals and your schools. We ask you to send us a brief summary of around 15 lines and original photos, with copyright clearance and with good definition, of the communities that will be represented. The photos do not have to be specifically related to the proposal, but show us the human beings living in it and an idea of the surrounding environment. We also need you to send us a resumĂŠ of your school and your website, to include them as links. We are very happy to have you with us in this adventurous journey into the human condition. We will remain in close contact with you and your students, informing you of the next steps. Do not hesitate to write if you have questions or suggestions.

34

Designing the Project


Nicolás Ordóñez Carrillo

A Continental Footprint Two years ago, when I was commissioned to create the image of the documentary series To Be a Human Being, I thought at the time of how complex and simple it would be to create a graphic concept that would represent everything we are, and of course, everything I am. That day, sitting at my desk in the EICTV, I began to see people passing by behind the glass windows of my office. Some of them seemed sure of themselves and walked fast toward punctual destinations. Others simply wandered, looking for something on which to entertain their eyes. Thus, with a provocative task in my hands, I experienced again that initial moment in which we set ourselves the task of creating an idea, an event that has always produced in me an effect similar to déjà vu, of facing a void. And all of a sudden it came to me that all the answers were contained in any event taking place before the eyes of someone who was thinking of how to fill a blank space. I kept seeing human beings of multiple nationalities, and I understood in a second why this place was called The School of All the Worlds. Many races, many creeds, non-creeds, usages, habits, ways of assenting with the head, hair-dos, ways of shouting, of crying, all mixed up wildly in a few square hectares. That same afternoon what normally occurs in the Tropics happened: without prior notice, at 3:00 p.m. a huge downpour was unleashed that drenched everything that surrounded me. The pots of the climbing plants that were starting to go up a wooden pergola at the time filled with water and the soil took up that peculiar color it has on this part of the planet. Then those same people, those human beings I had seen only a while ago, began to move again. And they left their traces on the half-dry-half-wet bricks that seemed alike to my unfocused eyes, scarcely different regardless their sole style.

Designing the Project

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

35


Within an hour, Manuel Arias Seijas, graphic designer and I had begun collecting “beginning of the world-red soil� to stamp different types of soles on white letter-size sheets. We realized that the human foootprint would be much more powerful than a plain shoe, that the human foootprint would be what was to unify the whole concept. It could have been the Frenchman, the Polish girl, the Australian teacher or the Cuban girl who lent his/her foot for one minute, to shape what defines the human being regardless of origin. We did not take long to discover that such a footprint was a large navigation map through which we should approach the image. A map, of course, that would resemble the map par excellence, i.e., the map of our earthly globe. With those simple, but at the same time complex sketches, Manuel arrived two days later with the first version of the continental footprint of To Be a Human Being. Then the concept changed its aesthetics, it adapted to several formats, colors and types of devices, which enabled us to outline some simple targets. The first thing was to achieve a composition that would adapt to a textual discourse to explain the project as such and generate the necessary attention in the invitation stage. We designed the web site (www.humanobeing.org) to lodge this first textual phase, always with a view to expand to the fixed image, and lastly to the image in movement, which, of course, would be included once the different teams of filmmakers had been chosen from around the world, and they had produced images of the real human beings that inhabit the planet. In time, the continental footprint was animated to simulate a sort of anatomic and fractal Pangaea, and today continues to be the graphic concept that identifies this simple and complex, colossal project, which is as simple as a human footprint and as complex as the individual lives of the 21st century. Today, two years later, To Be a Human Being already has its own footprint that goes hand in hand with the many people involved in its processes. When I look at all that To Be a Human Being has generated, I perceive that, in the end, what unites us, what makes us different, what attracts us, may also be what we have planted in others’ minds for others to recover and adapt. Possibly that is one of the thousands of definitions of humanity.

36

Designing the Project


The God Makers THE STORYLINE The Almighty God created the Universe. With his skilled hands he shaped the most intelligent of all living beings the human being. But when human hands mould the tactile existence of God, does not the role of creator get reversed? Does it not affect the process of creation of the Creator? The God Makers is an investigation a journey through the eroded brick alleys of Northern Calcutta (West Bengal, India) in search of the makers of God.

Filmmaker: Sreya Chatterjee Film and Television Institute of Pune, India

THE SYNOPSIS “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.� AUGUSTE RODIN

The words of the great French sculptor Rodin reverberate within me as I stumble upon the dingy muddy alleys of Kumartuli (the locale of the potter community in West Bengal, where every process of creation is always surrounded by the innumerable obstructions that must be faced by the inhabitants in their daily life. The life and existence of its inhabitants is an example of what it is to be a human being in the present times. Kamartuli houses almost 250 Kumars who specialize in making clay idols. Their struggle for creation reaches an intense high during the autumn season, on the occasion of Durga Puja, the most celebrated festival of the Bengali community. Every year almost 13,000 clay deities are made, which are not only worshiped in Calcutta, but get distributed all across the country and overseas. This work is the result of deep introspection and voyage through my experiences as an individual, and moreover as a human being. I grew up in a locality close to these makers of God. The memory of the hours spent sitting beside these artists when they were binding straw to prepare the structure of the Mother Goddess and molding her hands, which would hold weapons to announce the victory of good over the evil. I also remember those rainy afternoons when we had to run and secure the soft clay idols from meltdown,

38

T he Original Proposals


or the smoggy evenings squatting beside a dying flame, intently looking at the fingers of the artists, lining the facial contours of Mother Goddess. The affection of these simple people can only be understood when you spend time with them. The love and unity among them is as intense as the blend of the clay which forms their gods. A handful of families are knit together as if they were roots of an ancient banyan tree, clasping onto each other. Their history reflects their strong cultural identity both as a community and as human beings seeking to live, exist and struggle with each social, political and economic transformation. Despite having such a deep-rooted history and ethnography, this community constantly fears the threat of extinction, not only due to the seasonal nature of their profession but also due to the changes in the composition of society in this era of globalization and commercialization in which it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to cope up with the economic upsurge and marginalization. Hence the younger generation is discouraged to take up idol-making as a profession, in order to find a more economically viable means of survival. And if this anxiety continues, there will be an impending threat of effacement of this whole community. As a fellow human being, I strongly feel that it is my responsibility to bring the story of these god makers in forefront. To bring forward these unnamed creators whose hands craft God, but whose lives have always remained devoid of His blessings. It is return trip to my roots, a tribute to a community that has always remained silent, overshadowed by the prowess of the Almighty but is truly the most verbose one, in terms of their celestial act of creation. THE TREATMENT The treatment of The God Makers is based on a few observations which I have made over past years. These factors listed below are not only quintessential to the nature and the existence of this place but also reflect the rhythm of life of this community. In turn, all those elements will play a vital role in determining the visual and aural design of the documentary. These traits are diversely related to Sustenance, Love, Culture, Faith, Fear and Hope—the six defining characteristics of humanity—and hence underline the significance of understanding the responsibilities of being a human being. THe GeOGRAPHy OF THe lOCATiOn The Kumartuli area is located in the northern part of Calcutta in West Bengal. It is one of the oldest and most traditional areas of this metropolis. As the hustle bustle of the busy main street flanked by buildings and shops, here and there, is left behind, a calm, small area will emerge distinctly; where narrow muddy alleys intersect each other at impossible angles. They mingle with each other and flow ahead in meanders, as if in a game of hide and seek. Flanking them are T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

39


bricks, bamboos, iron structures; in the backdrop, old red-bricked dilapidated houses or at times claustrophobic congested apartments. Every outlet of the alleys opens up to a new horizon: busy streets overloaded with trucks, tramlines overseeing ancient temples, railroads conversing chores of the daily passengers, the burning ghat trying to comprehend the cycle of life, small shanties of an old world or maybe the vast patient Ganges river which not only provides but also assimilates all that is immerse in her womb. The myriad nature of this intensely populated locale adds unique flavors to the existence and the life of this community. THe eleMenTS AnD THe PROCeSS The process of idol making, starting with the mixing of the mud with hay dust; making the bamboo structures; binding hay on the structures and giving it the desired shape; applying the mixed clay on the structure; painting the structure after it dries, and finally draping and ornamenting the idols is a very physical process that demands complete mental involvement by the artist. During this whole process, an extraordinary synergy occurs between the elements involved, which are soil, water, hay, bamboo, paints, brushes, oil, fire, and the human element, in form of touch and vision. This intense interaction between the living and the inanimate operates in a beautiful yet enigmatic way. This is not only symbolic of their aspiration of soaring beyond the mundane and inert, by giving birth to the iconic image of the divine. THe STUDiO SPACe In every branch of the arts, the concept of the studio space plays a vital role. It doesn’t only work as the inspiration to the artist but also contains all his creativity and aspirations. The artisans of Kumartuli are no exception to this. Their studios are very different from what we conventionally visualize as a studio. These are mostly single-storied hay and bamboo-made structures, with an aluminum roof, at times as high as 20 feet or more. These studios are not only their workspace but are also used as storerooms. Functional in nature, lit by 100- watt bulbs hanging here and there, the artisans spend intent hours inside the chiaroscuro of their studios. Due to the recent governmental decision of reconstructing this area, the artisans are worried about losing their studios, where they have worked for generations. These will now be rebuilt with bricks and concrete. Maybe this will assure some security at physical level, but the filtering of light through the bamboo thatch and the smell of hay, which worked as a romantic inspiration, will be lost forever.

40

T he Original Proposals


iDenTiFiCATiOn OF inDiViDUAlS Keeping the thematic attributes of the documentary series in mind, I would like to concentrate on a few central characters who will work as the metonyms of the community. Hence their stories will bring forth the experience of the community about being a human being. These characters and their point of attention are: a) The senior artisans: Their experience of the past, observation about the present and prognostication about the future. b) The young artisans: The difficulties they are facing due to the unconventional and seasonal nature of their profession. What are their aspirations and inspirations which motivate them to continue being artisans? c) The younger generation: The youth, who are getting into other professions, leaving the family vocation behind. How do they look at this profession? Their complaints and regrets. d) The women: The role of mother, wife and daughter in the family. The contribution of women, both socially and emotionally. How they have inspired the image of the Mother Goddess and the process of creation. e) The children: The challenges parents are facing to bring them up in this ever-changing modern society and taking the pivotal decisions about their future. What children think about their family vocation and their observations. iMPReSSiOnS OF TiMe AnD SPACe To me, this process of idol making is an iconic attempt of making the image of God similar to that of human beings. It is a kind of a dialectics of the notion of God creating human beings to his image and likeness. Hence, through the shooting style, the transient nature of the daily routine of this community both during the tourist season and off season will be captured. The fleeting quality of light and sound, which the space itself contains, will contribute to enhance this impressionistic feeling. AUTOBiOGRAPHiCAl STReAKS Kumartuli has a very distinct space inside my heart. It has not only been a part of my growing up in the city of Calcutta, but also inspired me artistically and humanly during my youth. This documentation is not only nostalgic but also a tribute to the undying and uncompromising human spirit. Hence I would like to add a personalized touch by using my voice to read segments of this journey from the point of view of a young girl who grew up in the surroundings of clay images and their makers.

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

41


STyliSTiC TROPeS As far as the shooting style is concerned, I have some stylistic tropes in mind. The shooting of different stages of idol making would be mostly made in static shots, with focus to the elements involved, the individuals at work and their interrelationship. The interviews would be recorded in a controlled and composed environment. In addition to this, interactions between artisans during the idol making process, which is mostly impromptu in nature, would also be included. Their community and family chores and events will have more of a direct and reflexive style of shooting. Track shots can be used to depict the texture, depth and feel of the location. For the impressionistic segments, time lapse, stop blocks and slow shooter shots will be used. Mostly the overall shooting will happen in using available light. These are the general characteristics that will play a vital role in the decision on the final structure of the documentary. These elements will emphasize the state of mind and the sensation of each subject. The use of music of popular tradition and the rituals in force in their daily lives will improve the flavor of this documentary on human beings. THE PROPOSAL “Man is a creature of habit; God made him first—he is his second creator.”

According to the existing mythologies and beliefs, it is Almighty God who has created this Universe. It was his hands that shaped human beings, as everything else. With all his love and prowess he crafted us to be the most intelligent yet the weakest of all living beings. He is undoubtedly an unparalleled craftsman. But when these human hands mould the tactile existence of God, by giving it a form and shape, does the role of the creator get reversed? Exactly in which way does the process of creation of the Creator affect the process of creation? My documentary is an investigation of these questions. It is a search through the emaciated tattered brick alleys of Northern Calcutta of West Bengal in search of the Makers of God. As the famous French sculptor Rodin stated, every process of creation is always surrounded with innumerable obstructions. And the life of this potter community is no exception. The most daunting problem posing against their sustenance is the seasonal nature of their occupation. It is only during the months of Pujas they get to earn a livelihood. However, due to the increase in the number of Puja communities across the globe and with the ever-increasing number of themes and commercialization of the whole ceremony—which has added a new dimension to the festival apart from its staple religious implications—the potters today are getting more recognition and better value for their hardships, but this

42

T he Original Proposals


has not benefited their lives in a major way, as they still need to continually figure out means of survival for the rest of the year. When they have nothing to craft, they strive to look for alternatives to feed their family a daily square meal. As the straw roof of their hutments ceaselessly leak during the rains, they starve nights, putting their children off to sleep with empty stomachs and intently pray to the Goddess not to prolong their wait for the season of Pujas. What kind of revenge is this by the Almighty, who becomes tangible through the very hands of these uncomplicated human beings? But still the threat of scarcity has not affected the spirit of this community. One can only understand their warmth by spending time with these simple beings. The love and unity among them is as intense as the blend of the clay which forms the God. Their collective inter-dependence is purely symbiotic. This handful of families have established artisan unions which look after their needs and necessities and remain by their side during troubled times. These craftsmen are makers of God for generations. And the sheer respect of the new artisans for the old and the wise is purely iconic. This fact gets beautifully expressed through the Gurukul nature of the community. In which, traditionally the youngest artist of the community gets trained under the most senior artist of the community and this education of creation culminates in the heart-rendering process of Chokkhu Dan, in which the senior artist decides the ripe moment for the young artist to paint the eyes of the Goddess, which metaphorically stands for giving life to Her and marks the adulthood of the young artisan. This community has a strong cultural identity of its own, which is very much the cultural identity of the Bengali community. This has been passed onto them from generations, not only through their artistry but also through innumerable folk songs, myths, fables, anecdotes and other traditional practices which are borne by generations mainly through oral traditions, through the paintings of the females of the house, the culinary flavors, the rituals followed over ages, through their everyday existence that encompasses the union of rural and urban traditions. Many of these artisans have a history of shifting from rural Bengal to the metropolitan city of Calcutta, generations before to earn a livelihood. This strong cultural history has been possible due to their strong faith on their cultural identity, not only as a community but as a human gamut, which aspires not only to live but also to exist, combating with probable social, political and economic transformations. Despite having such a deep-rooted history and ethnography, this community constantly fears the threat of extinction, not only due to the seasonal nature of their profession but also to the change in the composition of society in this era of globalization and commercialization. It is becoming increasingly difficult for

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

43


these simple people to cope up with the economic upsurge and marginalization. Hence many of the senior artists today are discouraging their younger generations to take up idol-making as a profession. They are facing a constant pressure to move away from their traditional family profession in order to find a more economically viable means of survival. And if this anxiety continues for a few more years, then there is an impending threat of extinction of this whole community which added a new dimension to the notion of the creator and his creation. This will solely mark the destruction of creation as Pablo Picasso suggested: “Every act of creation is an act of destruction.� Another problem faced by this community is the State decision to evacuate Kumartuli in order to reconstruct the area. According to this plan they have demarcated this area in four regions and each of them will gradually shift to the Governmental Central store and continue idol making there. Once the Kumartuli area is rebuilt in form of concrete housings, replacing the existing bamboo/brick hutments, the Kumaras will shift back to their allotted plots. Though the planning of this project has been in discussion for past six years, this year the chances of its execution seem stronger. Already meetings between the parties involved are taking place regularly. If this project is finally carried out, according to the artisans, it will have both its positive and negative echoes. Though it will provide them some amount of security and also boost up their expectations of a better future for younger generations, it will also bring forth the threat of limitation. They believe that the invasion of concrete houses will cut them off from their surroundings, hence reducing the process of idol making to a mere mechanical means of survival. It will also create a problem by forcing these frugal people into a lifestyle which they cannot afford and also the baggage of a number of taxes. Hence at this moment the community is hopeful, yet apprehensive about this decision. And it is only time that will be able to decide their future. But still it is the human nature which continually hopes against hope. Thus whenever I notice a small child in Kumartuli, playing and trying to form a haphazard shape with clay, sitting beside his grandfather, who is busy shaping the Mother Goddess my heart fills up with fathomless hope, a hope about the endurance of humanity, the victory of the human spirit above all oddities. As a filmmaker I strongly feel that it is my responsibility to present the story of these God Makers to the world in order to save them from mute extinction. It is not only because I have spent many hours of my formative years in the by-lanes of Kumartuli; it is not only due to the essence of nostalgia. It is the undying nature of human spirit which drives me to voice these accounts of human emotions, essence and survival in front of the world. To bring forward these unnamed creators whose hands crafted God, but whose life always remained devoid His blessings.

44

T he Original Proposals


The Wayuu Community Filmmakers: Helena Salguero y Leiqui Uriana Film Department, University of Magdalena, and EICTV

Beyond the mountain or the green plain, the strong flow of rivers, streams and springs and away from urban masses of concrete, there, where the roads stop to be constructed by using asphalt reinvented once again through walkers who leave a trace on the fine yellow sand, where the trade winds blow during the greater part of the year, and barren land merges with the warm water of the Caribbean Sea, the geography of the Colombian-Venezuelan La Guajira desert appears suspended: an exorbitant picture that dilutes between the mystical and the bleak, mainly characterized by a thorny shrub vegetation and cactus that grow in temperatures averaging 30 ยบC, under an open, bright sky where clouds are scarce and where rains only pours in the winter season, which runs between September and December. This seemingly inhospitable region of great extension is the ancestral territory on of the largest indigenous communities in Latin America known by the name of Wayuu. The Wayuu nation, as they define themselves, is formed by large semi-nomadic families who deliberately cross the boundaries between Colombia and Venezuela without restrictions or visas being required by the respective governments. They are, in addition, a worthy people who have resisted peacefully over the centuries the impact of colonizing processes, the development of extractive activities of the mineral wealth peculiar to the region, the penetration of business and traffic of illegal products and the incursion of armed groups outside the law and unleashing of violence and outrage against the community, in the midst of geographical sterility. However, the spiritual strength of their race, the temperate and firm character, the deep rooting to the land they inhabit, all derived from the living memory of the ancestors in the older members, have allowed the preservation of a people who still shares many of the essential traditions of the Wayuu, and which in turn is different depending on the geographical, social and economic conditions that determine their way of living. The following is the approach that was made to the community. The contacted persons are mentioned in the respective topic included in the series. SUSTENANCE The Wayuu natives are distributed throughout the peninsula, occupying a vast territory that comprises the zones of the low, medium and high Guajira, both in Colombian and Venezuelan territory (for the Wayuu there are no borders

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

45


or nations, they are only one family). Within this area and according to their distribution, they have specific sustenance tasks; those in the inner lands are in charge of pasturing animals and cultivating the soil, coastal residents are devoted to fishing and everyone in general is engaged in craftwork. They also have their hierarchy which varies according to the different zones: the inhabitants of the coast are called Apaalanchis, the ones located in the high Guajira toward the Macuira range of mountains are called Jararajee, and the ones from the interior, located between the middle and low Guajira are called Uchejei. The woman is the pillar of the family and she is responsible for maintaining the lineage of the Wayuu. Most of the women are artisans; some are engaged in pottery; others to weaving backpacks, hammocks, bracelets, and so on. Nowadays, with the increase of tourism these women find a great opportunity for improving their economy and the livelihood of their families. Men are generally dedicated to fishing if they are Apaalanchis, while if they come from the inner lands, they employ themselves in growing grains such as beans, lentils and even maize in some cases, or grazing goats and cattle and handling animals such as horses and donkeys as beasts of burden. For those living in cities it is already common to work in urban occupations and they also migrate, interested in receiving academic education. Approximately three kilometers from Cabo de la Vela, very close to the Pilón de Azúcar, we find a village called Uchitu, inhabited by approximately thirty-five persons between adults and children. Agustina Maria Uriana, community representative said that the main problem they face today is the shortage of water, as in summertime drought is imminent, and the jagüeyes (fresh water wells) dry completely and the main source of drinking water is not available. Every one or two months, and at the request of the community, a truck arrives from Uribia and provides them with drinking water free of cost, but you have to stand in line and await your turn, which is a huge problem because the size of the tanks does not allow the community to receive as much water as they require for the period until the truck returns. Around six kilometers by road from Uribia on the way to Cuatro Vías, taking a detour of about ten kilometers, we find the village of Pariyen, inhabited by some 50 persons, including adults and children. These Uchejei families from the inner lands dedicate themselves to cultivate the soil, to animal grazing and handicrafts, like the Uchitu women. The problems with this area are similar the lack of water in summer is a phenomenon that usually creates a crisis in society. Eneida Lopez Epiayú, as representative of the community, is the person in charge of requesting the supply of water from the aqueduct of the Uribia municipality, since they, like the Apaalanchis, have the same needs during this part of the year. Crops do not grow in summer, which is another disadvantage for these families. Lucia Pushaina and Carmen Helena Epieyu comment that the economic losses are substantial during this period. The Jaguey, as in Uchitu, is completely dry, and there is no water to supply to humans or animals. When

46

T he Original Proposals


the truck coming from Uribia arrives, it scarcely carries water for the families, but there is little left for the animals. The women tell that during these months the shepherds must try to find a jag端ey in more distant places to provide water for the animals. Sometimes they have to walk many kilometers and the water is generally carried in pitchers transported by donkeys. FAITH The Wayuu are a community that is characterized by not having a particular god. To them, their origin stems from the signs of nature and the myths derived from them, applied life cycles. In this regard, juyaa, which in Wayuu means rain (male figure), and mma, concerning the earth (female figure), represent the supreme beings of the founding myth of the Wayuus, who consider themselves children of the union between rain and earth, which is fertilized when the rain falls on it and thus is life germinated. In like manner, the Wayuu man, as projection of the rain in permanent displacement over the guajiro territory according to the way in which the wind blows, is a moving being that keeps rolling from one town to another, takes leave of the family for seasons and establishes relations with several women. In the case of the Wayuu woman, who sustains the family in the matrilineal society, she remains steadily in the place where home is located. In the schools for ethno education, the story of the origin of the Wayuu is often told, recognizing the Mareiwa as their god and creator, a god with Catholic similarities, holder of supreme virtues. According to direct native sources, the latter does not really originate in an ancient Wayuu belief, but is attributed to a conversion strategy of the Capuchins, who resorted to relate Christian beliefs to the Wayuu mythologies and thus approach them to the Christian tradition. Although today, many Wayuu people have joined to religious practices and have associated with certain church communities, there is still a strong faith between them for the interpretation of dreams as a guide to face life and make certain decisions. One of the most ancient beliefs that unite the entire Wayuu nation is the one that conceives life beyond death, keeping active the memory of the ancestors through traditional rituals. Hence the prevalence of burying the deceased relatives in their own lands (exclusive Wayuu graveyards) and celebrating two wakes for each dead person. The first funeral takes place when the person dies and a ritual similar to the Catholic one is performed, even using the symbol of the cross on the coffin. Relatives and friends from varied places meet during the following nine days and nights after the death, during which the women express their grief with groans around the deceased and several goats are slaughtered to feed the visitors.

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

47


The second funeral is performed after seven to ten years of the person’s death, when the corpse has already rotten. During the ritual, a person is responsible to exhume the remains, which are carefully cleaned and placed in a vase of clay similar to an ossuary. In a second funeral this vase is buried in a sacred place for the family, and from there, the soul of the deceased travels to Jepirra (Cabo de la Vela), which is the last farewell from earth before meeting his / her ancestors. Next January, the above-mentioned community of Uchitu is preparing the exhumation of a very close relative. For the Wayuu, there is a female character called Ouutsü, which plays an important social role because of her extensive knowledge about spiritual and physical life. Her role is that of doctor of body and soul, since they are two entities of the human being that cannot be decoupled and depend closely from one another. Using herbs, obstructions against evil spirits, the practice of methods of traditional medicine and the interpretation of dreams, the patient receives a treatment in search of his healing. At present there are only five recognized Ouutsü in the entire Wayuu territory, since modern medicine, the presence of health professional bodies and the construction of hospitals have shifted the work of the Ouutsü and given way to a change in the habits of the natives. The disappearance of this role among the Wayuu means a great loss of the tradition, myths and beliefs which for centuries have been part of the Wayuu thoughts. Through Joaquín Prince we are trying to get in contact an Ouutsü named Virginia Kusayu, resident in Maicao and Inco’s aunt. CULTURE The structure of the Wayuu culture is matrilineal in nature and is organized by clans according to the common ancestor. Today there are more than thirty clans that make up the Wayuu community, distributed in the lands inherited from their ancestors. Each clan is represented by a totem animal that differs from the others. For example, the Sipuana clan is identified by the scorpion, the Woliyú clan by the partridge; the Sijuana clan by the wasp; the falcon represents the Ipuana clan; a Zamuro king represents the Epiayú clan, and the king’s grandson represents the Arpushana; the dog represents the Jayaliyú clan and the snake represents the Uraliyú clan. Within the communities there are still traditional authorities that are represented by figures such as the matron and the “palabrero” (word man), who is responsible for solving problems in society, since the word has a value of truth and means an act of commitment. The role of women in culture has a vital importance, since she is the bearer of the natives’ lineage. Those who are born of a Wayuu womb are Wayuu heirs, and lose this quality when the person has a Wayuu father and an Alijuna mother.

48

T he Original Proposals


The preservation of culture and customs is clearly in the hands of women, and it is thanks to her that the language remains alive. For the same reason it is they who are mainly engaged in handicraft, and who best represent Wayuu culture through the arts. In the community of Shirulema, Olivia HenrĂ­quez, a brave woman, represents the traditional authority. Some acknowledge her as matron because she is one of its main pillars and because she is basically in charge of community management and of being its spokesperson. On the other hand, Olivia is characterized as interpreter of dreams and for using natural medicine. Although she is not an OuutsĂź, she enjoys great respect because of her deep notion of their culture and the force of her word in the community and beyond. In the Matunali community there lives a woman named Maria Helena Pushaina dedicated for many years to the pottery craft. Nowadays she manages a family business with her sons Franco and Adolf Urariyu, based precisely on the production of ceramic pieces on which they display designs that represent the Wayuu culture. Until not long ago her work was entirely handmade, using cow dung as fuel to melt and fix the mud. LOVE To speak of love within the Wayuu culture is perhaps more complex than in other cultures, especially because love is not shown in the traditional way. Love is not evidenced by kisses or hugs, but with solidarity between families or clans in the midst of conflicts, respect for the elders and leaders, the respect to the ownership of the territory of origin. We Wayuus who live in the cities always have a strong bond with our ancestral territory and a need to always return and find repose for our remains in our cemeteries. With this in mind, this episode could focus on the love for the land, the family, the cemetery and the unity of the lineage. I propose to locate a Wayuu family living outside the village, preferably a woman who has to make the trip for the second funeral, and document her relationship to her children and both her physical and emotional preparation to go to the wake, her return to her ancestral territory, and conclude the chapter with the arrival at the cemetery and the meeting with her relatives. Once the pre-production and final investigation to find some character with these features has been concluded, we could speak of other more visible conflicts and structure the episode in a better way. FEAR Here I thought of the trans-national companies, of the invasion of the Wayuu territory by the enterprises, in our fear of disappearing due to the multiple causes derived from the impact of these companies and their holdings in our

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

49


territory, the division between families, the involuntary displacement of our communities, the presence of groups outside the law, among other aspects. In Fabio’s research report in the community of Uribia there is no reference to this problem, but the fear the Wayuu have of the wanulü (evil spirits), since the Wayuu, when interviewed, always make reference to our culture and traditions. This does not mean that Wanulü do not exist, but perhaps Fabio or the people from the community did not look into or reflect on this topic, or simply they did not take it into consideration. Personally, as Wayuu I am afraid of our disappearance, a disappearance that is not physical death but the loss of our culture and our roots, and that the insertion of the transnational companies, the intervention of Alijunas in the territory is causing our slow and unnoticed disappearance, which is accompanied by a large media campaign with “development” promises that I sometimes feel are difficult to combat. Talking to the professor Carolina Osma I clarified his point. Thinking that the main topic could be the funeral and also considering the possibility of talking about this issue that affects many other people, we would document the departure of a Wayuu man with his son and nephew while moving his rams to the cemetery. This route would consist of crossing the road and the tracks of the coal train to arrive at the cemetery. Meanwhile, the Wayuu may teach the children what the “iron snake” is—the train—and the urgency and care they should have when going across the train tracks before it captures them and kills him. He may also be telling some anecdotes of the persons and animals killed by the train since he has been there. I once heard a fantastic story told by an old Wayuu man about how he sees the train and about the diabolical image he has of it. This grandfather spoke of a Wanulü that comes at wind speed accompanied by a black cloud, has a dark face, kills and hits whoever he finds on the road. If we could find this story, it would be a great contribution to the documentary. It is a question of continuing digging into the stories of the community. HOPE For me it is essential that this episode be treated from the experience of a boy or girl attending the cultural school located in Uribia. Our hope is the resistance, to learn to coexist with the Western world without forgetting our essence as Wayuu. Therefore I imagine this episode with a child who attends a common school, wearing school uniform, in an entirely westernized class. Then, showing that same character going through the town of Uribia and seeing, perhaps in a subjective manner, the transculturation and loss of the Wayuu cultural values on his way home (the brewers, the mayor’s office, the police headquarters, the policemen, the indifference among the Wayuu people in the same space,

50

T he Original Proposals


the vallenato, among other things). At the end we see the boy arriving home, entering the house, finding perhaps the TV on, taking a look and picking up a masi or a sawawa (Wayuu musical instruments) and playing it. His family is getting ready to go to the funeral and he is invited to attend. This would be idea to develop the theme; of course, if we do so, we would have to do a certain staging, but I think it might be considered for sometime.

el Rastro, Madrid Filmmakers: Rafael Ruiz and Thais Taverna NIC School Madrid

SYNOPSIS We are at the oldest market of Madrid, a river of shops and small stalls which extends its arms through the oldest part of the district center of Madrid. El Rastro is a maze of vendors, shoppers, walkers and tourists, eternal madrileños, recent immigrants and others who are completely apart from here. In El Rastro, museum antiquities, screws, broken dolls, charming handicraft and old clothes, designer furniture and mismatched chairs are sold. Everything serves to develop one of the oldest facets of the human being: the purchase and sale, exchange, and bustling, feverish activity inevitably linked also to the picaresque, the petty theft, to the human need to survive and thrive in difficult times. Our market is the king on Sunday in Madrid. You buy or do not buy, but always stroll, take a look, drink a beer, ask for some sardines or patatas bravas in one of the hundred bars where the madrileños eat for little money on this day. The neighborhood recovers its peace on weekdays, but is still marked by the movement, the thrift stores, men who offer their trucks for removals and small carts. Living in the streets of El Rastro entails being in the very epicentre of life in Madrid, but also enduring the music, the ads from vendors, the noise of vehicles loading and unloading the goods. In the streets of Madrid live everlasting madrileños, families who have been here many generations, also young people, artists, writers, artisans. And, as in the nearby neighborhood of lavapies, which has hosted many of the immigrants arriving in the city, Chinese, Pakistani, Senegalese and Moroccan immigrants also live in El Rastro. Many of them recently started selling here, and others have done it for decades: the Latin American artisans. They are not only dealers, they all have small stories behind them. They are people like Leticia, an Argentinean that produces colorful puppets; Qamar, a Pakistani who takes advantage of the toy sale to “instruct” the passer-by on

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

51


the virtues of his Islamic creed, advocating non-violence from El Rastro; Don Tomás, a prestigious antiquarian who knows and retains all the secrets of the place; Miguel, who waits day after day until the marketplace is dismantled to search through what was left and set up his small stall of useless things in the “Rastro after the Rastro”; Susana, who sells crafts on Sunday but drives ambulances the rest of the week; the Heredia gypsy family, which changes both products and stall according to fashion: women’s panties, nightgowns, cleaning products... and never miss the nearby Evangelist parish meetings, Roberto, who waits for hours, from morning till night, for those who seek him to move a piece of furniture, a washing machine, an old book collection with his van; and José Manuel, who serves kilos and kilos of patties with a smile every Sunday in his small bar next to the market ... the saying goes that they are the tastiest in Madrid. El Rastro is a small city within the city, the reflection of the entire social and human diversity of Madrid’s oldest neighborhood, a place where movement and relationship are eventually reduced to a single gesture: I give you what I have in exchange for what you have. The approach we have followed when drafting this document is to bring together the potential characters in spaces to develop of a first draft. We will also consider the themes to which we must adapt those characters or the visual resources demanded by the series. But first, the spaces because they are the main elements to situate the viewer. Space 1: Cascorro Square After leaving behind the Tirso de Molina square and the first slopes formed by the stalls of Ribera de Curtidores we arrive at the Cascorro Square (coincidentally, a Spanish hero of the Cuban War), a square where several streets meet flanked by buildings of the old Madrid which normally do not catch our attention, covered by the Sunday stalls. Also, as we go down, we will find several murals from the times of the Madrid Move that despite their nineteenth-century-society looks, are featured by faces from that more recent period. Space 2: Ribera de Curtidores We descend to halfway along the Ribera de Curtidores. There Louis arrives around 8 and Christian dismounts the second stand. At that moment, Luis seizes the occasion to take the van and go for breakfast to Café Wooster (San Millán street) where he meets the other elders from the place, who share anecdotes since many of them, also, have leased their stands to new merchants. Space 3: Gen. Vara del Rey Square This route makes a detour to the right, passing by one of the “tosta bars,” basic nourishment of the Rastro members. There is a large presence of gypsy merchants. Luis introduced us to Paco, an antique dealer with a stall, who is transforming his business, sharing it with the sale of women’s stockings “to be able to eat.” He is kind, but in principle we do not take him into consideration as

52

T he Original Proposals


a character for several reasons, although it must be said that watching him from a distance we realized that he knows how to manage the business and profit from the purchase and sale of the one antique during the same day. SPACe 4: ARniCHeS, THe SURROUnDinGS AnD PUeRTA De TOleDO MARKeT But we will get tired of antiques, now we come to Arniches, “The Shabby Rastro,” “The Peculiar Rastro,” because of its winding streets, its plates, its chaotic antiquarians, who mix objects from the Franco era with toys of any kind. This leads us to Carnero Street, where we find Braulio, an antiquarian of the New Ware, with a showroom that opens on weekends on the ground floor of one of these chaotic antiquarians. SPACe 5: neW WORlD CAMPillO SqUARe We finally arrive at New World Campillo Square. The new businesses (DVDs, films, comics...) can always bring interesting people but they are not as flashy as the traditional ones. Here we have another contact with a gypsy who comes from Toledo and brings a large part of his gear from his town, to sell it as antiques. We will continue working on this character. And this is it, basically. Before I come to an end, I would like to propose characters for possible themes to be discussed, and also to concretize. It is clear that the bearer of memories is Louis, and due to his knowledge of El Rastro, to the fact that he is writing a novel on this place and to the loss of that romanticism that is presupposed to exist in this place, Louis is adequate to represent the theme of Sustenance, since he recovers that idea from the triumph of the individual following the rules of the game in the market. Faith is ensured with Qamar and the Ahmadi community, although other characters are not to be discarded. Culture, in principle, was represented by Christin and his interpretative side, but since he will probably return to Mexico we have Paloma with her trip to India and the change in her antique business and books; the gypsy communities with all their folklore, or even Louis’ smaller son, with his rocker personality. The issue of fear is pointing to the older antiquarians, although we evidently have love stories, and as to Hope, it will depend a little on how some conflicts we have long been following develop, among them, the crusade carried on by Esperanza Aguirre, president of the Madrid community, in favor of privatizing the stalls.

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

53


The Bedouins, little Petra, Jordan DIRECTORS AND TOPICS We have divided the three topics between the three directors. We have been having sessions and meetings twice a week to discuss the possibilities. Abed will be covering Love and Faith, Said will cover Sustenance and Hope, and Osama will cover Culture and Fear. I had them propose potential scenes for each episode: SAiD Scenes for Sustenance 1. Abu Masoud, a 45-year old Bedouin man, holding a bucket of water approaches the camel leaning towards him, he pets him and the camel starts drinking water from the bucket. 2. Um Masoud, a 40-year old Bedouin woman, sits in the shade of a tree, threading some wool to prepare weaving a tent for the winter. 3. Hind, a 15-year old Bedouin girl, walking in the middle of a sheep herd, pets them while she reaches the front to lead them. 4. Abu Masoud lights the fire in his tent, Um Masoud kneads the dough, preparing to bake bread, Hind puts the sheep in their area and runs to help her mother bake bread. 5. Masoud, a 12-year old boy, comes back from school; his father, Abu Masoud, gives him a cup of water, he drinks it and then they all sit down to have lunch. Scenes for Hope 1. Masoud rises from his bed very early in the morning, goes outside the tent and sits on a rock to observe the sun rise from behind the sand dunes. He rises quickly, grabs his school bag and runs across the sand dune while the sun continues to rise. 2. Masoud plays with his friends; they run and laugh while they play. Abu Masoud looks at them and smiles while he glances around and sees the sun that begins to hide behind their tent. 3. Um Masoud, a pregnant Bedouin woman, boils water, washes the cups and prepares tea. Masoud comes in, she pores him some tea, he sits next to her, holds her belly, they both smile, Abu Masoud comes in and sits for tea, the all enjoy having tea together. Abu Masoud takes an axe and goes to cut

54

T he Original Proposals

Filmmakers: Abdelsallam Al-Hajj, Osama Namrouqa, Said Najmi, Red Sea School, Jordan


some wood in front of the tent, Masoud goes out to help him. Um Masoud sits to watch them work while she finishes her tea, feeling her belly with a warm smile on her face. 4. In the early morning, Um Massoud and Abu Masoud sit in their tent to drink tea, Masoud comes in, Um Masoud gives him a bag of dates, he grabs his school back and runs out to school. Um Massoud and Abu Masoud sit to observe their son on his way to school. OSAMA Scenes for Culture 1. A group of Bedouin people sit around the fire playing music on the Rababah while coffee is being prepared by smashing it in the Mehbash. 2. Bedouin women sewing in the traditional “bet al sha’ar” tent. 3. Old man dressed in the traditional clothes for this occasion. 4. We wish to be lucky and capture a wedding. 5. Listen to an old man or maybe a young Bedouin chanting a poem. Scenes for Fear 1. The process of feeding their animals, seeing how they obtain food for the animals to keep them producing milk. 2. Awaiting the rain, or looking for water sources. 3. A Bedouin family carrying their tent in search of shelter. 4. A father or a mother taking his/her children to be vaccinated. 5. A young man reinforcing the goats’ fence, to prevent their becoming victims of predators during the night. ABeD Scenes for Love 1. A Bedouin woman lovingly takes care of the camels and sheep. 2. A man holds his child while his wife prepares food. 3. A husband and wife watch their children play near the fire. Scenes for Faith 1. Prayer and fast during Ramadan. 2. A father teaching his son how to pray. 3. Call to prayer echoing off on the rocks and mountains of Rum. APRIL 2010: TRIPS AND RESEARCH IN WADI RUM Abed has succeeded in establishing good contacts with the Imam in the village of Wadi Rum. The village was built in the last ten years because the government had set up Wadi Rum as a major tourism spot for the country. We met with Abu Mashaal at his home in the village. His son had been in one of the fiction films that the students had worked on. We talked to him about the Bedouins that are still living in Rum. He said that the population is decreasing and that most of

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

55


the families have moved closer to the village in order to obtain supplies and to bring their children closer to the schools. Like many of the Bedouins in Rum, Abu Mashaal runs a tourist camp deep in Rum, so we agreed to spend a night with him at his camp. The student directors are attempting to get to know him better and win his trust. We had many chats with him over the course of the evening and he agreed to help us locate and talk with other Bedouin families living in Rum. We also are trying to make Abu Mashaal introduce us in the village itself. We want to see how they have had to change their ancient forms of life and adjust to the modern world. MAY 2010, WADI ARABA DESERT With fellow student and research assistant Maruan Manaja we made a trip through the desert to visit several of the families there. Maruan is a Bedouin who grew up in Petra, Jordan. We met with three families, with whom we sat down to drink tea. They are different from the Rum Bedouins because they are not affected by the tourist trade. Maruan described them as pure Bedouins because they still live very much as their ancestors did, except for the fact that some had their children at the University of Amman, and others whose young children attend the school in the neighbouring village. They are very protective of the women of their families. They are reluctant even to let men see their fully covered wives and daughters. It will take much time and many visits to get them to grant us some trust. The second family we visited was Abu Fadi’s. They are a young family. Abu Fadi has only one wife and his three girls are very young. We sat with him and succeeded in having some pictures taken of him and his daughters. We learned that they would be moving their camps and tents in the week prior to our trip to Havana. We had also heard through Maruan that many of the families were not at their camps because of the barley harvest. We asked Abu Fadi about it and he said that it had been a good harvest and that the following day he would have to be working in it. So we arranged to meet with him and the family the next afternoon. So we took a camera and did a test shooting with the family. There was a dust storm coming in and when we arrived, we discovered that it was Abu Fadišs family and one of their neighbors, his three wives and children. The men were sitting and taking care of the children under a make-shift tent on top of a hill. The four women were covered head to toe and plucking the barley out of the ground on their hands and knees. They had very strict rules about how close they would allow us to shoot the women. But, fortunately, we had gained his trust. The contact with the women was also very interesting. They

56

T he Original Proposals


were fairly quiet at first, but they quickly started making jokes and even singing while they were working. (I’ll send the footage we have with the directors.) It was a lovely day and Abu Fadi turned out to be an amazing character with great potential. He asked us to print several copies of the photos we took and in fact he very much liked the idea of appearing in a film. BACK TO RUM So we will return to Rum next weekend to meet with Abu Mashaal and some of the Rum families. We also hope to shoot a little with Abu Fadi when he moves his camp.

Harlem Communities, new york Filmmakers: Joslyn Duncan/ Laura Cardona CUNY New York

STATEMENT The following is based on the preliminary research carried out by the directors and producers. We hope that the protagonists, the stories, and environments in which they connect will gradually change as we continue with the shooting. POSSIBLE PROTAGONISTS Manny Vega – historian/storyteller/artist Sophia Lauren Coffe – worker Oscar – performer/business owner Florence M. Rice – wise person/activist Abraham Benjamin – caregiver of children Rev. Nafissa Sharif – shaman Eugene – antagonist PORTRAITS Children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old, in front of a neutral background (possibly the Harlem Unite mural), or another mural in Harlem. SUSTENANCE We begin on 125th and Lenox. Smoke rises off of chopped lamb as it falls onto the grill while being cut off a spinning skewer. A tong full of meat is placed onto a pita. Sauce is squirted onto the sandwich, wrapped up and passed to a customer. Money is exchanged. We observe several street/food vendors on 125th St.

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

57


We visit Jacobs Restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. Men and women in church suits and dresses walk up to a buffet of candied yams, ham, macaroni and cheese, curried chicken, turkey and collard greens. A band of grey haired elders sing old time gospel songs in the sitting area. People are fat and happy. We meet Donna Lewis who is re-opening her food business, Home Sweet Harlem at La Marqueta’s new kitchen incubator, a place where businesses that have been closed due to gentrification, have the opportunity to rent space and cater food. LOVE Manny Vega carefully strokes images onto the sides of buildings to create a historic mural for East Harlem. There are Latin people eating, children playing, Puerto Rican and Cuban elders playing dominos in the Modesto “Tin” Flores Community Garden at 104th Street and Lexington Ave. Booker looks on at the team as they run up and down the football field. Dante is among them. The coach and Dante have a conversation about love of the game. Juanita Character, and the Sisters in Motion skaters skate down Lenox Avenue in burgundy uniforms. (*Need to do more research on Sisters in Motion). CULTURE The African Day parade (September 19, 2010) has taken over the streets of Harlem. It is a loud boisterous day of music, dance, song and celebration. An African dance group dances quick movements of flying arms, legs and dreadlocks. A group of elder women dressed in elegant African attire sing in harmony as the shake cowrie shelled sekeres in unison. A storyteller takes the stage and speaks of Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Adam Clayton Powell. Poetas con Cafe come together in the Modestro Flores Community Garden. Poets and musicians share their work with the East Harlem community. The session ends with opening the microphone to community members who share their experiences through songs and music. An elder woman plays a guitar while a young man plays the congos. The streets of East Harlem are full of bright colors. At the New Amsterdam Music Association, drummers practice. On the upper level, painters apply coatings and final touches to their artwork. Sophia Lauren Coffe sits among them using a tool to sculpt earrings. A selection of her completed ones, music notes, hearts, Barack Obama and St. Nick’s Pub earrings hang on a display board next to her. At St. Nick’s Pub, Oscar the drummer waits among a crowd of jazz musicians until midnight. As the jazz crowd leaves, Oscar sets up on stage with other Africa Night musician. Tables are moved from the floor. A crowd of people dance. FAITH Men in high cut pants, t-shirts and tiny caps roll out rugs on cement. They face the east and bow to their knees. A group of women sit in front of a playground, speaking to people as they walk by. They offer smiles and magazines that

58

T he Original Proposals


witness Jehovah. Israelites dressed in all black with red belts and pins march past Marcus Garvey Park as they yell out a chant in early morning. Families exit churches in fancy attire. Rev. Nafissa Sharif instructs an African Dance class. Rhythms play out as a gym full of students sway down the floor. After the dance, they gather in a circle. Rev. Nafissa leads the class in mediation. FEAR Picture the homeless standing on a vacant lot chanting: “homes for the needy, not money for the greedy.” They are addressing a large bank, Chase. They build a tent city in effort to get more affordable housing. HOPE Florence M. Rice goes into a senior center and teaches about the digital divide. She walks down Madison Avenue to a youth recreation center and teaches youth about economic racism. Abraham Benjamin leads a painting class for youth at the Harlem Horizons Youth Center.

Regoufe – Mountain Village in Portugal Filmmaker: Maria Cláudia Ribeiro Vasconcelos Alves EICTV

SYNOPSIS In a mountain range north of Portugal lies a village called Regoufe. Its few inhabitants remember the golden times of mining, carried in mid twentieth century and struggle for better days in their daily work in agriculture and pasturage. MOTIVATIONS When Russell told me about this project for the first time, four months ago, I confess that I could not find out how a “Portuguese reality” could be so representative for a portion of humanity. The project seemed incredible to me; it seemed to be a great challenge to make an approach to something so universal which is the life of human beings. Having returned from a summer holiday in Portugal, where I was able to spend some time in my father’s hometown (Arouca), I received the detailed invitation to this project. I remembered with nostalgia the walks through the mountains of my country, and the landscape was so different from the one I saw through my window room at EICTV. The chestnut trees were now replaced by palms, the high mountains now extended on a green and humid area. Even the

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

59


smells had changed radically. This made me think that the most valuable things one could bring to a remote location are the memories and the satisfaction of knowing that once we come back, the places and the people will be there waiting for us, things that hold us and become again a living experience. Never again will I find elsewhere in the world those remote villages in the mountains where my father was born. These territories need to be rediscovered and must have a voice on the global scenario. I understood that because it has such a different reality, it could reach a much wider universality than other more standardized and global territories, such the big cities. That is when I decided to collaborate and to become part of this documentary project. What most surprised me in Regoufe, a mountain village where there is a huge mining complex that dates from World War II, was the way in which people keep fighting everyday to preserve the culture in the community and challenging the consequences derived from the migration of their sons and grandsons to the so called “more developed” places. On the other, hand I realized that this village was never isolated from the world as it might seem. Its social imaginary, of amazing richness, takes us to a space of universal recreation. The “I” takes to the “we,” due to the strong sense of group and community. And that, I think, must be documented. CONTEXT Portugal Due to its geographical position—the most western European country— and to its political status in the twentieth century (a long dictatorship)—the country did not join the development process carried out in the rest of Europe, especially the center and north. Maybe that is why today we can still find small communities of fishermen in the coastal areas, farmers and shepherds in the inland mountains, which have preserved their cultural identity away from the unbridled development of the large urban centers. Regoufe Village In the north of Portugal, in the mountain complex of Arada we find Regoufe Village, an agro-livestock community with few inhabitants, which belongs to the municipality of Arouca. Due to the geological interest on this region, Arouca has been appointed candidate for a geographical park net by European headquarters and UNESCO. Regoufe Village is known for its caves—Mines of Regoufe—and the extraction of tungsten (also called tungsten, chemical symbol: W) although they have been disabled. Historical Context In the last century, the village lived mostly from its sub-soil. In the surrounding mountains and caves of Regoufe tons of tungsten and tin were extracted used by the Allied forces in World War II, for the construction of military equipment. During this period, the mines were licensed to British entrepreneurs, who made the exploitation of the caves, although they still belonged to the Portuguese Society of Mines.

60

T he Original Proposals


Around 1,000 people worked in the caves that also came from other mountain communities of the region. The caves came to occupy several floors and over a dozen entries in its galleries. But the history of Regoufe is not limited to this mining period. Its history dates back to the prehistory, as witnessed by the mamoas (prehistoric monuments) made of granite stone. nATURAl PATRiMOny The Arada Sierra, characterized by its vast territory, is the home to rare species of fauna and flora, some of them in danger of extinction. It is not difficult to find urce or carquesia, and holly or strawberry trees. There are also Iberian wolves, wild boars, wild cats and the eagle. SOCiO-CUlTURAl COnTexT This mountain community is mainly organized and structured on a family and neighbor basis. Here, nature, the territory, religion, local festivities, marriage and many other traditions are elements and factors of unity and cultural identity. Culture is a common asset for the community; it is common property and a collective heritage. There are many oral traditions such as the tales and songs passed down from one generation to another. The tradition of the hand-woven linen bedspreads and the small fairs have also been maintained, and what’s very important, the rustic architecture (almost all of it using stones from the region) that tributes to an essentially agricultural and pasturage cultur The main festivities in the village are: Saint Amaro, January 15, and Saint Lucia, first weekend of August. The experiences and the everyday reality of this population show us that there is a social and symbolic value in space, that is to say, the village as physical, ecological and social space. TREATMENT How to go from the idea to the story? Without defining specific characters, in the next paragraphs I will try to draw a possible narrative structure to develop the story of this documentary. The structure is flexible and still fragile, due to insufficient research. For that reason, this text should be understood as a first step from the idea to the story. THe STORy I will try to show how Regoufe is strongly influenced by history. Through the voice of one of the elders of the community we find out that these mountains were inhabited by many different peoples... The Visigoths gave name to the village: “Regoufe” means “king of the wolves.”

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

61


THe BlACK GOlD We shall see how the community was marked by tungsten mining. We enter one of the caves through a dark tunnel. The abandoned cave is now shelter for goats in the hour of greatest heat, taking advantage of the cold air that comes from the interior. From those times we barely have left the metal rails on the floor. A former mine worker, an old man, tells us what life was like in those years of the “black gold� fever, as they called tungsten. We learned something interesting: while in the mines of Regoufe the British were the ones who controlled the exploitation of tungsten, on the other side of the mountain, in other caves about 5 kms away (Rio de Frades mines), the Germans were the explorers. So, while the two European powers were confronting each other in the world war, in these distant mountains in Portugal, Germans and English were coexisting peacefully. Portugal had established itself as neutral country in the conflict. Afterwards, the old man leads us to the mining facilities in the open, A landscape that seems unreal. There we discover the remains of machines that were used to extract the mineral. Rusted iron that did not escape the passing of time. The entire mining complex is now damaged, although the walls of the buildings continue to resist the seasons of the year. Some archival footage (private pictures and newspapers) will help us feed the imagery on that historical blossoming period of the village. PeDeSTRiAn TOUR After a trip to the past we will venture inside the present village and its surroundings. We will start with the narrowest streets, (getting closer in contemplative fashion to the life of its inhabitants) toward the mountain landscape, of a rare beauty. Strolling peacefully along the streets in the village center one walks past the church. You turn left and between stone walls that define the small orchards you arrive at the bridge over the Regoufe bank. We immediately start climbing a steep slope, surrounded by plants, some oaks and occasionally eucalyptus and pine trees. On the way we see hollow chestnut trees that exhibit their old age. The animals graze freely. When we reach the top we are surprised by the beauty of the immensurable landscape. liVinG I will try to expose the customs and the way of living of this community at present. The main challenge is to achieve an authentic approach to the form of sustenance; the love ties and solidarity within the community; the cultural expressions; the faith and their religious beliefs. Culture as a collective asset. A WORKinG DAy How is a typical working day from dawn to nightfall? We will accompany a farmer and / or a shepherd during one of their working days in the community. Thus, we will also know how family members cooperate with each other in the daily sustenance and how neighbors collaborate in collective tasks.

62

T he Original Proposals


HOliDAy After leaving the church courtyard, family and friends meet in the porch of a house and lunch is served: dry soup, small goat roasted in the coal oven and vellum “Arouquesa” vellum (cow breed of this region). Smoked sausages prepared in a collective chimney are brought to the table. Songs of secular and religious origin are sung. Note: Depending on the filming schedule, we will try to accompany a traditional feast. THe KinG OF WOlVeS I will try to relate the threats and fears felt within the community and the hopes that feed present generations, especially through the voice of the youngest. We will observe the mountain landscape, scenario of the Iberian wolf, as well as other mammals and protected birds, in case they are in danger of extinction). The wolf has always been a source of fear in children’s stories and in stories of mountain peoples as well. Are there any other wolves nurturing our every day present? What are the key concerns? We shall hear several testimonies from the inhabitants in the narration on what they expect from the future of the village, the challenges for future generations and for human beings, in a broader sense.

Voices of Oceania: The Samoan Community Filmmaker: Marina McCarthy Producer: Zanna Gillespie University of Auckland, New Zealand

The Oceanic development discourse has been laden with notions of dependency, vulnerability, backwardness and smallness. Samoa has the second highest amount of remittances as a share of GDP in the world (Heilmann; 2006); a financial contribution viewed unfavourably by Western economists. However, this pessimistic view of remittances by economists glosses over the panOceanic concept of reciprocity (1993) and the Samoan concept of tautua, or service. It maintains their connection to their family or aiga and homeland and it constitutes continued tautua to their aiga. This in turn strengthens their right and their children¹s right to a connection with their nu’u, or village, and therefore their ancestral homeland. Migration and remittances are a Samoan response to modernity.” Oceanic peoples have been engaged in these processes for thousands of years. They have stretched their geographic nu’u (village) to include the four corners of the globe. This is their answer to sustainable development. “They have grasped the idea of developing a people, irrespective of location, rather

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

63


than developing a country. They have separated nation from state in an unprecedented way” (Maiava; 2002). To deny this continuity of culture is to deny Samoans and their Oceanic cousins of their agency and ability to continue as active agents in their own future. We feel that by returning to this focus we can make new progress without having to deal with the difficulties we have so far encountered. Our take on our Samoan “community” will stem from Samoans living in New Zealand (Note that New Zealand boasts the largest Pacific Island community in the world) and Marina (the director) is also a part of this community. This does not mean we would not shoot in Samoa. What it means is that we would find our main character from the Samoan community here in New Zealand. The various stories for each theme would include members of their extended family in New Zealand and Samoa. We will therefore, be able to track their tautua (service), through remittances, from New Zealand back to Samoa, literally, capturing the notion that remittances are a way of providing for one’s family which is very much fa’aSamoa. We will also be able to show that migration, on a global scale, is an extension of the “ritual” of traversing the Moana (ocean) with the objective to increase cultural and economic capital. We will revise our ethics application this week and attach the appropriate support which we know we have for this. Following this we will begin a casting process by visiting Samoan churches and communities in Auckland, New Zealand. We hope to have some photographs of New Zealand based Samoan communities prior to the workshop, and some outlines of story angles for the six themes. This approach benefits us in a budget and timing sense as well. It will allow us to shoot over a longer period of time rather than in a condensed period only in Samoa. Our intention is still to shoot around one half of the material in Samoa with the extended family members of the NZ based Samoans who appear in the other stories.

Mata los indios STORYLINE In view of the death of Captain Sixto Minier and King Pío Prazobán, the new generation of La Cofradía del Espíritu Santo (Fraternity of the Holy Spirit) should preserve the tradition inherited from its ancestors PREMISE In 2001, UNESCO declared La Cofradía del Espíritu Santo of Villa Mella as Patrimony of Humanity, and together with the Secretary of State for Culture in Dominican Republic and the members of the Cofradía, it is carrying out a

64

T he Original Proposals

Filmmakers: Jean Jean Leon, Enrique “Kique” Cubero EICTV


project for its preservation. The Cofradía del Espíritu Santo is an inheritance of a more than two-hundred year old cultural expression, registered in the Black Carolyn Code from 1784, and dating from sixty years before the proclamation of the Dominican Republic. Shortly after the proclamation, the community lost two of its most distinguished representatives. How will the community overcome such loss? Will the king’s heir keep his word of honor? What are the factors that affect considerably the integrated development of the community? OBJECTIVES AND DEFINITION OF THE TOPIC La Cofradía de los Congos del Espíritu Santo de Villa Mella is a fraternity composed by musicians who play the congos, which are musical instruments closely linked to the Holy Spirit. The members of the Cofradía are linked by spiritual ties, with no discrimination due to race, gender, social status or age. It is organized into a hierarchy and the obligation to comply with its functions is transmitted by social familiar inheritance, both from father or mother. The community has a main double function: 1. Celebrating the feasts of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin of Rosario. 2. Celebrating funerals (Ninth Day, Cabo de Año and Banco) of deceased people whose lives were linked to the traditions of the Congos and to whose memory they dedicate 21 taps with their characteristic instruments (congo, conguito, maracas and canoíta). Besides, the fraternity coordinates and takes part in community events, social parties and celebrations in their own territory and elsewhere. The fraternity is a cultural and historical event that “syncretizes” Catholic and African expressions. It is at the same time, a cultural expression of resistance of African slaves, but above all it is a Dominican cultural expression. Nowadays the community is doubly affected, not only by the death of many of its main leaders—the last one, King Pío Brazobán, died when he was 103 years old—but because they will have to face the progressive extermination being endured by every cultural expression in the Dominican Republic. The Fraternity is being affected by several factors: the impact of the fast urban growth, migrations, unemployment, the high cost of living, the crossculturalization, the absence of justice that provides protection, the prejudices against values. This is the real panorama inherited by the fifth son of Don Pío, Bienvenido Brazobán, who promised his father before dying that the fraternity would improve and enrich, and even become better under his leadership. What steps are being taken by the community and the new leader to keep the tradition? Is everyone in the community conscious of the fact that keeping the tradition is

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

65


a key factor in the consolidation of the memory and identity of the Dominican nation? What are the basic elements for the survival of the community? MOTIVATION/POINT OF VIEW José Duluc, a musician and also a friend, together with anthropologist Soraya Aracena, among other friends, took me to a dance feast one night, promising me that I would live some crucial experiences as a black man, very similar to the ones I could live in Haiti. Duluc told me that I would meet one of his most esteemed persons: his master Sixto Minier. He also told me that Sixto had taken him to Haiti to introduce him to his homologue priests of voodoo. When we reached the place he told me that we were at Mata los Indios, a place of which I had heard magic stories that reminded me of my homeland. After walking, talking and dancing with some young people there, I met Don Sixto, who immediately inspired in me confidence and respect. Victor Piñeiro, a social science teacher, made an excellent description of the character of the captain, just after his death: “He was a man of with a strong character, loving and serene, but once he took a decision he did not retreat. A black man of the ‘jelofe’ lineage, with all the phenotypical characteristics.” Along the journey, Soraya told me that the community is in danger of disappearing due to the relentless marginalization to which it is submitted, and all they have to fight with is the music, a vehicle to transmit their traditions and beliefs. I immediately recalled a quote from Patrice Meyer that I had read in a book about human rights and cultural diversity: “The culture of a human being, like that of a group, is like a skin. It is superficial and determinant of identity, fragile and strong, with a very intimate epidermal sensitivity, directed outwards as an epiphany of the face, as peculiarly expressed by Emmanuel Levinas: an apparition of the interior.” And I could verify a latent truth in the faces of those people full of a redemptive melancholy, of a spiritual force revealed in the power of their gaze, of a beauty stunned by the overwhelming indifference, caused not only by the governments of a nation of Hispanic-African descendants, which aims solely to its Hispanic heritage in detriment of the vast majority of the African population that forms it, but also by the annoying disease of ignorance it produces, creating a vertiginously vicious circle. PROPOSAL This chapter aims at being made, not about the community, but rather with the community of Mata los Indios. Its approach arises from the construction of truth to the worldview of truth; from the everyday to the sublime; from the most ephemeral to eternity itself, but with a look that walks at the same pace of “The Other.”

66

T he Original Proposals


We like to think that the objectives in this film are motivated mainly by the Faith (in Spanish, Fe), with a capital F, in the same way that capital is the spiritual force that fills with courage and wisdom the human being that resists falling to the temptation of the abominable and perishable. The F stands for the rural order, as the arm that sows the earth, the E is the breath that escapes like lightning, dividing clouds two by two, and allowing the escape of a mermaid song tasting like sunburned land wet with rain. We wish to seek the beauty of the temporal order of the skin, the mysteries hidden in the times of the skin, that beating that snatches a fragment from eternity, that moment of darkness and the light given to us by the glance of the Other; to be seen glanced at by the Other, which places the viewer in the very center of the action; to hold the Other’s glance, who, in turn, holds the spectator’s glance, to form in this way a magic triangle that can unravel the most unfathomable mysteries of human nature. What is searched with this form is to create an organic dialectics with the viewer. Be it understood that our intention is to create a level of reflection between the characters and the viewer in which the questions that have been posed may have a space of search in the answer about the role of each community member, the true role of religious ceremonies, the important role played by syncretism in the dynamics of survival of tradition, as also the place held by the ancestors within this cultural expression. This coating gives an oneiric halo to our main topic: the six conditions that must be present to be considered a human being. 1. We are what we eat; sustenance is the basic need par excellence. Is the community enjoying food sovereignty? Where do the supplies for markets come from? Where does drinking water come from? How is the community supported financially in terms of communal interdependence? What is the status of work, employment, unemployment and daily chores? 2. Love is above all things. How close are the children to the religion of their relatives? Is love, that divine elixir, the ultimate goal? What level of loyalty is there among the members of the community? 3. Tradition vs. modernity: culture is all that is produced by men and women, and it is their duty to transmit it to the next generations, but‌ why is it constantly threatened with disappearance? Every gesture, every song, no matter how small an expression is, should it inevitably aim at the conservation of the community? 4. People have always said that faith can move mountains. Is faith what best characterizes a community like this one? Can funeral rituals give meaning to life after the death of a loved relative? What are the difficulties faced by the younger ones to continue with the beliefs of the eldest? 5. The capital of pain is fear. Fear is a crippling factor par excellence. Are the members of the community God-fearing? 6. When you lose hope, you take no further step forward, you do not advance anymore, and if there is a need in common for all human beings it

T he Original Proposal s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

67


is precisely that of taking one more step towards a better future. Is it hope what will lead us to that ultimate goal, love? Due to the incipient nature of the research, I shall be confined to suggest some potential characters that can carry the story on. Some hands shape other hands made of clay, when this hand is finished they complete the body of what seems to be to be an indigenous person, whose image is gradually completed before us as a tribute to the taínos who inhabited these lands, in commemoration of the slaughter of native peoples by a part of Europe. Don Bienvenido takes a train, which, leaving the city behind, takes us gradually into the heart of the community. Don Bienvenido stops to shop in a market the food he takes to his relatives. In this way, Don Bienvenido introduces us to the woman who sells in the market and we follow her; thus we will discover how the community residents obtain their sustenance. A couple about to get married might ask the king, their godfather Don Bienvenido, for his blessing. Thus we follow the couple to see the different activities developed by one of them: whether as multiplier within the community, devoted to school teaching, or as coordinator of activities at the community museum; at the same time we see the love of that member for his partner and the community. Don Bienvenido, next to some children, builds musical instruments while he tells them about how his ancestors arrived in those lands and how they syncretized their religious rituals of African origin with Catholicism. At the same time he introduces us to the protagonist of the last postulate, a palero that comes to pick up some tools and leaves, not without informing Don Bienvenido that later he will be the somebody’s “cabo del año” (finishing off). He nods, and keeps telling about the importance of the community as enclave of the Negro resistance in America and the importance of continuing the legacy, of spreading their culture. We participate in a ceremony or ritual of the community, in which Don Bienvenido talks to the adults. In this postulate we might well establish the hierarchical order, norms and doctrines ruling the community, or else the object of his faith. The mother of one of the boys listening to Don Bienvenido comes to take him away, and goes with him to her workplace, a multidisciplinary cultural center where a meeting is taking place to discuss the evils or fears that beset the community: drugs, AIDS, prostitution, etc. Don Bienvenido and the gentleman whom he had previously given the instruments celebrate together one of the most characteristic ceremonies of the community: el Banco, that is, the arrival of the soul of that dear person to the dwelling of his/her ancestors, which is the best evidence of the hope they have in a better future, whether in this life or in the other. This ceremony is performed by the family members of a deceased person once the necessary years—three to five—have gone by, when they abandon their mourning and celebrate this event.

68

T he Original Proposals


The First Meeting The diversity of the proposals revealed not only a richness of human communities, but also a sense of profound commitment to the values of the project. Once our participant schools had been selected, we then had to arrange the complicated process of bringing these very diverse organizations together, so that we would have a clear understanding from the outset of what our shared vision and mission would be, in the way we had conceived them. This had to take into account that each institution had its own agenda and academic structure, which could be quite complex. We arrived at the point of our scheduled meeting, in January of 2010, having already established very amicable relationships via e-mail with some of the participants, in addition to having begun to share evident energy and enthusiasm. We had to make sure that the Agreement between us all was as clear and binding as possible. We needn’t have worried about the fact that we would hardly get to know each other in one or two days, because we became friends and colleagues, and the spirit of the project seemed to flow through the encounter with goodwill and passion. The first meeting was held in the Higher Studies Department from the EICTV, a leisurely stroll through a beautiful tropical landscape the main classrooms, student accommodation, dining room, hospital and swimming pool of the school. Coincident with the meeting of the schools participating in the Series, the Second Meeting of Documentarians was to take place at the EICTV. In January of 2009 the First Meeting of Documentarians, entitled “The Documentary Witness,” aimed at the students of the documentary specialty of the school and to a wider community of students interested in the topic of documentaries as an instrument of change, as well as to students of the Higher Institute of Art of Havana and of the School of Journalism. Documentarians from different places and outspoken social commitment came as guests. Among them we should highlight the names

70

T he First Meeting


of David Bradbury, from Australia; Goran Radovanovic, from Serbia; Richard Kerr, from Canada; Thomas Weinberg, from the United States; Miguel Silveira, from Brazil; Michael Chanan, from England; Susana Barriga, Jorge Fuentes, Kiki Álvarez, from Cuba, among others. We wanted to dedicate the Second Documentary Meeting to the Human Community and the importance of the documentary in this context. We especially invited four promoters of audiovisual projects linked to communities to carry out case studies of them. The guests were: Alina Frapiccini, from the Kine Foundation in Argentina; Alexandra Halkin, from Chiapas Media Project; Daniel Diez, from Televisión Serrana, in Cuba, and Rut Gómez Sobrino, from the UNESCO Audiovisual Platform. These guests participated in some of the sessions of the meeting, and the experiences of both groups were useful in the analysis on the importance of working from inside the communities, training, integrating, sharing knowledge and confidence in the possibilities of the documentary as instrument of reflection. Before the Meeting the Advisory Committee set out to write a referential framework that could serve as basis to reflect and discuss together with the representatives of the schools, on the Collaboration Agreement that would enable the incorporation of the project to the different schedules and academic structures, to make the series a reality. This agreement, concerning the guidelines and conventions that would guide the process, would be based more than anything on the obligation and responsibility to ensure that the material filmed corresponds to the truth of the chosen communities in a respectful and dignified manner and with a high level of technical skill. The basic points taken into consideration for the Agreement were: relationships between the schools, responsibilities and rights.

T he First Meeting

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

71


Proposal for an Agreement Between the eiCTV and the Participating Schools The EICTV will act as the EXECUTIVE PRODUCER (EP) in the Project. Russell Porter, Head of the Documentary Department at the EICTV and creator of the series concept will act as Creative Director (CD) of the documentary series To Be a Human Being. The schools chosen to participate in the project of the documentary series To Be a Human Being will be known as the Participating Schools (PS). The participants in the meeting convened by the EP and CD in January 2010 at the EICTV will be, from that moment onwards, known as the Supervising Committee (SC), and will be made up by the responsible authorities from the PS. The PS agree that the EP and the CD will be responsible for the creative control of the series. The PS will follow the creative directives of content and style already defined by the EP and the CD of the Series. The PS, the EP and the CD will be guided by the principles and educational interests that brought about the Series, according to the guidelines outlined in the Call for Entries; The PS must nominate, no later than February 15th, the producer of their proposal and will formally present them to the EP and the CD. These producers will be the link between the creative team of the proposals and the EP and CD; Between February 1st and May 31st of 2010, the EP and CD will receive via e-mail a compulsory monthly update on the research and development of each proposal, with images. The EP and CD will send in return their notes and commentaries. The producers appointed by the PS will be the responsible for the remittances on behalf of the PS. Following the January encounter of the SC at the EICTV, a mailing list will be made that will include the producers appointed by the schools, the Directors and SC. For the workshop to be held from June 14th to 25th, each Director must bring a folder of his/her proposal with the following elements: Storyline/Objectives/

72

T he First Meeting


Rationale/Description of the community/Point of view/a critical survey of the research/a synopsis/character breakdown/Director’s treatment/ proposals for photography (light, color, textures, movements); sound /textures nd silences, proposed music, if any); editing (rhythm and pacing, transitions); support material (photos, archives, press)/ a shooting plan / technical details / local production budget / local support plan. The workshop for the students/directors of the project will take place from June 21st to July 2nd, after selection of the former by the different PS. This workshop has two fundamental objectives: that the directors get to know each other and understand the philosophy of the EICTV, which has convoked to the project, as well as the CD of the series. As second objective, they will work collaboratively on each proposal, explore weaknesses and strengths and the story of the Series, as well as the aesthetic and ethical considerations. Once the June workshop is finished, the final pre-production stage begins. By the end of August, the PS must send to the EP the definitive shooting schedules. The PS will take responsibility for the production of each local filming stage and, within their possibilities, will try to obtain resources for the postproduction process, particularly concerning airfare for the directors. The PS will be responsible for ensuring that the required technical standards are achieved during the shooting stage, to guarantee the quality and consistency of the series. It is required that during the shooting stage there is a basic crew sufficient to guarantee the quality of the material filmed, composed of: a director of photography, a sound recorder, production and directing assistants. 1.1 The PS will ensure that the participants involved in the shooting stage are students developing a part of their educational process with the filming. 1.2 The PS must guarantee that involvement of their professors and the Department of Documentary Direction in the training of students will take place throughout the stages of the series. 1.3 The video format to be used will be HD 16:9. 1.4 PS will ensure that the shooting ratio does not exceed 15:1 in terms of material shot. This is fundamental in order to realize the post production schedule and the delivery dates of the DVDs of the series to the PS. 1.5 The Participating Schools must send regular updates to the EP and CD information about the status of the production and material that could be used for promotion during the process, such as photos, texts and a shooting log, to update the series web page and the book To Be a Human Being, and other forms of promotion. 1.6 The EP and/or CD can, insofar as possible, visit and participate in some of the shoots, at specific moments. The EP will seek ways to finance airfares, accommodation and meals for these visits. The PS will guarantee logistical support to make this participation possible. 1.7 The delivery of final footage to the EICTV / EP will be in the following manner: Each PS will send a hard drive containing a pre-selection of ten hours of material, plus the additional five hours of all the shot material. The hard drive will also include a back up of the same material. The ten hours of pre-selected material must be accompanied by transcripts and time code. T he First Meeting

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

73


1.8 The PS must send, not only the transcription of the shot material, but in addition, in the cases where the languages are other than English or Spanish, translated transcripts in these two languages, with time code. 1.9 The filmed material should be accompanied by three hours of sound track containing long ambient/presence tracks from each location, interviews and off that could be used in voice over, and original diagetic music (recorded on location). 1.10 The PS, after delivering the fifteen hours of raw material to the EP and CD, can use their material to make their own audiovisual products, so long as they don’t compete directly with the Series or undermine its objectives. 1.11 By March 31st 2011, at the latest, all the filmed material, transcribed and translated must be in the hands of the EP to begin the process of post production of the series, which must be finalized by August 31, 2011. 1.12 The EP and the CD can only use this material for the episodes of the series and its promotion. 1.13 The EP and the CD will undertake all stages of Post Production, which will take place at the EICTV. There will be one sole image editor and one sole sound editor. If the PS are able to cover air fares in order to participate in the edit script stage (15 days), the EICTV will cover costs of accommodation and meals of one representative per PS. For the rest of the post production stage, the decisions will be with the EP and CD. 1.14 The PS will undertake the costs of any creative rights for original music that may be included—if necessary—in the parts that correspond to their communities. 1.15 The EP will contract musicians in Cuba for the composition and performance of original music, which will be one of the unifying threads of the series, covering all six episodes. 1.16 The EP will undertake subtitling in English and Spanish of the entire series in the understanding that the PS will prepare in a professional manner all transcription, with time code. 1.17 The Participating Schools must obtain release forms for all people whose image appears in the shot footage, in addition to location releases if necessary, and music rights clearances for any diagetic music used during the filming. 1.18 The credits for the series will include all participants, collaborators in the process, members of communities and local authorities who given their support. The products made separately by the PS should include credits of the other school participating in the project. 1.19 The EP, after finalizing the documentary series, will send to each PS a digital sub-master, subtitled in English and Spanish, and copies in DVD. 1.20 The PS can copy these DVDs, for use strictly in education and/or within communities.

74

T he First Meeting


1.21 The documentary series To Be a Human Being is a non-profit project, and therefore in this first version no commercialisation is anticipated. The distribution of the Series will be the responsibility of the EP. 1.22 The PS can distribute the audiovisual products they obtain from their raw material. 1.23 The PS, having previously consulted with the EP, can show the Series (but not distribute it) in non-commercial venues. 1.24 The EP will be the only one authorized to distribute the Series in festivals, meetings, etc. 1.25 The EP will inform and invite the PS to take part in festivals within their regions. The PS could possibly and if considered necessary, represent the EP in the case that the EP was unable to participate. 1.26 Together with the DVDs, the EP and DC will prepare a press kit (English/ Spanish) to promote the series, and a teaching guide that will be sent to the PS together with the documentary series, for relevant use. 1.27 Throughout the entire process, the representatives of the PS before the EP and CD will undertake to comply with the guidelines established by the present agreement, including the technical, aesthetic and ethical guidelines of the proposals. This is essential to guarantee the coherence of the series and conditions necessary for the post production. The PS will cede to the EP all rights to the photos and production notes, which will be used in the website and in the book To Be a Human Being that will accompany the DVD. The EP and CD undertake that the Book To Be a Human Being will not be sold for profit and will be distributed strictly within educational and community circles. The EP and CD propose a simultaneous launch/screening of the Series, at a date to be agreed, between September 15 and October 30, 2011. The PS agree to give copies of the series to the selected communities and to hold a screening of the entire series in those communities. We received the following message from Vanessa Alexander (producer, Director of Screen Production, University of Auckland), “Voices of Oceania” Proposal Coordinator, Samoan Community. From the moment I first read Russell and Tanya’s vision for an international documentary project between film schools, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It was to be exciting and somewhat audacious to attempt something on this scale outside of a traditional production environment, but for me achieving this has been a victory. A victory signaling a future where more “untold” stories find their way into the greater awareness despite distance, budget, and the impossibility of attaching A-list Hollywood stars.

T he First Meeting

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

75


As the producer of the Samoa section of the To Be a Human Being, we faced some particularly difficult challenges—most especially the physical isolation of the community. There would be no driving down the road and shooting for a couple of hours and going back next month if we wanted Oceania to have a presence in the finished film. The resources required to shoot at this distance from the school meant that at best there would be one shooting period. Fast. Well-planned. No going back for pick-ups! During my own visit to Cuba as part of the early “vision” meetings between the “producing” schools, I grew determined to ensure that the isolation of Samoa would not prevent us from choosing shooting there. On the warm days and nights where we shared our stories, our similarities, our differences it became clear that diversity was one of the great strengths of the project. In reality, back in New Zealand, that meant finding money. Shooting in Safua on the island of Savaii required a “real” budget for airfares, cars, car ferries, accommodation, and translators—and that was just for the research trip. For the shoot we would need to find all this again. Disparity in our financial means versus that of the village meant that providing financial support for the village during the shoot was essential because while we had very little at our disposal, they had even less. Giving is an important part of Samoan culture, and we did not want our presence and their desire to support us to become a financial strain on the community. It’s testimony to the original vision for the project that we were able to raise the substantial financial support we needed from The University of Auckland Foundation, and the Department of Film, TV, and Media Studies. With a cash budget in hand we began to work on the “goodwill” budget. Our team would work day and night for a month—sharing small rooms—in the heat of summer— on what thankfully is a very beautiful island. The payment would be simply the life-changing experience of living day after day in the Safua village. A tiny window of opportunity in their lives. The team (Marina, Zanna, Jos and Junior) remain forever changed, and the hospitality, kindness and sincerity the Fiaui family and the village showed them was remarkable. To Be a Human Being was an amazing opportunity for all of us to work on an international scale in a new way. A chance to collaborate with like-minded filmmakers to bring largely untold stories to a greater awareness. A shared vision and generosity of spirit among many collaborators that touches the complex and often elusive beauty of a global world.

76

T he First Meeting


Tanya Valette / Russell Porter

On the Process of Searching for Aesthetic References Having selected the communities and started the exchange of correspondence with some of the directors, we began to think of the meeting to be held in June and the need to find a framework of aesthetic references, both of image and sound, in addition to a conceptual framework, a sort of shared code of honor, with ethical positions that would guarantee that the relationship between the directors and the subjects of the communities would be established with respect and affection. Only then would it be possible to find afterwards, on the screen, the project that we had seen so clearly on paper. I traveled to Chicago early in April, where Russell was immersed in his responsibilities as a teacher at Columbia College. During five days we devoted ourselves to the task of finding photos, sequences of emblematic documentaries, artists, until we created what we call the referential kit: two DVDs sent from Cuba to each of the participating countries through friendly hands, another adventure until each kit arrived at its destination; bottles thrown to the sea which found a sensitive recipient that knew how to interpret, in each case, with attentive eyes, ears and heart, each one of the selected references. When we met in June, all of us already seemed to have a common language, an old complicity that did nothing but continue developing as the days went by. Once the energy created by the January meeting had subsided, it was back to work, preparing the next stages. When we weren’t in the same place, Tanya and I were in contact almost every day, with messages and ideas flying between the EICTV and Chicago or Australia or wherever we found ourselves to be. It was a very intense and creative process, whose basic objective was the refining and detailing of the guidelines and the processes of production.

T he First Meeting

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

77


Here is an extract of one of our exchanges: From: Russell Porter To: Tanya Valette …Regarding the program, I agree with what you say about the need to transmit and share some values implicit in the series, but since they are intangible and cannot be put in writing, it is something that will emerge from the intimate, personal dialogues, they are going to absorb them between lines and in the atmosphere of the School. It is important that they realize that they have an opportunity to do something uncommon in the world, a world that already almost does not recognize the value of poetry, much less in the field of audiovisuals, which have become plain commercial objects. However, the School still has this possibility; it is evidenced in the works that so inspired the January participants. The moment of conversion to them was when they saw the works of Marquinhos (Marcos Pimentel), of Pucha Vida, of La Marea (documentary projects of the EICTV). It was the moment of: “Yeesss.” This commitment with life is something we all have, but almost never find the context in which to think about it and to share the magic of existence, with a basis as deep as that of the series. But we also have to admit that there are other forms of magic, of poetry, different from ours, like the ones that saturate many of the communities we have chosen; and therefore, when we teach the aesthetics and the ethics that we have already conceived we must let each one express what is different and unique in each community: the magic and the different rhythms of the Hindus, Bedouins, Samoans, Wayuu, the criollos from your island. I don’t wish to impose such a predetermined aesthetic that the directors will not be able to express the cultural peculiarity, the way to tell stories, of being a human being, which will be the wealth of the series. Each place has its spirituality, its way of expressing itself, of loving, of believing, which shows in its form and different rhythm. Well, what I’m trying to say—I’m thinking while I write—is that we will have to search for a balance, avoiding the imposition of homogeneity. We wish to show the premise of “what we have in common”—the series—and what is interesting, “what makes us different,” in each culture. From: Tanya Valette To: Russell Porter I would very much like to be in some sessions of the workshop and make my own map of life too. I conceive this workshop as a sort of Society of Dead Poets. There has to be a communion of ideas and feelings there, and succeed in making a profound affection emerge among all. I know it is possible; the place has every condition for it. I think that other important aspects to be taken into consideration, in addition to those contained in the guidelines, should be to maintain the position, a commitment toward life and the human being, a point of view and the organization of that glance. To talk a little bit about everything, about what we believe, what we want, with whom we dream. To talk about the defining characteristics, of what they mean to each one of us. Philosophical, ethical positions, and from there, go to an aesthetic discourse, to that need and that vital commitment that the artist-poet should have (to me they are things that are impossible to keep away or distinguish) of flooding the world with beauty, but not the trivial or frivolous beauty, not the poetry that rhymes, the beauty of truth, of the depth with which you look, the intuition of the unique and authentic instant…

78

T he First Meeting


And the Ship Sails Meanwhile, the Agreement began its long circumnavigation of the globe, being sent from one institution to another to be signed and witnessed, before it finally came back to the EICTV. We planned for the schools to report back to their student filmmakers from our meeting and prepare them for the next stages of research and development of their proposals, including gaining the access and trust necessary to film in each community, and also to identify the potential main characters, protagonists, and issues relevant to each community. To help with this, we prepared a catalogue of guidelines and notes for the students who were going to meet with us at the EICTV over two weeks in June and July 2010. One by one, from all points of the compass, the filmmakers began to arrive at the EICTV. As happens with everyone, the initial impressions of the school are a surprise, to say the least. The journey from Havana airport to the School bypasses the city edges and heads out into the lush and languid Cuban countryside. The trip can take anywhere from about 40 minutes to twice that long, depending on the weather and road conditions. The School’s drivers and taxis tend to take the back roads, through small villages, past fields of sugar cane and yucca, weaving through the endless procession of rickety old vehicles, livestock, chickens and kids playing baseball with broomsticks and stones. People are everywhere on the roads, riding on bicycles or pedicabs, smokey motorbikes, all kinds of improvised and rebuilt motorized machines carrying all kinds of goods. Those on foot wave as you drive past, kids in school uniform, police, soldiers, workers and old ladies, all trying to hitch a ride. Others wait patiently for a bus or truck, sheltering under the lush great trees from sun or rain.

80

And the Ship Sail s


Suddenly, just as the road seems to be retreating ever further from all signs of civilisation, you arrive at the school gates and enter a beautiful long avenue of elegant palm trees. The school’s whitewashed buildings emerge from amidst the carefully tended gardens and trees covered in flowers. We knew most of the participants only from email contact, so our first challenge was to see if we could make them all feel at home, find common ground and a common language, to see if there could possibly be a common vision. The student filmmakers were indeed a very mixed cross-section of humanity, and a perfect way to test the premise and philosophy of To Be a Human Being. The students from the EICTV were no exception. Jean Jean Leon, from the Dominican Republic, originally from Haiti; Ismael “Kique” Cubero, from Puerto Rico, Claudia Alves from Portugal and Leiqui Uriana from the indigenous Wayuu nation that straddles both Venezuela and Colombia. Also from Colombia came young filmmaker Helena Salguero, who was to work with Leiqui. From New York came Laura Cardona, Colombian-American; Joslyn Duncan, an African American activist, mixed media and video maker, and cameraman Michael Lenic, originally from Vancouver. From Spain came the youngest member of the group, Rafael “Rafa” Ruiz. From New Zealand came Marina McCartney, with a Samoan-English background and passion for Polynesian people and causes, and Zanna Gillespie, a writer-producer. They were joined by Sreya Chetterjee, a Bengali filmmaker from Calcutta, and from Jordan came three young men—Abdelsallam Al-Hajj, Osama Namrouqa and Said Najmi. What followed was something marvellous. Three weeks of the most intense, passionate and affirming experiences imaginable. The chemistry between our participants was quite remarkable, and the structure of the workshop allowed for maximum exchange of ideas and collaboration in the practical exercises, and lifelong friendships were created. The programme for the workshop was intense, collaborative and an ideal way to see what can happen when a random (well not quite random) selection of human beings come together with a common purpose. To help coordinate the programme and to be a major inspiration for the participants, we called on one of our most distinguished graduates, a Brazilian documentarian and teacher, Marcos (Marquinhos) Pimentel. Marcos was a graduate of the EICTV in 2004 and has since made many award winning films, always with the utmost ethical integrity, care to detail and a distinctive aesthetic sensibility. He has also traveled extensively, and organized and conducted a series of filmmaking workshops with students in the Portuguese speaking countries of Africa. The structure of the workshop was carefully planned to impart the essence of our collective project, to suggest a wide range of stylistic and technical reference point, to create bonds through shared practical exercises. We also allowed plenty of time for discussion, exchanging ideas and socializing. In the process, the group turned itself into a very close and loyal family. One of the objects of this workshop was to create an alchemy between

And the Ship Sail s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

81


the directors that would accompany them throughout their filming and which you could subsequently sense in the Series. As an example of this, here is an email exchange with Lola Mayo, Coordinator of the proposal of the Madrid Film Institute. From: Tanya Valette To: Lola Mayo Dear Lola, The workshop is even beyond our dreams and I love that. Our dreams start to become true and surpass us. We are already a big family. What we are doing was born to remain. Many kisses, Tanya From Lola Mayo To: Tanya Valette and Russell Porter Dear Tanya and Russell: I am thrilled to think that it all starts again, or rather, that it all continues It is a joy and a great fortune that you all meet there again today, this time with the directors of the series, to create again this small world that is To Be a Human Being, with all the challenges, the difficulties, the joy, the tenderness, the rage, the enthusiasm, the discouragement and the rebirth entailed in what is so difficult and lovely: to be a person in our contradictory and beautiful world. I envy you for being there, and I congratulate you for the vital and creative program you have to achieve in these days. I image you all sitting together, thinking ideas, discussing, tearing papers, writing, dreaming histories and characters, questioning everything, fighting. To me it has been an honor and a discovery to meet you, the School and the project. There are things you dream of. But this one I hadn’t even dreamt of. You were ahead of my dreams! I wish you all the energy and all the vitality for these days. We are on our way! I embrace you, Lola By the end of the workshop, it was clear that for many of those taking part it had been a life-changing experience. Permanent friendships and working partnerships had been made and the sense of participation in a challenging and rare project was marvelously palpable. Before the group began reluctantly to disband, to share our last meals, drinks, and farewell hugs and head back to our homelands, Tanya and I produced the following summary of the experience. It includes a restatement of our aims and motives, which we called the Manifesto.

82

And the Ship Sail s


Reflections We thank you profoundly for what you have brought to this gathering from across the planet—to share your cultures, your passions and your ideas. Before we finally came together, this project was an intangible dream, based on an act of faith that young, talented people from the most varied backgrounds imaginable could come together to transcend geography, history and diversity to find common ground, to realize an audacious collective vision. After seeing how readily we have come to know each other, to share stories about our lives, our communities, our hopes and uncertainties, and to work so well with each other, I no longer have any doubts that we can make an extraordinary project together. The premise of the Series has been vindicated, because you have shown the validity of the concept original: “what we have in common is very big, and what is different is very interesting.” The EICTV is the only place I know of—The School of All the Worlds— where such a dream could even be contemplated, much less brought to life. For the Project to fulfill its great and ambitious promise, we must aim for excellence in every aspect of its production. We must avoid mediocrity in our approach, our technical skill and our dealings with all the people who will share the journey with us. What follows is a summary of what we have discussed together. It begins by restating the values that underlie the project, a kind of manifesto, a statement of aims and beliefs that will unite us in our shared vision and work, to demonstrate to the world what it really means “to be a human being.”

And the Ship Sail s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

83


Manifesto This project is an act of love—for ourselves, for each other, for our species, for life on earth itself. It is an antidote to cynicism, prejudice, manipulation, and nihilism, a repudiation of the forces driving the wider audiovisual universe that seem to be increasingly preoccupied with human failure, catastrophe and futility. To Be a Human Being will be a celebration of us, a restoration of faith in our incredible species and our ability to transcend, an expression of the human ideals that seem to have been forgotten in the daily catalogue of distrust, oppression and injustice. It is about individual stories and collective aspirations, told from within, by people and communities that are rarely represented on our screens. We are making an expansive statement, not just about the human condition, but also about the ways our stories are told. The series is about the deconstruction of the documentary subject as “other than us”. This project therefore is an opportunity to do something uniquely focused and positive in this chaotic moment of human history—to use our skills and creativity and our access to human communities to make a proud collective statement: “this is who we are—here and now.” We are not aiming to create a romantic rose-tinted vision of humanity. We must acknowledge that the daily lives for many, if not most, of the world’s peoples is hard, often under threat, increasingly pressured by cultural hegemony, conflicts over different beliefs and ethnicities, rights to land, water and other resources, and environmental destruction. The spirit of the series is, however, one of respect for one another and for the people who will allow us to enter their worlds, to present their narratives and to share their ways of being, thinking, believing, working and struggling.

84

And the Ship Sail s


We will recognize the fundamental dignity and validity of every expression of the human condition in the faces, words, lives and daily challenges of our brothers and sisters, in all our infinite diversity. We as the filmmakers will make no judgments about what our communities represent or present to us. In times like these, of transition and uncertainty, theirs are the voices that matter most, especially because they are the voices heard the least. Our work on the series will open windows onto the lives of each individual and community, each with its own remarkable specificity, with compelling clarity and honesty. We will find the extraordinary in the commonplace, the universal in the particular. We want to create in our audience the illusion of transcending their own realities, crossing through the screen into someone else’s world, to recognize ourselves in their lives and to create the powerful sensation of actually “being there.” Our access as filmmakers will be privileged by definition, but we must always remember that we meet the members of our chosen communities as equals, with the awareness that we have a great responsibility to carry their stories, with minimal mediation, into the wider world. We will be the vehicle through which each moment in space and time we record will endure as part of the careful and eloquent documentation of human culture that is as old as human history itself, to be shared with people in all places and all times. To Be a Human Being is in the vanguard of what can be seen as the fourth wave of documentary filmmaking—freed at last from the constraints of prescriptive markets, privileged access to technologies, and the ever-more conservative global models of production, distribution and exhibition. This series is planned to be the first of many projects made under the banner of “to be a human being.” It will be an ongoing, open-ended and interactive collective portrait of humanity, using a wide variety of techniques and tools of communication. To fulfill this dream, we need you to help this first series to be a spectacular success. If it works as well as our collaboration here has promised, we will be contributing powerfully to the great archive of human creativity, following the ancient footsteps of artists and storytellers everywhere and in every time, as messengers of truth and hope for future generations.

And the Ship Sail s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

85


Things We Have to Remember as We Begin Production METHODOLOGY AND APPROACH For each of us, working on this project will be a kind of dance, in which we each find our own way of expressing what we experience, know and feel—but always with the awareness that we are all dancing together to the same rhythm to create a spectacular kaleidoscope of meaning, and insight. In practice, the challenge of making this series will be to resolve the inherent contradiction between our individual perceptions of reality and the need for a shared vision and approach. During this workshop we have discussed a range of concepts and approaches, some of which emerged from the original documents “Call for Entries,” “Episode Themes,” “Revised Guidelines” and “Rules for Postproduction.” Others came from suggestions and ideas generated within the workshop. Please re-read the original documents carefully as you go into preproduction and shooting stages—they contain our common ground. Much of the discussion in the workshop was based around how we are going to find elements in each community that will help us structure each episode and make transitions between the segments shot for each of the themes. Here then is a reiteration and summary of the basics, with additional comments and suggestions. GENERAL GUIDELINES 1. We are aiming for the highest possible production values. The overall style with be mainly observational, with careful composition, shooting on tripod whenever possible, and attention to visual details, since they are essential to creating a unified “look” for each location and for the coherence of the Series. Equally important is the recording of the highest quality location sound.

86

And the Ship Sail s


2. Each episode of the Series will be self-contained, strongly focused on its theme. There will be approximately 7 or 8 minutes of screen time for each community within each fifty-minute episode, so careful and efficient preproduction, planning and shooting are essential. 3. The guiding line of all community segments will be the community itself and its inhabitants, not a dramatic situation. 4. Although each community segment in each episode will be self-contained, we will create collages of portraits or landscapes from each community at the head of each episode. 5. The “voice” of each segment will be that of the people themselves—with no anonymous narration or filmmaker voiceover. We will avoid hearing directors’ questions during interviews—if necessary you must ask your subjects to repeat the question in their answers. 6. Record separate interview tracks of our subjects’ voices in a situation without lots of extraneous noise—detailed comments in a conversational mode that can be used as voiceover if necessary. 7. At the beginning of each interview, ask your interviewees to state their name, where they are from, and what they do—their role in the community. 8. We want to ensure that the distinctive identity of everyone with a speaking role is revealed in their home, street, place of work or worship. Personality is a key to the richness of human diversity, so we want to see them in their own context. 9. Make sure to make a small chart and list of shots of each segment before going out to shoot. These charts will be sent to us during the pre-process, and will accompany the material shot that comes in the hard drives for the post-image and sound process. Irrespective of making this chart, you should always allow for the possibility of an open door and be prepared to shoot the unexpected. THe PeOPle This is a series about what it means for each person to be a human being, so our main focus must always be with the people. We want you to take us into their worlds, to allow them to show us who they are, here and now. We want to see the human beings in all their individual diversity, and have them reveal to us the most important elements of their lives. We want to you to present to us people of all ages, classes, backgrounds and personalities. We are creating a family album of humanity. 1. For each community segment of each episode, we want you to find an articulate, charismatic central protagonist, someone who can introduce us to and interact with the relevant people and situations that correspond with the episode theme. This could be the same person for more than one episode, but it would be better if a separate person could take the role in each segment—with the others also part of the scene. 2. The protagonist in each segment will help to introduce us to the wider community and people relevant to that segment’s theme. Ideally we want to see at least some of the same people recur in different segments to reinforce the sense of an inter-connected community and to allow for a range of points of view.

And the Ship Sail s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

87


3. Interviews: We want to avoid formal “talking head” interviews, allowing our subjects to discuss their thoughts and ideas in a conversational manner, while continuing their activities as they introduce us to the people and aspects of their community relevant to each theme, “showing” rather than “telling” us the nature of their reality. 4. Vox Pops: Spontaneous interviews with people in the street or other places in the community (people of all ages and social classes). More than anything we want to hear their brief opinions about the six episode themes, provoked by questions like: a) Sustenance: What are the basics that you need in order to survive? What things do you eat and drink? What are the daily challenges you face in order to maintain your life, your community? b) Love: We want you to record the place and meaning of “love” within your community—in the wider sense of family, friends, neighbours, human relationships—to reinforce the sense that human beings are a deeply inter-dependent and inter-connected species. c) Faith: What do you believe in? What are the most important values in life? What do you think of politics, morals, religion? What do you think about humanity—the good and the bad? d) Culture: What are the aspects of your culture—poetry, visual arts, festivals, music—that you like the most? For someone who does not know your community, what things would you most like to show them about its culture? e) Fear (Freedom from oppression): What things are you, your community, humanity and the planet most afraid of? What are the things or forces that most threaten the life of the community? f) Hope: What is your hope for the future? What kind of life do you want future generations to have? What is going to happen to this community? Can we continue to survive living the way we do now? 5. Collective activity: To support the sense of community, we want you to include in every segment scenes of people together—gatherings in the streets and marketplaces, places of entertainment, sharing meals, working together, chatting over coffee or whatever, with neighbors, friends, family. We also want to see the festivals, ceremonies and community rituals, kids and elders playing and enjoying themselves; traditional and spontaneous dances. 6. Gestures of hands doing something, feet in close up walking, bicycling, riding a horse. Details of the body language, ornamentation of the body, jewelry, tattoos. 7. Portraits: Faces evoking each place and culture. We want to see large portraits of children, adolescents, women and men, elders. In each case, we want you to shoot the face in close up, looking straight to the camera.

88

And the Ship Sail s


8. Because of the wide screen aspect ratio, we ask you to shoot mid-shot portraits in every location, especially of children (but also old people and others with distinctive faces) standing against a wall, in left of frame, with a door or window on the right of frame. 9. In addition to the static portraits, we want you to frame closer and ask your subjects to introduce themselves, to tell us their name, where they are from and what they do. Children and old people can be more expressive. These images may be used at the beginning (or end) of each episode. 10. Collaborations: Scenes and sequences of people working or playing together for a common purpose—games, building and repairing buildings or other things, people carrying materials to a place of construction, harvesting, buying, preparing and sharing food, obtaining water and other beverages. People traveling through the landscape to achieve these goals. Shots, sequences, leitmotiFS and transitions These images will be important to help us in the editing, structure and integration of the huge amount of raw footage we will work with in post-production. 1. Landscapes: Establishing shots that show us the situation in each location—if possible, high shots of the city, the town, neighborhood or surrounding landscape should be filmed in each location. 2. General, medium and close shots that take us closer into the central sequence of each segment and action, to have the sense of approaching and becoming progressively absorbed into the community. 3. Textures: The look of walls, buildings, fabrics, signs, posters, graffiti, murals—visual elements that speak directly of the nature of the community. Especially look for images that speak of the themes of each segment. 4. Human hands, feet, skin, eyes in big close-up. Footprints and hand prints, signs of the lives they have lived as if written onto their bodies. 5. The objects that form part of the life of each individual, in their homes, workplaces and communities: the furniture, tools, toys and decorations that help us tell the story of each human life. 6. Sunsets and sunrises: across land, towns or landscapes and seascapes. Include some time-lapse sequences— starting at dusk as the sun goes down to reveal the star-lit sky, and vice-versa—from night sky to the breaking of dawn. Tilts up and down from sky to land and vice versa. 7. Animals and their inter-dependence with human communities—camels in the desert, street dogs, cows and monkeys, goats, birds and insects, people with horses, sheep, catching fish. 8. Trees, food plants, flowers as part of the human landscape, the sense that we are (for all our manipulation of the environment) still part of the natural world. 9. Images of people dealing with weather elements—wind, electrical and sand storms, rain, cloudscapes, earth, running water, reflections in still water. Water on leaves, mud, rivers and puddles. Shadows and reflections. 10. “Natural blacks”—images in which we move out of the light into a dark place (entering a building, for example), moments when the camera lens is covered suddenly by clothing, the fabric of tents. 11. Movement of traffic, animals, people crossing through the static frame and also panning with these movements.

And the Ship Sail s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

89


12. Traveling shots—from moving vehicles or the backs of animals, leading us into a community, walking with them through the streets and markets, a sense of the rhythm of societies in transit, going from one place to another, people departing, arriving, people in action, people at rest. 13. Archival images—stills and movies, documents and maps—should be filmed, but only if they help us tell a contemporary story. If the people show us their old albums and other images from the past, we should watch them with them, and also see the images in scanned or rostrum full frame shots. SOUnD 1. You must record the highest quality sound possible, because it is as important as the quality of the image. We urge you to work the best sound engineers available—professionals if necessary and as your budget allows. 2. Use location mixers wherever possible. Make sure all sound recording is monitored on headphones. 3. You must record excellent location sound—use boom microphones for all locations, and lapel (lavalier) mics for all major speaking parts. Radio mics can be used if available, but only to record people moving and speaking beyond normal boom range. 4. Additional interview material with key people, recorded separately in a quiet location (no air-conditioners, radio or TV in the background). 5. Diegetic music—musicians and singers recorded on location. Make sure you record complete songs or instrumental performances. Record separately if possible and necessary. If they have amplification, use a line from their deck. 6. All diegetic music must be original. 7. You must record ambient sound (presence tracks) in every location— sounds of human activity, traffic, natural sounds, wind, ocean, birds, in COnClUSiOn We encourage you to read the essay Documentary esperanto included in the workshop booklet, in order to understand more clearly the philosophy underlying the project. Your suggestions, concerns, experiences and ideas will be welcome, and we urge you to share them with all of us as we embark on this great journey together. * This essay appears in the Appendices, page 120.

90

And the Ship Sail s


A Turning Point The sense of solidarity that was created by this first gathering of the makers of To Be a Human Being was soon to be tested by a terrible tragedy. On his way home, one of our new and beloved friends, Osama Namrouqa was killed in a road accident between Amman and Aqaba in Jordan. We were all numbed by the news, sent around the world by Osama’s dear friend and colleague Said Najmi: Dear all, I hope this finds you well. I am very sorry to inform you that our beloved beautiful brother, friend and colleague Osama Namrouqa had a terrible car accident on Monday, the 5th of July at around 4 am, and has passed away. I am torn from inside for this really awful news. I am in no condition to elaborate more, I just wanted you guys to know. I hope he rests in peace. Said Najmi Tributes and expressions sympathy at this incomprehensible loss came from all corners of the planet. The shock waves from Osama’s death reverberated through our family and are still with us all, and we have dedicated the series to his memory. As a tribute to him and to the strength of our bonds and to the project, we became more determined than ever to make it in the best way we could. July 20, 2010 Dear friends and colleagues: A little more than two weeks ago we concluded the workshop with the young filmmakers who are going to work in their communities for the documentary series To Be a Human Being.

And the Ship Sail s

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

91


At the EICTV we miss you very much, but, just like everyone, we had to keep on going. Following the workshop we had to start dealing directly with the final activities in the School, which will end with the graduation ceremony on July 21. The workshop was an event full of energy and creativity in which we succeeded in getting to know each other profoundly. We are already a family, with personal and professional relations that we are convinced will last a lifetime. All the participants in the workshop left in us the feeling of a shared vision and a renewed sense of clarity on how each one of us can contribute with our talent and cultural knowledge to build something that will be greater than the sum of its parts—a universal portrait of humanity in its full diversity. Tragically, while we were returning to our homes, one of our dear colleagues, Osama Namrouqa, died in a car accident on his way back to Aqaba, in Jordan. His death was, and still is, incomprehensible. He, like the rest, had become our friend and partner. While the news of the accident traveled around the world, it left us with a feeling of sadness and deep loss, as always occurs when a young man with such energy, talent and curiosity abandons us so prematurely. Here, in the EICTV, while we struggled to understand his death, Tanya and I perfectly understood that we could not allow this tragedy to diminish our commitment to the project, to each one of us and to the vision of hope that the series incarnates. Instead, we have decided that we must take Osama’s death as a reminder of how precious each human life is, its transitory nature and the need to make the ever stronger commitment to make this series an exceptional expression of what it means to be a human being. Osama is in our hearts and thoughts while we continue ahead. His death must serve to dedicate our energy to the creation of an exceptional collective expression of love, concern and compassion toward our fellow men and women. We send you a collective warm embrace from Cuba. Russell and Tanya The tragedy of Osama’s death would not be the last test of our courage and determination. Several other members of our family also suffered serious personal and family shocks. In August 2010 I resigned my job as an Associate Professor at Columbia College in Chicago, to dedicate my time exclusively to the series. I had planned to visit some of the shoots for the project, starting with Spain, but instead I had to return urgently to Australia and therefore to follow the progress of each team by email.

92

And the Ship Sail s


Russell Porter / Tanya Valette

The Shooting Begins Over the next few months of research the directors immersed themselves into their chosen communities, identifying the key characters, issues and events and gaining the essential access and trust. Then the shooting stage began, and the stories, images and sounds that would form the thick texture of the Series began to be captured by the camera lenses and microphones—the collective portrait of humanity was on its way. The first production was in the Dominican Republic, where Tanya went to supervise the shoot, as a kind of test run for those that would follow on. Jean Jean and Kique were joined by two other EICTV graduates and began their shoot. I always dreamed of tele-transportation. Who hasn’t? I think that all of us, once in a lifetime, have wanted to close our eyes and appear in a peaceful or restless place, perhaps with someone very dear close to us. On several occasions, during the production stage of the series, I played to close my eyes and to be at the same time in several places of the planet. But I did not achieve it. The key to a good shoot is its pre-production, having all details ready, foreseeing all possible contingencies. Fiction, although with a more complex dynamic and a more numerous human and technical team, gives the possibility of having everything under control, since you work with a material—fiction— that is totally liable to be manipulated. Reality moves permanently, it does not wait for us. It surprises us, dazzles us, it can also disappoint us; it shows us how useless it is to plan it without taking it into consideration, and without being conscious, in spite of it, that something will be happening next to us that we will be incapable of grasping. But where there could be a disadvantage lies the force of reality and its representation through the documentary.

94

T he Shooting Begins


Together with the eight teams we prepared ourselves to work together in this stage that was to cover six months of shooting and several seasons. With that purpose, since the first meeting with the school directors we began to obtain consensus for the norms that were to guide us in order to obtain uniform technical results and succeed in obtaining a filmed material consistent not only with the aesthetic references, but also the philosophy of the project. It was important to respect a way of shooting, of looking at the human being with empathy and respect, for which purpose the bases were also laid, both during the meeting with the directors in June and in the two fundamental texts that Russell wrote in that regard: the Documentary esperanto and the Manifesto for the shooting of the Series. These elements made me feel sure as Executive Producer. I was confident in the relation created with the schools, in their commitment to the project; I believed in the enthusiasm of the young men and women, in the deep relations that had been growing between them and us, and, more than anything, I continued to be deeply moved by the idea that united us all and by the need to make it a reality. What remained was just to trust the work done up to that moment and maintain and insist on the importance of communication, more vital than ever when physical distances are so big. The first shooting began in August in the Dominican Republic. We organized it in such a way so that one of our students involved, Jean Jean Leon, could do it during his summer holiday, and also to enable me to be in the island and take it as pilot experience and transmit to Russell my impressions in situ of the experience. There was also something symbolical about it. The community filmed in the Dominican Republic, Mata los Indios, has a daily dynamic that resembles very much that of an African village, which referred us, once more, to the Kenyan woman who originated the project. As the shooting was going on, in addition to the shooting reports, photos, diaries that all directors and their school coordinators sent us, we began to ask them to send us some rushes to have an idea of the fulfillment or not of the guidelines. In that way we could make punctual suggestions and in some cases reorient the approach. During the months and filming stages we experienced several unexpected hitches, both human and technical, but in February, in Little Petra, the last sequences of the series were shot. There was also something symbolic about it. The death of Osama Namrouqa had left us bewildered and with the fear that the Jordan team would find it hard to overcome the loss of such a charismatic young man, with a passion for Bedouin culture. But once more the human spirit demonstrated its capacity to rise in the midst of difficulties and continue ahead. One by one, the defining characteristics of the Series emerged from the process, sustaining our initial impulse and the certainty to continue ahead. Sreya also began her production journey into the world of the god makers of Calcutta. She sent regular updates, also in her distinctive, eloquent and poetic voice:

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

95


INSPIRATIONS The journey continues - and the avenues widen. Challenges fluctuate - as heartbeats. Colors merge unmindfully - and tonalities vibrate Time lapses silently - as cosmos rejuvenates INdicacting SPecial IRregularity ATtaining [IONS] It is the time. The hour has come when I start walking towards the muddy alleys of Northern Calcutta, walking past the innumerable clay images—in search of the vibrations of the movements of fingers—vibrations which imitate the exact notations of heart beat—the beat of human condition. These 15 days were filled with expected surprises and unexpected simplicity. A journey towards the known and far from the unknown—in quest of discovery. Proximity, interaction, realizations and reflections—after a while the rhythm of life became synonymous to the speed in which the wind was blowing over city, pushing away clouds to reveal the escape or at times painting the sky gray and moisture. Time elapsed, emotions accumulated, tales related, images internalized and murmurs fascinated. 15 days passed like a dream—a dream which was lived by us and shared with all of you, in spirit, inspiration. The images could have been captured, the sounds could have been recorded, the moment could have left—but beyond all that, experience is the most valuable. The mixture of the expected and the unexpected. “en le tourbillon de la vie...”. Other letters… From: Russell To: Sreya Dear Sreya, Thank you so much for your message, and I also apologize for the long time without contact. I am still in Australia, so, all my plans to come to India and beyond have been shelved, but Tanya has decided to come to Australia—due to arrive tomorrow!—bringing all the footage shot so far, in order to begin the long process of compiling and structuring the Series. I am especially looking forward to seeing your work, which Tanya tells me is “spectacular and moving,” as I knew it would be. I think you have the perfect sensibility to realize the aims of this project, great intelligence, an excellent eye for detail and a deep compassion for our beleaguered species, in all its infinite richness and variety. The Durga Puja is truly one of humanity’s great expressions of the intensity of faith and a celebration of the mysteries at the heart of existence, and I am sure you have captured its essence. Once we have seen the material filmed so far, we will be in touch with comments and suggestions for the remaining shooting stages.

96

T he Shooting Begins


I hope your Song Picturization exercise is a great success, and wish you peace, productivity and much success with your important work to come. All our To Be a Human Being family give me great hope for the power of the documentary image to help construct a saner and more just world. With love and respect, Russell From: Helena (from the Colombian Guajira) I met with Leiqui, my Wayuu partner in the project, after the long plane trip from Bogota to Santa Marta, and from there to the capital of La Guajira, which is Riohacha, by bus. Inco, collaborator of the project in the research stage, was awaiting me at the corner of the sports center, and made it possible for us to spend the night in the bedroom facilities of that place. Leiqui, Inco and I, accompanied by Miguel Ángel López, a Wayuu poet with great knowledge and an activist of his culture, exchanged views concerning the project, and from there emerged the first Wayuu mythological story with which we began to penetrate the region. This is my version of this legend: Worunka was the first woman who inhbited the world, a very beautiful woman who used to bathe naked on a rock by the riverside. However, she could not have sexual relations with a man and much less bear children simply because she had a row of teeth in her vagina that, as a mouth, destroyed everything hat was introduced into it. Two sons of gods of nature, trying to figure out the way in which they could knock down the teeth, spied her while she was bathing in the river and saw how, at a certain point, she opened her legs widely to make the water run between them. It was thus that one day the young men, with bow and arrow in their hands, pointed at her in the very instant when she was bathing, knocking one by one, the teeth that covered Worunka’s vagina. The blood that ran down the rock fell on the feathers of some birds that were painted red, and now abound in La Guajira. From that moment on began the human descent of the Wayuus. This is my short version of this story, in my own words, in my tone, in my way. However, as I listened to this one and others during the trip, I could realize how much the Wayuu value the oral word, the way in which the narration is extended to describe an event, giving details and wide descriptions of aspects that sometimes may be considered elementary for the “Alijunas” (Wayuu term to refer to the non-indigenous). I understood that the Wayuu show respect for the slowness, for quietness and silence, which allows retaking the story to complement it, taking the time that is necessary to say what they want to say. That rhythm inherent to the narration not only helped me recreate each word and translate it into images, but

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

97


also enabled me to understand how different my way of conceiving the passing of time is, as compared with the one you Wayuu develop in the countryside or the desert, where remembering is so important. And to remember you have to be ready to listen and to live, allowing time to go by without any hurry. Helena From: Russell To: Leiqui and Helena My very dear colleagues: Please excuse the delay in contacting you. Here, in Australia, I have been immersed in family affairs, but I am ready now to get involved again in our big project. I’ve seen part of the material shot by each team and there are very beautiful things, and also other aspects that tell us that we have to reinforce and focus with greater precision. I have followed with great interest the correspondence on the shooting in La Guajira. I have also discussed the matters with Tanya, and she has confirmed that they will shoot only in the “4 de Noviembre” Wayuu community. I am glad that these difficulties have already been solved and that you will be able to continue ahead. I well understand the reasons for the decision, and have full confidence that there, at “4 de Noviembre,” you will be able to present the richness of the Wayuu culture and also the daily challenges faced by this community and this people. It is a pity that you cannot film in the two foreseen communities, but I well understand that it is not possible in logistic and financial terms. What I saw of the material shot during the research shows that there are also strong characters in the Uchita community and a very different and rich culture, but this community deserves its own documentary, perhaps in another context. In “4 de Noviembre” there is a great sense of the environment and the landscape, and we can see the relationship between the community and its territory, something that is fundamental in each segment of the Series. I also like the style of the interviews—although I did not understand what they were saying—more than anything the woman lying on the hammock in a very relaxed and personal manner, since it seems as if Leiqui is posing the questions from another hammock next to her, which gives the sequence the feeling of a very personal and open relationship. I hope that with these and other members of the community you will be able to present aspects of the community that very well show the specificity of each of our six themes. The words forming the titles of each episode have a different meaning in each community, and as Leiqui has well explained, “love” in the Wayuu community has nothing to do with the “romantic” meaning of the word in western societies; we can see that “love” exists strongly between parents and

98

T he Shooting Begins


children and other relatives, for example, but the strongest is love for the land itself. I am sure you will meet individuals who can express this relevant sense, and you have to keep in mind that since we will not have any other narration or other way to explain the realities in each group, the protagonists and other interviewees must communicate very clearly and profoundly each aspect of their lives, according to the defining characteristics and the Manifesto of the project. Well, dear friends, I have great faith that you, with your precise instincts for ethics, politics and aesthetics, combined with your creative and technical talents, you will achieve wonderful things and grant voice to this Wayuu community, so dignified and pressured by the outer world. I deeply regret not being there during this important stage, but I shall be with you spiritually. You can contact me if any problem or doubt arises, and anyway I will be in the EICTV during the second half of January to see what you have done and to keep up with the development and production of the next stages until the last expression of what it means To Be a Human Being. I send my embraces and wishes of great success in all your tasks and lives. Russell From: Zanna, from Samoa To: Tanya and Russell To participate in To Be a Human Being has been a truly unique and mindblowing experience. It seems an almost impossible task to express what it has meant to me to contribute to this beautiful experiment; it has been life-changing to say the least and I am eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a part of it. No doubt there are benefits to living in a large multi-cultural city as I do, the ability to experience other cultures and ways of life on a daily basis for one, however, the question of the inevitability of globalization and homogenisation is considerable. Zanna From: Marina from Samoa To: Tanya and Russell The experience of working with my own culture has been extraordinary. It has only reinforced my conviction that our stories must be told from our perspective. As you are well aware, historically, Palagi (Westerners) have come into our worlds, recorded our stories and interpreted them from their point of view or in terms of what they consider to be important.

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

99


My objective for this documentary is to tell our stories from a Samoan perspective. This has, at times, been difficult because the medium of documentary is a Palagi medium with a Palagi approach and this can (and did) present conflicts. For Palagi, the end result, or the documentary, and the message and how others receive it, are viewed as the epitome of a “successful” project. For Samoans, the process, the journey and the people telling these stories are just as important as the end result. Fa’aSamoa or the Samoan way is a part of this process and one that must be respected at all times, especially if we are to attempt to reverse a century of mistrust that Samoans and other Indigenous peoples have with Western media. For me, this “process” does not end with this documentary; it is a part of my tautua (service) to my people and the progression of an open-ended dialogue. It is this tautua and discussion that I humbly hope will contribute towards reclaiming our histories, stories and theories of knowledge and privileging what is important to us, rather than what is important to others. I only hope that we have managed to contribute to this process of change in terms of visual storytelling in Oceania, which is still in its infancy, where our culture is placed on an equal footing with “creativity” or “finding the story” or “the end result.” Although I realize that we are only at the beginning of this change. Marina From: Tanya To: Claudia and Rodrigo My dear two: Looking for the first time at the photos that have arrived from the shooting, I felt a timeless and bucolic landscape where one might well get lost from the world, without thinking of anything but the roads, the traces and those that at some time left. But when Rodrigo wrote the note on the eminence of fire and the restlessness of the peasants, I realized how the glance that falls in love with things softens reality until erasing it. In the light of that short commentary of three lines I looked again at the photos and then I saw the reflection of the distant fire in the sunset sky and felt that the woman who was talking to Rodrigo might well be sharing her fears and her concern in the impossibility of hope for her children. I wanted to cover the roads again, but this time with the need of not feeling so much beyond time, of sharing the home bread and wine, of asking myself where do the children go and why, and if they will want to come back some day. I would like to know why the rest keep on believing, keep having faith in the dry land. It will be a simple question of love, it will be a usage or an absence of everything and a wish to be, as they are, lost in time and forgotten by politicians and geography. I wanted to share with you the multiple sensations and concerns that your photos left in me. I know that the profoundness of your glance will bring me the answers and many more questions that only you, who are there, awakening with the chant of the roosters and seeing the horizon, will have posed to yourselves.

100

T he Shooting Begins


The shooting of Mata los Indios ends tomorrow. The mad Caribbean summer climate has been very generous, and has only given us showers as presents at dawn to freshen up the day. Little by little, the defining characteristics opened up before Jean Jean and Kique, until finding them all and in everything. Remember the transitions, the animals, the trees, the traces, the time variations, the complexity of the faces. We shall be there. Now more than ever. Beijaos. Tanya From: Cláudia From: Tanya Dear Tanya: I was very moved by your email. We haven’t written much because all day long we are involved with the village, our village, with the people, our friends now, sharing their fears, their concerns, their forces and fragilities. Tomorrow we have a long shooting day. We will leave at 6:00 a.m. to shoot the day of the Lady of Health, a day when the population walks to a village four kilometers away to worship their Virgin, and finally make the party, a picnic in the mountains. What is peculiar is that the other stone village has not been inhabited for a long time and tomorrow will be full of joy and hope. We remain firm in this so beautiful project. Tomorrow we will tell you what came out of it and we will answer your questions and reflections. A tight embrace. Cláudia and Rodrigo Marcos Pimentel traveled from Brazil to the Caribbean coast of Colombia to advise Leiqui and Helena during the logistically difficult shoot with the Wayuu Community, in the region known as La Guajira. From there, Marcos sent us this report. Dear Tanya and Russell: Everything has gone fine down here in Colombia. The girls have worked well and I think you will be very happy with the result. I will tell you a bit more about the experience we shared there. I arrived at La Guajira on January 3, and they had already been shooting since the 1st, although with very little material, because they had problems from the beginning. The logistics of the place did not help much. The displacements are long and transportation scarce and rather unreliable. They say they will be there, but they do not arrive, or at least not on time. Since they live in semi isolation they have a different rhythm and do not comply with timetables and rules. This was a complication for them, but Leiqui and Misael—responsible for the local production—found means to continue with the proyect and adapt the schedule to the reality and rhythm of the place.

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

101


La Guajira is an impressive place and has an incredible human wealth. All the characters gave much more than what our girls had foreseen and always surprised them with stories that made an impression because they were simple and very complex at the same time. The way in which the Wayuu society is organized and the solutions it has to settle its structural and social problems are very peculiar, and I think that the topics shot there reflect this well. It was as if every day was a big class for all the members of the team who, while shooting, learned that there are other ways of solving problems than daily life shows us. It seemed to me a very good decision to take a reduced team and light equipment capable of adapting in a very natural way to the spontaneity of the situations. The Canon 5D has excellent resolution and weighs almost nothing. It also responds very well to situations of poor light and needs no lighting equipment. Thus, with very little in the hands Javier succeeded in capturing impressive images. I take this opportunity to tell you that I was very much surprised with the result of this boy who has worked every second that he was awake and always appeared to be prepared and attentive to all situations. Nicolås was present to register all possible sounds that were to be heard in this place, and at the end of each day he showed us what he had managed to capture there. There was a small problem caused by the humidity of recent days, which caused the DAT to be blocked for a moment, but it soon started to work well again. The whole place was very humid and there were many creeks nearby, but we managed to keep on shooting after the sun had helped dry the equipment. Well, this is what I felt being there in this unforgettable experience. In addition to the report, I also take the opportunity to say thank you for having included me in this so stimulating, beautiful and pleasurable project which is the Series To Be a Human Being. Thank you, thank you and more thank you! Kisses and hugs, Marquinhos Meanwhile in Madrid, there had been a change of personnel. Rafa had to leave the project, also to deal with serious family issues, and his DP, Thais—a valiant and excellent Brazilian photography student, stepped in to continue as director of the shoot in the Rastro. She sent us this report: Hello, dear Tanya and dear Russell: It is now raining in Madrid. I love the sound. Many, many thanks for the words, the directives and the attention you are paying to El Rastro. Everything that you write helps me plan better and clarify the ideas. Today I was on research and from tavern to tavern I breathe El Rastro and understand where to go. I like it when Tanya speaks of not representing flamenco as a postcard. That inspires me to leave behind a traditional idea of representation. Two remarkable things happened to me today that may be a good direction to follow. I describe them, although I am not very good at writing, so excuse me. In one of the streets there is a luthier shop. I always wanted to go in and today the goal was to go to that place to see what happened. Something very good happened. It is a guitar shop that exists for fifty years with lovely 19th century guitars. The owners are a couple of elders. The woman has been helping her husband for thirty-five

102

T he Shooting Begins


years and they also live in El Rastro. She speaks with love about the husband’s craft, which is thrilling. She said she always remains in the background, that she is nothing because he always appears in the newspapers and she doesn’t. You would have to see how she speaks of him, and the work-love separation is incredible. You don’t know what strength this woman has. The husband restores and builds guitars. He was not there at the time, and when he arrived he already had to leave for dinner and that is why we did not talk much. However, we agreed to see each other again on Tuesday. Thus I will understand his spirit. I went to a bar next door to think and reread your email. Two young gypsies came in to buy cigarettes. I was attracted by the energy in their glance. When they left, one of them began to sing. Then I asked the waiter which was their shop, he told me and in the afternoon I went in search of these kids. A gold purchase-sale shop. They received me very well. One of them is a singer, actor, and appreciates life like all gypsies. Interesting image and force. I then thought that I could fuse these two stories. The Spanish gentleman who fixes guitars in his intimate shop and the new generation of gypsies in the neighborhood. They have a common love, which is music. The guitar. Strong flamenco symbol. It’s still a bit raw, but this idea has come to me to represent the local culture. I also talked to Amadeo. Every time I meet him he makes me cry. What a gift of God! He is very happy with the project. It is a meeting of two persons who dream with life, with the optimism of people that open their eyes to beauty. It fills the lungs with colored air. Tomorrow we shoot with the grandfather and his friends, and on Sunday with Luis. During the week with Kyllo and Amadeo. And I keep on carrying the research with what I described above. Tomorrow we will also shoot Amadeo cooking snails. A very good man who makes churros with chocolate has a bar in my street, which is inside El Rastro, and I thought of shooting Paloma, the neighbour from the balcony, making an omelet. All that with informal conversations on the sustenance and other values of life. Well, I write thus because I wish to share my meetings, since I feel the good welcome given to me by this family. Tanya, about Van Der Keuken’s scenes, there is much more than we sent, and some persons speak better than others. There is a very good interview with two gypsy girls, too. I think that for vox populi I will succeed in having the persons speak better about their subjectivity, since they will not be against a wall and I will be relating to them differently. The truth is that I had a doubt about those questions in this Van Der Keuken sequence. I did not grasp the profoundness with which the characters had to answer, and that is why my questions are “drier.” I understood that I had to develop the subjectivity of the characters in vox populi. Well, I will leave you now, a strong hug and huge thankfulness for that school which is life and the meetings that this project is making me have in a country that is not mine. Kisses, Thais

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

103


This was our answer: Dear Thais: Thank you for your report. I love the way in which you have deeply entered into the spirit of our project, and how you have taken on the role of director of the Madrid reality with such enthusiasm. It seems that you have adopted and understood the guidelines and the intentions of the series very well, and assumed the role of analyzer and searcher for the elements that will be work well in the context of the six defining characteristics of the series and their humanistic spirit. I would like to suggest some things that might help you in the upcoming shooting stages, and I will also attach the document that emerged from our July meeting, the Manifesto, as well as the list of revised guidelines, and the shots and transitions we want you all to capture in your communities. The primary approach in each case should be the human being in his or her context. That is why the general shots of landscapes, streets, textures, details, etc., should always serve the purpose of illuminating some aspect of the human reality. One of the most difficult things when facing unknown people is to establish a relationship of mutual respect, especially in interview situations, where an atmosphere of trust is essential. Since we will not be hearing the filmmakers’ questions, we have to Make sure that the things people say come across as complete, self-contained sentences. Sometimes you have to urge them to repeat the key words of the question to achieve that. Avoid asking “closed” questions—as Tanya said—that they can answer with “yes” or “no” or “twenty years ago,” which would make no sense if you don’t know what they are talking about. At times it works very well if we make “open” questions in the style of a conversation, leaving the “subjects” to speak unprompted about their own reality. For example, you might start a dialogue in this way: “We are interested in how each community in the world has its own culture. Could you talk a little about the importance of your music, your dance, your culture? Once they start talking, you can lead the conversation, with short phrases or words, to get to the more specific peculiar elements, such as the origins of flamenco, or whatever. Your protagonists seem very good. We are looking for passionate, charismatic people, speakers for their communities. Instead of formal “talking head” interviews, it will be more dynamic if they can continue with their daily activities. In the Sustenance segment, for example, we are interested in how people make and prepare their favourite regional dishes. For the people who will be seeing the series in, say, India, the Spanish national enthusiasm for churros and hot chocolate could be fascinating. In each case we are looking for different expressions of how we, as human beings, share the same universal motives, with different (and therefore interesting) regional variations. In each defining episode theme, there are universal elements.

104

T he Shooting Begins


Although you do not speak of Love in terms of personal relations, it is essential to the human condition, whether it is love for your partner, for the family, or the inter-dependent relations between neighbors and friends. Hope can be very specific, but I would also like to listen to a diversity of voices speaking about the future of the planet, of how life will be for the generations to come. Concerning Fear, we would like to hear people’s views on the big general issues, such as racism, violence, war, poverty, social and economic injustice— and the way fear can motivate us to overcome these problems. For the segment on Faith, I would like to hear opinions about a range of different beliefs, not only religious, also political, ethical, the values adopted by different communities and individuals to give meaning and direction to their lives. Well, Thais, these are just some simple suggestions and nothing more, to indicate the directions we would like you all to follow in order to make this group portrait of our wonderful species. But it seems you are already well on the way to achieving some great results, with wonderful characters, locations and situations. So again I thank you very much for getting so involved in the process. You have a very good eye and the fine intelligence necessary to guide you on this fascinating journey in search of what it means to be a human being. A big hug to you and to everyone in Madrid. Russell From Jordan, Said sent this report: I hope this finds all of you well. We (me directing, Rebecca producing, Ruzbeh as DP, Yanal as Sound) shot around 10 hours of footage that has pretty much covered a bit of all the themes in the project, but mainly concentrating on my themes (Sustenance, Hope, Culture), yet there is more to be covered by Abed-Salam whenever Rebecca comes up with a schedule for him according to his availability. My main character’s name is Mufadi, he is a 35-year old Bedouin male from the Little Petra desert reservation. He has one wife and 4 daughters and 2 sons. He lives in his Bedouin tent and sustains himself from his sheep; that is the main source of income. He is a very calm man, does his best to keep his family supported. He loves Bedouin life and culture, it means freedom for him; on the other hand he fears that someday he will wake up and find that there are no Bedouins around him. They are becoming less and less. Therefore he has this thought (which he reveals when he sits and talk with his neighbors) of selling all of his sheep and moving out to the village. This would be really great if it happens and we shoot it, yet I don’t know how long we need to wait to see if it happens or not. I keep calling him every now and then to check on him.

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

105


We have several scenes of him taking care of the sheep, and even selling a couple of them to two random men who came in by chance wanting to buy sheep while we were shooting with him. We have scenes with him visiting his sick father (he is quite old and cannot move or hear/talk much). Also of him visiting his neighbours/ friends, drawing water from the well with his son and daughter, making tea and serving it to visitors. We also have scenes of the kids playing and singing, of the lunch preparation and of them having lunch; some scenes in a silent mood, sitting in the tent with his daughter, and other more interesting human moments that shape Bedouin life which we will select from so that Rebecca can send them to you on a DVD. I hope this gives you an idea of the first shooting we made, and yet there is more to come from Abed-Salam, I hope. All the best, Said Najmi To: Laura and Joslyn in Harlem From: Russell Dear Laura, Joslyn and friends, Thanks so much for your update. The footage we have seen from Harlem is visually excellent, but as I mentioned in my last email, there is a lot still to come, so I was pleased to see your detailed plans. Do you have precise shooting dates yet? I realize you will be shooting over much of winter, which could be a terrific visual contrast to the rest of the material, but it may also make things a bit logistically difficult, so please allow plenty of time to cover the themes, people and events. I was heartened to read your description of contemporary Harlem, and hope you manage to capture the essence you describe as “suffering the ravages of demographic change and housing, gentrification, in which diversity threatens the traditions of culture and Harlem’s overall identity. We will explore the remnants of these traditions through music, dance, visual art, crafts and spoken word and the locations that have been hubs for their preservation...” in other words the dynamic and vibrant essence of the place as it goes through its latest transformations. It is, I know, still a huge center for human energy, creativity, thought and activism, regardless or perhaps because of its constant state of flux. A few suggestions that occurred to me reading your notes. Something I felt in many of the extracts we saw from the different communities is the need to have clear verbal voices, from the people, talking about the place, what it means to them, what is has been and will be—you have to assume much of your audience will know very little beyond the shadowy and misleading stereotypes about each place, so we are asking your to get beneath the surface, to probe the essence of the communities’ values, fears and struggles. In the segment of Faith, for example, I notice that all your references are to religious beliefs, groups and practices, but we want to discover what people believe in the more general sense: What do they believe about the state of the

106

T he Shooting Begins


planet, or humanity for example? Are people basically decent or malignant? What do they believe to be true about basic issues like tolerance of ethnic and religious difference, the rights of women, children, responsibility for others? What are their values in terms of violence, war, discrimination of all kinds? Access to food and water, health care, education and housing? Whose responsibility is it to care for the homeless? The dispossessed? What do they believe about capitalism, socialism, social justice, the state of the nation. the world? In other words, I am asking everyone to document the many aspects of contemporary life that people hold strong beliefs about. It’s worth pushing both our protagonists and people in the streets to try to get a broad sense of the range of opinions and beliefs so that those from your community will hold up against those of our comrades across the planet. In terms of focusing on the themes, and perhaps instead of collaring passers by for vox pops, there is a productive (and fun) exercise I’ve done a few times with students, where the director stands on a street beside the camera with a big placard (or series of placards, like Bob Dylan) on which there is a question: “What is love?,” “Who and what do you love most?,” “What do you believe to be true?,” “What are the greatest dangers facing the community?” “... and the world?,” “What do you like to eat most?,” “How can we feed the rest of the world?” etc.. It’s amazing how freely people will approach you and offer up their hearts and souls. So, dear friends, I wish you every success with the next stages of your production, and I look forward to seeing some great images, hearing some amazing music and meeting some wonderful human beings. Please keep us up to date with each of the next stages, and as soon as you have precise dates, please pass them on, because this year is rushing to a close and the next one will be burning up our time and energies before we know it. Wishing you all much peace, love and laughter in this coming season of celebration. Russell From: Laura To: Russell Dear Russell, So wonderful to hear from you!! Things over this way are moving along. We’re finishing up our penultimate semester of graduate school so lots of work but very exciting. Joslyn, Mike, the rest of our crew, and myself are all very excited to continue shooting the Cuba project. I do want to apologize for being so out of touch in the earlier weeks. As that saying goes “life happens when you’re making plans.” Isn’t that the truth! Lots of bumps along the way and this back of mine gave out which put me out of commission for quite some time. But I’m back in full effect ready to continue working on all the great projects!

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

107


Everything you wrote is very helpful and gives me/us a great compass to follow. We realize we only sent you a small taste of what we shot but we’re very glad you enjoyed it and have been taking all your feedback and digesting it. I hope I’m not being overconfident but I think we’re going to deliver a beautiful piece. Every time I look at the footage I feel so inspired. I have and am learning soooooooo much from this experience not only as an artist, a filmmaker, but as an “humano.” Another beautiful experience has been to see how Joslyn, Mike and I have become closer and closer. It’s all a learning process but we respect, communicate, work, and even love each other so much more than we ever did because of this project. So all of this makes me happy. I just wanted to reach out and say hello...we haven’t touched base in quite some time. Hope all is great in your corner of the world. We’ll make sure to keep everyone updated and thanks again for all the feedback! Peace & love Laura

108

T he Shooting Begins


editing Script Workshop The process of gathering and compiling all the material from the eight different corners of the globe proved, not surprisingly, to be huge and complicated. But, despite many obstacles and difficulties, it gradually came together. As the delivery date approached, Tanya sent many urgent emails, insisting that the material was delivered from each team on time, on hard drives according to the formats and structures we had insisted on. The footage began to arrive, by many circuitous routes, to Cuba (not the easiest country in the world to deliver to) and eventually it was all in our hands. The group of filmmakers came back to the school, this time for a two-week Editing Script workshop. Sreya, Laura, Marina, Kique, Helena and Rebecca, (representing the Jordanian team), were all there, and from the EICTV, Thais (on exchange with the Madrid school), Jean Jean, Claudia and Leiqui came as often as they could between classes and commitments for their final thesis films. This was an essential stage, as we wanted each of the directors to present the structure of their defining characteristics, based on their preferred footage. They could support their proposals by presenting clips, rushes and/or photos. In addition they had to bring all the raw footage, synchronized and time coded, as well as transcripts and translations for all the spoken word sequences. In the afternoons Tanya, Ivan, Gina, Marcos and Russell would work with each director, discussing the footage they had shown as well as the options to include additional material from their unscreened raw footage. We also began to analyze potential structures for the Series. Once the workshop was over, Marcos began to work closely with Ivan and an EICTV graduate from Cuba, editor Ilka ValdĂŠs, to help organize, select and compile the material. In all, there were some 16 terabytes of footage on the hard drives, so the post-production stage was going to be incredibly demanding, especially since we had set an almost impossible schedule in which to finish the Series. Once more, the sense of shared vision was evident, and the friendships and working relationships were stronger than ever. T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

109


Russell Porter / Tanya Valette

listening, editing, Thinking The documentary takes its final shape in the post-production process. It is there that the discourse is articulated, and where many times we discover characters that we had not intended to consider that emerge as much important during the shooting process. Once more reality takes us by surprise in a radiant fashion. As the school that invited and coordinated the project, we at the EICTV had the task and the huge responsibility to give form and coherence to the material that had been shot in eight communities by eight different shooting crews, and in seven languages. Both the image and sound editing deserved to have the best possible filmmkers in these areas, and it was also important that their attitude towards life would motivate them to participate in a project, that was made not for profit—and therefore was non-remunerated to anything like the level their talents deserved. We turned once again to our Graduates to seach for the best people. As we have mentioned, we organized an Editing Script workshop with all the student-filmmakers. We also invited Ivan Morales, Jr., a 2004 graduate , to be Editor of the Series’ image, and Gina Villafaùe, who graduated in 2007, who was to take on the task, with two other graduates, of editing and mixing the sound. We were also fortunate that Marcos Pimentel, who was involved during the development stages of the project, was able to return as a Creative Coordinator for this workshop. For a perriod of ten days without interruption, the filmmakers showed each other a selection of their material and the proposals for structure they had conceived at the time of shooting. These presentations, and the collective analysis, were enriching for all. Together we discovered, little by little, the infinite possibilities of the material and their far-reaching documentary effect. Before our eyes appeared communities that were so different and at the same time so particularly similar in their fundamental needs that, if we had ever

110

T he Shooting Begins


doubted the possibility that the Series could portray the premise of the wise Kenyan woman, any doubts were cleared up at that moment. The day after the workshop ended, the post-production team headed by Iván and Gina with their respective assistant editors, managed to start on time and the four-month long final process of our group adventure began. An important part of this stage was the decision not to use extra-diegetic music, when we realized that the material we had received had a great wealth of music and sound that would enable us to create a soundtrack that would be organic, beautiful and coherent with the concept of the initial proposal. I spoke to Sergio Fernández, one of the graduate students in the Sound specialty at the School, who had created the music for the first teaser of the Series, and we began to think of the music for the initial and final credits. With so many different rhythms, so many languages and sounds among the chapters, it was difficult to find something that could be introduced without much “noise.” I thought of the nakedness of the human voice, I imagined it with a telluric texture, coming from the profundity of the world and at the same time intimate, close. Cuba’s cultural wealth gives us the possibility to obtain the services of great artists who, with diluvial generosity and without over-sized egos, agree to participate in ideas presented to them. Bárbara Llanes, a soprano, is one of the best lyric singers in Cuba at present, a woman with a powerful voice and impressive musical education. We spent a Saturday afternoon with her, making different vocalisations and talking about time and life. That was how we obtained the universal human voice that appears in the opening credits, designed by Raupa, one of the most important designers of Cuba, an enthusiastic young man with an overflowing talent, who also worked with fondness and patience until discovering the rhythm and form of the ancestral human being. Then, together with Russell, we made a second recording session with Bárbara Llanes to make the music for the final credits. This time, following Russell’s suggestion, the voice of Barbara established a dialogue with a cello to give us a sublime and reflexive chant.

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

111


Ivan Morales Jr.

Editor of the series

On Dreams and Utopias When Tanya first commented to me about the Series, I felt that finally the EICTV was materializing in a project all the dreams and utopias which are the basis of this School. At that time I was back at the School and was conducting a workshop in the faculty where I studied, trying to teach a little of what I had experienced in the editing. It was a weird situation; the memories mixed with the present, and the strongest feeling I had in those days was of gratitude to this School and the certainty that here I had learned much of what I consider life to be about. Listening to Tanya speak about this project meant seeing that there was a way of telling, through a documentary series, a little of the essence of life, of the essence of a human being. When we started talking more concretely about dates, the volume of the material, the time available for editing each chapter, I got a bit scared. I was afraid of “quitting� my life, my daily life that I cherish so much, in order to lock myself into an island of edition, inside a school that is isolated in the rural part of another island that is so isolated from everything. But the idea of this series was already inside of me; somehow I already felt a part of this utopia, of this madness that began with Russell and started growing and branching out with Tanya. There was no going back, it was going to take a long time, it was going to be an intense work, it was going to be difficult, but it was the least I could do to be satisfied with myself, to be sincere with what I felt. Now I’ve been here already for a month, looking at images from all over the world, such different places, such different people, but everything so human, everything so near. Each passing day I feel we are creating something essential, something that will leave a trace in me and in the people who will take interest in understanding what it is to be a human being. Two days ago we finished the first chapter. There are five left, and my strongest feeling now is that same gratitude to the EICTV for being able to be part of this project, for the fact that again I am building a part of me.

112

T he Shooting Begins


Marcos Pimentel

Documentarian, human being and, consequently, profound dreamer

i Dream, Therefore i exist At the end of 2009, Tanya Valette, director of EICTV, invited me to become part of a project that the Australian documentarian Russell Porter had been creating since the late eighties. Russell was my teacher at the EICTV in the early 2000s, and very soon he became a great friend, one of those that accompany you from afar, encouraging you to keep fighting and insisting in the madness of making creative documentary films. I was not surprised when I learned that the title of the series would be To Be a Human Being. In addition to being a filmmaker, teacher and great man of ideas, Russell was always a humanist by nature, a person concerned with exalting the great causes of humanity and opening the others’ eyes concerning the madness that man is capable of doing with his environment. Little by little I became ever more aware of the characteristics of the project, and I confess that I was ever more concerned with its dimensions. In brief: it was a series that aimed to make an X-ray picture of the essence of humanity. When you hear this, what first comes to your mind is that it is something very pretentious, no? And then, other equally complicated factors were added to it, since the project was to be filmed by more than ten filmmakers belonging to seven film schools in different parts of the world. The filmmakers did not know each other, they had never worked together and had different educational levels, styles and fields of interest. The schools did not know each other much either. With rare exceptions, the majority answered this world invitation, but without prior affinity or previous shared work experience. And that was not all: the materials would be all mixed up, each episode was to contain images filmed by different teams in eight parts of the globe, since the Series was born as a mixture of experiences that attempted to demonstrate how human beings can be so different and yet so similar at the same time. Finally, what seemed most complex to me was that not all the filmmakers had an intimate knowledge of the communities and characters they decided to document. T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

113


From the moment I agreed to join the project as creative advisor this became my obsession: how could i make the foreign glance become an intimate and personal one? To achieve this seemed to me the great challenge of this series. Several meetings took place at different moments; first, with the representatives of the film schools; then, with the student-filmmakers in a workshop of preparation prior to the filming stage. Hours and hours of group meetings, individual contacts, in person, on line, field encounters, until the teams went out to film. Like brave contemporary sailors, they sailed the seas of daily life and the imagined realities of each selected community. They faced oceans prone to the subjectivities of representation and interpretation, and to all the other storms of documentary work. Were they prepared for such a task? Would they respect the peculiarities of each portrayed community? Would they present us with fresh material? Would we succeed in putting together harmoniously such diverse elements? Would it be possible to find a unity for this series? Did we really need any unity? Many questions. No answers. After almost a year dedicated to the filming stage we met again for a final and decisive group meeting: the Editing Script Workshop. in which the filmed materials were analyzed and where we had to find in a very short time, together with the student-filmmakers, the structure of each filmed fragment and also the structure of each chapter in general. There, in the confluence of all those materials, I realized that the raw material for this series depended not only of the essence of the human being or on the six defining characteristics that guided it: Culture, Sustenance, Love, Fear, Faith and Hope. Between the impulse that was present in the filmed material and the passion of each one of them at the moment when they were telling us their experiences, it was possible to perceive that the “brick” of our series relied upon a seventh word: dream. This is the word that formed the foundation and the whole structural sustenance of the building we were constructing. This was the key to my initial concern of how to achieve an intimate and personal vision within this mosaic of multicultural experiences. One day, my friend Russell Porter had a dream, and after incubating it for twenty-five years, shared it with Tanya Valette and the International Film and Television School (EICTV) in San Antonio de los Baños. They expanded that dream to six other film schools and their dreamer-students. They succeeded in approaching their communities in such a way that they made their characters give them their most precious possession: their own dreams. At that moment they—filmmakers and characters—began to dream together, and shared experiences, repertoires, life stories, wishes, expectations. Therein was the magic. A very unique poetry was born of the insecurity and instability of these meetings, a poetry that exhaled intimacy and they had dreams—whether collectively or individually—as protagonists of each one of the many stories narrated in the six chapters of To Be a Human Being. In the final stage we only had to choose and organize a little the multiple contents and thousands of possibilities that the rich material was providing us with; and also to keep on dreaming, because to dream is also a part of the human condition. Without dreams we would not achieve anything. We would not even exist. I think this is what this series taught me: “I dream, therefore I exist.”

114

T he Shooting Begins


Tanya Valette

The long Road Ahead At the moment of writing these lines, the first chapter of the series, that of the episode theme “Culture,” is in the process of sound editing. It was moving to see the result of so many months of work file past our eyes, and to feel that there was the essence of everything we thought, reflected, dreamed; that the miracle of the transmission of the initial idea of those words that changed the map of Russell’s life in Kenya far back in 1986 had taken place. We had the evidence that it is indeed possible to work together with ideas in a cooperative way, under the premise of the commitment with one’s self, with the group, with one’s species. The spirit of competitiveness remained distant from our filmmakers; instead and spontaneously, the collaboration became ever more present whenever necessary. The communities, the human beings that form them are there with all their dignity, in spite of the difficulties, the searches, the doubts we are confronted with at this complex and uncertain moment of history. This confirmation gives me the certainty of the need to continue ahead with the project, of keeping on transmitting the idea until achieving a composed portrait of humanity that remains as memory and witness of the persistence and resistence of individuals and of the importance of the group for our survival and that of the planet. Many ideas turn round in my head in search of the way in which we can continue the project To Be a Human Being; other production designs that make it possible that the work continue to be authorial, never a product; that its distribution and dissemination be public and free of cost; diversifying ever more the themes until they encompass all the concerns and achievements of the portrayed communities. I dream of having the next stage filmed by members of these communities after conducting workshops with young documentarians as teachers, who will continue to reproduce, like a vertiginous spiral, a way of making films in which the subject is no longer object. This first stage we have covered together has shown us that it is possible. With the support of the schools participating in the project and their students, the selected communities, the EICTV and Cuba, institutions and nongovernmental organizations like KCD from Bilbao, and UNESCO, we have just begun this adventure that I wish will be infinite.

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

115


Russell Porter

The Future of To Be a Human Being: the Humanza Foundation* * “Humanza” comes from an ancient Hittite suffix that carries the meaning of “whole,” “all” or “everyone.”

From our earliest discussions about making this series, we talked about it as an on-going project. To Be a Human Being could, if it were successful, serve as a pilot for other audio-visual projects with a similar documentary role, and a similar ethical, cultural and political focus. It was clear from the number and quality of proposals we received after our initial Call for Expressions of Interest that we had tapped into a real need for communities to have a collective voice, to reinforce their identity and to make the wider world aware of their issues, values and hopes. Other series could have a more specific community focus. We have thought about using this model to host a series made by and about indigenous peoples around the world, who are increasingly using audio visual media and becoming ever more vocal about the issues to do with land appropriation, destruction of their traditional environments and cultural survival. Other series could be based around the place of women in the contemporary world, the rights of children, societies in transition, or any of a miriad of other human communities that are increasingly demanding to have their voices heard. To Be a Human Being is based around the conventional format of the documentary series, destined for festivals, community broadcasts and other traditional forms of exhibition and distribution. But of course the internet is rapidly changing the ways information and awareness are shared around the world. We have discussed the possibility of creating an open-ended and interactive internet-based site where people everywhere can contribute their own community portraits and comment on those of others. There are many other possible ways we can build on the success of the first series, so in order to create a permanent base for on-going projects we have created a Non-Government Organization, a non-profit body we call The Humanza Foundation, whose objectives will be: 1. To provide legal and conceptual support for future versions of the series To Be a Human Being. 2. To raise financial support for future series and projects based on the aims of To Be a Human Being. 3. To create a laboratory of documentaries and related research into the Human Condition. 4. The training of future generations of activist documentarians, interested in the preservation and diffusion of the Collective Memory of Humanity, by means of the documentary in all its forms.

116

T he Shooting Begins


epilogue The journey of To Be a Human Being has been long, complicated and hugely rewarding for everyone involved. From the moment we decided that we could make a very high quality international documentary series project, with student filmmakers from around the world, it has felt special. It was such an audacious, ambitious idea that it could only work if everyone believed in it from the outset. And we could only believe in it if we could draw on our faith in humanity—in people we had never met—to rise to the challenge. To create the context and the atmosphere in which such an impossible dream might come true took a lot of organizational skill and creative hard work by many people—people who shared the idealism behind the project, away from all the conventional structures of film and television, people whom we thank for their devotion and commitment up to the end. Without the effort and the capacity to dream of each one of those who have been involved, To Be a Human Being would not have been possible. In this precarious moment of human history, the project attempts to do something unique, both in its methodology and in its contents: to record how we are at the present, from the standpoint of very diverse societies, in eight very different places, throughout the whole wide world. Our aim when we began this grand adventure was to test the premise, to see if “what we have in common is very big” and that “what is different between us is very interesting.” The results I think more than prove the truth of the case. The structure-episodes of more or less an hour—may seem like a conventional documentary series for television, but the key lies in the fact that it did not have any of the restrictions and conventions of a work made for the commercial circuit. From the outset we were clear that this was a not-for-profit venture. It has been motivated and driven not by the pressures of the market but by the belief that its affirmation and celebration of diversity will find a different

T he Shooting Begins

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

117


public in festivals, community and public networks, and will move audiences in communities throughout the world. The participants who have generously allowed us to penetrate into their lives speak for themselves and reveal their own truths without any manipulation on the part of the filmmakers and without the imposition of limits on the length or style of each segment, of each community, of each episode. The Series doesn’t shy away from the serious issues facing all our communities, but it aims to counter to the prevailing mood of universal doom and pessimism about the world and our place in it. The end product is beautiful and has been made by young filmmakers with rigor and high production standards, but with very little money. It has been created by students and recent graduates from seven film schools who have worked closely with communities to which they are personally attached. And without the EICTV, a place that operates a long way from conventional structures, it would not have been possible. The EICTV is a unique and utopian institution in which free reign is given to young filmmakers to discover and explore their creative potential as artists and as human beings. The making of this series has restored hope and optimism to everyone involved. That we did it on the basis of our faith in universal humanity is miraculous in this age of deep cynicism and pessimism about the state of the world. Our hope is that this experience will inspire others to work through the Humanza Foundation and other similar humanistic organizations and involve communities throughout our planet. The trust and hope left us by this experience is that we can build a fairer, more peaceful and better world for all, based on tolerance and respect for our differences, in the knowledge of what we have in common and on the acknowledgment of its greatness and relevance for human beings everywhere.

118

T he Shooting Begins


Russell Porter

Documentary esperanto* * Originally published in: el testigo documental. Memorias del i encuentro de Documentalistas, EICTV, San Antonio de los Baños, 2009, pp. 143-153.

The following essay was written to be presented at the international Congress of Film Schools of CileCT (Centre international de liaison des Écoles de Cinéma et de Télévision), in Beijing, in november 2008. Prior to this Congress, we had already decided that the series really could be mounted by the eiCTV, as an international collaboration between schools from around the world. Tanya suggested that the text should be included as part of the revised Guidelines that would be given to the students during the June-July 2010 Production workshop, because it covers many of the humanistic principles and the philosophy that underlie the Project. This version has been edited to avoid repetition of elements that are well stated elsewhere in this book. I would like to explore some ideas that I have been bouncing around for decades, trying to nail down why it is that some documentary films have the ability to work universally, to endure as part of the world’s heritage of important cultural work, while others fade into oblivion almost as soon as they are finished. Obviously it is not enough merely to make a film of technical and aesthetic excellence, or even of great creative and intellectual originality. Perhaps the strongest claim made for documentary is the claim for truth. The implicit contract between a non-fiction film and its audience is that its content corresponds to something that actually, truly exists or has existed in the real universe. Observational filmmakers have pushed the veracity stakes to the level of a noble crusade, decrying all mediation as manipulation of reality. Yet we all know that documentarians, from Flaherty onwards, have had to represent only partial reality and to be highly manipulative in the process—framing, editing, faking, and contracting time and space in order to make a cohesive story. These are all, to my mind, valid and essential tools in what might be called the truth toolkit of documentary filmmaking. I won’t buy further into the ongoing argument about “documentary truth” but I would like to suggest another way of thinking

120

Appendices


about documentaries, another kind of truth we should pursue. It is an idea that has emerged from thirty-five years of living the documentarian’s life—as a filmmaker, film teacher and explorer of reality in all its glory and chaos. The documentarian’s life is a distinctive thing, because it is very hard to separate life itself from the art and craft of “the creative interpretation of reality.” As a career path, it’s not for everyone—you don’t do it for the money—so you have to be a curious person to embark on the pursuit of what could loosely be called the “representational truth” of documentary. The distinctive and fascinating objective of documentaries exceeds the attempts to reproduce reality as faithfully as possible and becomes a bigger target—to attain a universal human truth. That might sound like a romantic and idealistic kind of notion, but I believe there are elements of the human condition that we all share, and that in order to touch the real collective human sensibility, we have to work hard to shape our documentary work with this in mind. The question, however, is whether there is such a thing as a universal language of documentary—what I call documentary esperanto—one that transcends culture and geography and context. And if there is such a thing, whether it is something we can—or even should—try to incorporate into our teaching of the next generation of non-fiction filmmakers. It can convincingly be argued that not just documentary, but all human creativity aspires to express universal human truths, but I will confine this paper to documentaries because of their special claim to “truth,” and the powerful illusion of “being inside the events”—physically, culturally and emotionally— that they can create. What is it then that makes us want to make documentaries? It’s not just because we have these marvelous machines for recording and reproducing sounds and moving images, rather that these technologies have been developed because they enable us to do what we as a species have always done—and have had to do—: to tell each other stories based in our lived realities. Telling each other stories from reality—whether as anecdotes, cave paintings, oral testimony or electronic tools of awareness and information—has been the single most important mechanism for social and cultural evolution, throughout human history. The explosion of access to digital filmmaking technology has made nonfiction audiovisual production a global commonplace. This is a generation in which people everywhere can now record every moment of significance in their lives—even when much of it is of little or no significance at all, but our serious students of documentary want to leave their mark, to rise above the YouTube morass, to make work of lasting value and to reach a broad audience. An effective documentary to me is one that has the potential to transcend its place and time of making and to speak of those elusive and intuitive emotional responses that are shared by people everywhere. Sometimes it happens unconsciously but I think that no matter how parochial our subject, our interpretation of it can and should have meaning well beyond its original context. Trying to get this across to students can be difficult, particularly for those in countries and communities where people have little knowledge of or interest in the wider world. But it can be done and often is, by intuition, by the brightest students.

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

121


Students often struggle with defining the difference between the premise and the theme of their documentary projects. A useful exercise I employ to get over this confusion is to ask them to identify the universal truth of their ideas in four words or less. After a bit of reflection, they usually they come up with something close to a statement of personal belief about human nature in general. Often they take the form of aphorisms, like “Love Conquers All,” “No Struggle No Gain,” “We Can Reinvent Ourselves,” or “Identity Is within You.” For several years at Columbia College Chicago we held the International Student Documentary Competition (ISDC), in which we received entries from some eighty different film schools. Submitted films were judged in seven categories, and among the winners from the first Competition were: • A film from Taiwan about an old man who played the organ and made paper airplanes in the streets to delight passers by. • A film by an Australian aboriginal film student who follows an old man back to search for traces of the house in which he grew up after being separated from his parents. • Several excellent films by students—from Brazil, France, Panama— attending the EICTV. • A story made by a student at Stanford University about a young Rwandan woman who had fled her homeland for Toronto after the massacres in her homeland. What these films had in common was their ability to touch us and engage us profoundly with universally recognizable human situations and emotions. They made us, regardless of our backgrounds, laugh and cry and think. As I have said, documentaries endure beyond their own time and place. TV news and current affairs reports use exactly the same technologies, but their work is by definition ephemeral and transient, rendered immediately obsolete by the next day’s reports. Occasionally, of course, the content of news style footage is of such importance that it is saved and eventually recycled and repackaged into a broader documentary form. There are also millions of hours of non-fiction—documentary-like material—being recorded every year, and needless to say, most of these works have a very narrow audience and a limited, if any, shelf life. They are made because it pleases their makers to do so, or because they are not interested or do not understand the deeper significance of inter-human communication. All have quite valid reasons to turn on their cameras, but not all are driven by what I call the true documentary impulse. The best documentaries become part of the global legacy of human creativity—and will be sustained and analyzed and discussed in collections and archives potentially forever, as part of the canon of important works of art and social record. These works have the capacity to speak more profoundly to audiences everywhere, and to move them with more literal recordings of some universally human elements.

122

Appendices


Documentaries, like people, all tend to have regional accents—they reflect the thematic preoccupations, aesthetic sensibilities and cultural nuances of the cultures that produce them. Why then should we even consider this notion of universal human truth and why is it important? You could well argue that universality is a secondary by-product of good filmmaking, that the immediate and specific concerns of any film must be function of the filmmaker’s primary experience and intended audience. This is quite a valid position, and of course many documentaries never transcend their home territory. But the world is shrinking at an incredible pace, and I would argue that we are at a turning point in our social evolution in which geographical and cultural borders are rapidly becoming less important than the global concerns of our species, and our relationship with the ever-more pressured planet we share is becoming ever tauter. My position, like that of most documentarians I know, is a humanist one—concerned with issues that affect or should affect us all. By way of explanation, I hope you will indulge me if I make a brief detour into some personal experiences that have led me to raise these questions today. For some thirty-five years I have been making documentaries all over the world and trying to pass on through teaching something of the language, craft, social role and cultural importance of documentary filmmaking, based largely on experience rather than on academic study. It is a career that has produced no great works of filmmaking art, but it has given me the great privilege of working among the whole spectrum of human ways of being, on every continent except Antarctica. I have become familiar with a myriad of expressions of our common human condition, everywhere from the collective farms in Guanxi Autonomous Region in China to the deserts of Central Australia with the last of the nomadic tribal communities, from New York City to the Amazon, from Havana to East Africa. My interest in the question of universality really began in an incredibly poor community in eastern Kenya, where I carried out a research with a group of western agronomists in order to make a film on farms in dry lands, in 1986. There we met a woman who was trying to survive in a hectare of dusty land, with six cows and a couple of emaciated goats. The woman had to feed twelve children, and she only saw her husband at Christmas, when he returned from Nairobi to—as she herself said—“make another child.” Many times when I have been working outside of my area of comfort, the memory of the wise words of this woman have made me conscious of the fact that there is no such thing as “theM and us,” but simply “us.” And this is how my concern emerged to find universality in documentary practice. A few years later I was commissioned to make a film for a major State Museum in Australia. They wanted to document a landmark legal case in which—after a huge legal battle—they were returning ancient Aboriginal skeletal remains from their collections—hundreds of skulls, arm bones etc.—to contemporary descendants of those tribal groups. Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

123


The museum’s Aboriginal consultative group consisted of representatives of some thirty-five tribal communities from southeastern Australia—collectively know as the Koori peoples. They were the first tribes to be dispossessed of their land, and have since suffered two centuries of systematic massacres, deculturation and marginalization by the colonizers—my ancestors. After a lot of discussion, the communities reluctantly agreed to be the consultants for the film, but said “This film is about theft of our culture, and you people with cameras and notebooks have been telling your version of our stories for two centuries and getting it wrong every time.  We might let you make a film with us, but not about us.”  So, the version of the history they gave me was a powerful indictment of all museums and the wider community’s appropriation of their land, culture and cosmology. They were understandably very suspicious of me, and of the possibility that I would continue this misrepresentation in my film.   Eventually I agreed to do something that is against all documentary conventions—to allow the participants to have the final say on its content. The finished film, called Koori Culture, Koori Control, was nothing like what the museum expected—but the Koori people loved it, and use it to this day.    The third experience happened when I was invited to present the Koori film at a festival in Augsburg, Germany and it provoked an interesting discussion about the authorial voice in documentaries—many arguing that only the filmmaker should have control over—and therefore be answerable for—the content of his or her film.    Others argued that the indigenous Australians should make their own films. I agreed—indeed since then there is a major indigenous filmmaking movement in Australia  and elsewhere, and no-one can make a film in the ethnographic tradition without close collaboration and consent of the Aboriginal peoples involved.  It is a model that is being repeated in many parts of the world, as Indigenous people from Bolivia to Canada to the Philippines are taking up cameras to defend their rights to land and to express and preserve their cultural identities.  So, let me come back to my original question: is there a universal language of documentaries? I would argue that of course there is. Documentary at its best is a lingua franca that—often unconsciously—produces films that leap across continents and decades and engage people everywhere because the stories they tell resonate with universal truths.   The question we as teachers must face is whether it is possible to instill this spirit of global consciousness into our students—or is that just another idealistic notion that can never compete with self-interest, the imperatives of the market and artistic ego. It depends, I would suggest, on how we structure our academic programs, and the relationship we may have with a broader community and the industry.  

124

Appendices


I recently visited some fifteen film schools around the world—mainly in Europe, but also in Australia and Latin America, as part of a survey from which I hope to draw some international reference points for a text book on developing documentary ideas. The spectrum of approaches reflects some fundamental philosophical differences between schools and countries, based on old tension between film as art and film as industry. In many places, especially Western Europe, the UK, Australia and the USA, over the past two decades or so television has become the primary habitat, stimulus and source of finance for documentaries at a professional level. The consequence has been that filmmakers have been forced to try to adapt their films’ content, style and format to fit the requirements of the broadcasters. In some cities, especially of Europe, the film schools are deeply interconnected with and financially dependent on the local television industry. In other countries, such as Australia and Canada, this dependence is partially offset by access to State-funded development and production-funding agencies, and by the fact that the costs of production have come down markedly as the necessary technologies become ever more accessible. In the United States there are some excellent foundations and other sources for financing films, and such is the size of their domestic market, it is possible for some independent documentarians consistently to make interesting high quality work. But for most US students to survive in this very competitive market once they get their mandatory degree, there is little choice but to work within the commercial industry in order to repay the very high loans that make their expensive education possible. In other places without a dominant television niche or State involvement for domestically produced documentaries, the emphasis is still on idea-driven and needs-driven films—rather than documentary projects that are pulled and distorted by market demand. Documentaries being made today in Latin America, Asia and Africa have as their audience festivals and an ever-expanding range of important community, cultural and political niches. These films are hard to get off the ground as funded projects, but at a low budget community activist level, documentaries driven by social, economic and political imperatives have become key weapons in the armory of those fighting for justice and cultural awareness—and individual filmmakers can still make powerful personal films as works of cinematic art. But despite this diversity of sources of finance and target audiences, major film schools around the world tend nevertheless to encourage a kind of authorial independent filmmaking. Students everywhere—from Stuttgart to Havana, Chicago to Hong Kong—are encouraged to explore and develop their distinctive creative voices and perspectives. This might not sit easily with the commercial

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

125


and television marketplaces, but once international appeal is recognized for promising documentarians through festivals and other exchanges, doors tend to be opened up. The clue, I suggest, is to follow that old sixties maxim—to think globally and act locally. There is a universal language of documentary, just as there is a universal human condition. Encouraging our filmmakers to search out both these universals in their documentary work—to look beneath the surface of their immediate subject and theme to find the broader human truth that always lies there—is to my mind the key. By so doing, they will enrich their filmmaking experience and expand the potential for their films to endure and to reach people everywhere.

126

Appendices


Papers from the Meeting “The Documentary and the Human Community� (excerpts) MARCOS PIMENTEL Brazil, documentarian, Documentary Workshop Network in Portuguese-speaking Africa Good afternoon. I am a very curious person and a good observer, and this, somehow, led me to work with documentaries. Before I became a documentarian, all the issues being handled on this table were part of my daily reflections. Everything that has to do with the documentary is of great interest to me, and I think that if we talk to people who are trying to train the field of the documentary, these questions also accompany them when they are preparing a shooting project. It is no news that the documentary has always been considered as a minor genre, somewhat less important that fiction films. Many people have always seen the documentary as a road to fiction since it is cheaper to produce. Many directors started working in this field and then migrated to the fiction film. I do not belong to this type of directors. To me, the documentary was something I chose early as my form of expression, as the way to relate with the world. The fact that in the beginning the documentary was seen as a marginal genre in thistory of film is essential to understand many of the problems faced by their makers today, although the situation began to change to some extent since the late nineties and early 2000. Fortunately, the situation has changed quite a bit, but not that much, and I think that all of us who work with documentaries sense that in some way. I have been working with documentaries for ten years, and I always ask myself when I will make my first feature film. I very much doubt that it will happen with a fiction director, that he asks himself when he will make his first documentary. And it is something that never comes across the mind of journalists and critics who always broach this topic.

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

127


However, I think that we are happily seeing some changes, and this is due basically to three things. In the first place, the democratization of the production means. Ever since digital cameras appeared, the access has become easier, prices lowered considerably, and with a small, light team you can do many things, even only with a cell phone. Another change we are having is that every day there is greater access to new forms of narrating and telling our own stories. Although I rather think that it happened at a moment when people got used to exist without the documentary; more or less at the end of the nineties and opening of 2000 we had a weird situation. Whether or not we like Michael Moore and his films, one is more or less identified with his style. He took the spectators to the movie theatres to see documentaries; even those who were not used to going to the movies began to go to see something that was not fiction. I remember I once ran into a friend who said to me: “How nice that you are making documentaries! I saw a documentary, Bowling for Columbine, and I would very much like to see yours on the screen.” He thought that I was making performer documentaries like Michael Moore, which is not my style, which have nothing to do with my personality; I shall never do something like that, but although this friend may not understand anything about the meaning of my work he already knows how to name it, he knows what a documentary is, a tiny bit of what a documentary is, he knows it’s such a wide field that it comprises different styles. And the third aspect that very much draws my attention at this point is that the persons have had increasing access to production means; they began to use what they had in their hands to definitely state that they did not feel represented in the existing means. Because if I need to tell a story it is because I am not satisfied with what is being told, it is because these stories do not reflect my identity or do not always reflect the reality I live in. These persons clearly evidenced that they had an urgency to say things, and somehow they managed to have “ballpoint pens” in their hands, capable of transmitting that to other publics. Today you film with a cellphone camera, connect with Youtube and inform your contacts that you are publishing things for your friends, and although it is something very small with regard to the capacity of dissemination of the big film industry to promote ideas, these persons are having more and more voice. And this produces a change in the form of relating; people stop being receivers to become producers of audiovisual contents, what in turn causes the number of productions to grow absurdly since 2000 up to the present. The world is living in a reality boom, people are filming ever more their villages, their corners, their homes, and trying to make this reach the largest possible amount of public. However, there has been an increase in the quantity but not in the quality of information. And this is an important aspect that those of us who work in the training of filmmakers must take into consideration, because it seems that people have to learn again how to film. The facility to have access to production means has caused the extinction of creative rigour. Today you grab a camera, go out, shoot and achieve an incredible number of hours of material. When you reach the editing room,

128

Appendices


you realize that you have twenty hours of material for a five-minute work, and it is then when you note that you are missing a shot, or five, because the truth is that you were investigating with the camera, you were filming without fully knowing what story you were going to tell. When you finish shooting is precisely when you should begin, because it is at that moment when you realize what stories you are going to tell. In this context I always recall a Hungarian photographer who shot in New York in the twenties. He had a very interesting method: he always shot stills with a 12-shot. film. Photographers generally go out and say: “Today is a good day to shoot.” They leave with their camera and spend the whole day going around taking pictures. And this man, on the contrary, worked with very little material, because having a film with only 12 shots would ensure that he would only take those pictures. At present, with digital cameras you take twenty or thirty photos, look at them, and only by pressing “erase” you keep nineteen, and in the end, perhaps you choose to print one that is out of focus. We have to use the best of each format, take every opportunity to produce the audiovisual content cheaply with these small cameras, but we have to keep on thinking in the old way, as we used to do years ago, keep planning, always thinking that behind this story there is an author, that you are telling something, that you want to say something, that there is a point of view implicit in what you are showing. I think there should always be a criterion, although the criterion may be the lack of criteria, but we cannot stop thinking that way. For some time now I have been concerned with the number of people who go out shooting, because it seems to be a very earnest issue, not only the way in which they do it but also the impact that it may have on the shot objects. Documentary film always had a taste that focused very much on the different, the exotic, the other. Generally, the most common thing is that you take the camera and go out to shoot worlds that are very distant from your reality. That is how documentary film was born with Flaherty and followed with Grierson and many other authors, other histories and trends, and fundamental schools of the genre with this special attention to what was far away. Along the history of documentary film there is a very strong trend to look at what is different, what is distinct from others, and to try to understand those realities. But it seems to me that documentarians increasingly stopped looking sideways; they dropped the urge, the will to tell stories, to make denounce films, to make social films. They stopped photographing their own worlds. We who work with documentaries know how much we learn from the reality we are shooting. Certainly it is a very long, very intense process in which we have to learn everything about the object in front of the camera to try to give it the best possible form, not judge it, not run the thousands of risks there are along that way. If we stop shooting our own universe we lose the possibility to know more about ourselves. When you film someone whom you do not know, or something that has not been so much filmed before; if you film a reality that does not belong to you, then the meeting of two ignorances begins to be disturbing. The

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

129


possibility of committing an error is ever greater and the history of documentary film is full of these cases. This situation lasted many years and it appears to me to be very delicate. However, this tends to change, precisely because of all I have said at the beginning of this conversation, because the persons are shooting ever more their own realities. There are film workshops for people who had never touched a camera before, and these persons already begin to make their own films about their communities, about their realities. There are film workshops for the indigenous, for persons in risk situations, for persons in underdeveloped countries, there are thousands of opportunities. In Brazil, in every favela there is like a center of popular culture where the inhabitants receive training to start working with audiovisuals and recording in their own communities. Work is being carried out ever more on the patrimony of digital images. Then it is easier that you get to know someone from your family, from your friends who live in your village, in your city, in your closest circle of people; it is possible that you identify someone who was filmed, someone who was a figure—whether or not the leading figure of the documentary—or simply represented a small fragment of his routine, registered by a camera to become part of a documentary. We, who work with this, know the impact it may mean for the person to look at him/herself with a certain distancing; we know it is something strong of which I still have not been able to measure how it is going to mark a difference in the life of that person. Let us think of documentaries that are practically elaborated with the catharsis of the people watching the projection of their own daily actions, whether or not they are acting for the camera, showing themselves more or less naturally or not. It seems to me that there is a tacit agreement as well as a rupture and each time more shooting is made, ever more persons are filmed, but I think this is going to be a difference in the life of those very persons at a given point. On the other hand, I imagine that someone from those here present has a documentary on himself, or was recorded in a documentary. If we had asked this to a public twenty years ago, it would have been very difficult to find a person with these characteristics, since in the past it was mainly done on celluloid. If we come ten more years closer in time and I were to make the same question here, perhaps some fifteen or twenty persons would have been filmed or registered in some film, and this, undoubtedly begins to mark a change, whatever it may be. I think that we still are not prepared to measure that—the impact that looking at oneself in a distanced way my have on the life of people. I think that the documentary is going to bring that. I am not talking about characters, but of something that fictional film will never be able to do—to give the person a vision of him/herself. Of course it will never be the real vision, I am not naïve to the point of believing that it is reality what is being showed there; particularly when the person knows he/she is being filmed. Sometimes, when you are going to have company at home, you go and prepare the house. That always happens,

130

Appendices


particularly at my home. Of course, when we know we are being filmed, when we know we are being observed, that makes us change somehow, but in spite of it I think it is we who are reflected there, although there is a filter, not only affecting you, who are “acting,” but also the author who is looking at you. This is going to bring some change for the documentary, and it will be related to the work of us all here. So I think this could be a good question to bear in mind when working with documentaries—what will happen with documentaries in the upcoming years? I hope it will be something good. A basic difference between documentary film and fiction film is that in fiction the characters will never be able to look at the finished film. That seems stupid and silly, but this small difference changes completely the behavior of the documentary filmmaker, because then he has to take into consideration that his characters may look at the final result. This changes the rules of the game completely, since it makes the documentary become a constant exercise of negotiation between what stands in front and what lies behind the camera. It is a permanent exercise in which we are negotiating with the world, with reality, with the characters, but where the filmmaker negotiates with his conscience, with his values, with his ethics. For some time past I become a bit scared with commentaries such as: “I saw this film and it changed my life.” I sense that they are expressions of very exaggerated emotions caused because one has seen something that has touched very deeply at a certain moment. But fifteen days later, a month later, five years, later, fifteen years later I ask myself—did that film really change your life as a spectator? Because what I am absolutely sure of is that when you are working as a filmmaker, the making of a picture can indeed change your life immediately because of the contact with the characters, with this universe, whether close or distant from you. In my opinion, the worst that can happen in the history of a documentary is to have the filmmaker impose his ideas on what stands in front of the camera. There are many filmmkers who go out to the street with a preconceived vision; they go out, practically when the film is finished, and give very little to reality, to the sunset, to the character, to the environment. Part of the authorship of the picture, the entire freshness that a documentary may have, must be delivered to that universe you have chosen to work in and let it conduct it; the filmmaker should not be the one to lead or impose things. It seems to me more interesting to take the opposite road, because many times we go out shooting to confirm something we already have conceived in our heads, and when that happens you better make fiction film, because precisely the great difference with the documentary is its wealth, which allows you to impregnate of values, concepts and visions that perhaps are not your own. With this I am not saying that you do not have to make the film;;that is not the question. We always have to drive somewhere, there is always a guiding hand, but which also allows you to reflect and succeed in delivering a part of the authorship to whatever stands behind the camera. At any moment in life we can all change our concepts, our visions, but I keep insisting that if at the moment of recording you carry out this whole game of negotiation with the conscience, with your values, with what you

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

131


thought at that moment, the risk of your changing of opinion may be much smaller. To know how to be attentive to these things that are very complex; the relationship between both sides of the camera is very important. No matter how much concerned you are with trying to shoot perfectly the reality in front of you, your filmed object has the camera on one of its sides but not on the other, therefore it will never be an equal relationship. You have to be observant so that the film turns out to be as close as possible to your beliefs, particularly we who work with independent documentaries, because the higher your budget and the greater your commitments with the industries, the bigger your responsibility and the pressure upon you; because you have to take more into consideration the height of the investment in the film, and the fact that you have to produce income, profit, etc., what negotiation or what form of negotiation is implicit. Something peculiar happens when you work with independent documentaries. In Canada, for example, a country that has funds destined exclusively to maintain this so-called “author’s cinema,� documentaries produced independently draw more attention that those produced with money from elsewhere, surely with much more money, many more commitments and much more weight on the shoulders. Then, what commitment do you have when you are working with low budgets or no budget at all in developing countries or in situations of complete guerrilla cinema, where you grab the camera and go because you want to tell that story? What concerns do you have? To tell what is closest to your feelings, to what you believe in, to what you are shooting. Your commitment is only that. Who is going to watch these films? Unfortunately very few, this is the reality in which we all live. Our films, where are they exhibited? In festivals, then we try to move them from one country to another, but particularly in Brazil people ask: Where can I see your documentary? And what happens is that luckily you enter a movie hall for the premiere, or that in the midnight hours it is exhibited in public television with super-low audiences. They will run it once or twice. After that, the people will not be able to see them. Then, the commitment is wholly different. You can change to the point of not wanting to do any more documentaries. There is the story of Joris Ivens, a great Dutch documentarian who had a strong commitment with political cinema and at the beginning made a film, in 1929, called Rain that had nothing to do with politics. He was a revolutionary man who filmed all the revolutions that took place in the world, and there was a moment when he made this film that shows what happens in a city on a rainy day, just that. For a long time he did not want to know anything more about making pictures, because to him, what he had made had nothing to do with what he believed in, but there came a time when he thought that no, that his picture that apparently has no conflict may be as beautiful as any other film made by him or by any other person. I think that, indeed, this may happen to anyone; nything may always happen, particularly if we are humans, even the doubt is one of the themes that could be included in the series To Be a Human Being, in addition to the six that are already part of it.

132

Appendices


DANIEL DIEZ Cuba, documentarian, founder of TV Serrana TV Serrana celebrates its seventeenth anniversary and sixteen years of its relationship with the EICTV. We have a small school in the Sierra Maestra, it is called the Communitarian Training Study Center, and there we train the young people who live in the area in the craft of making the primary documentary. I come from Havana, I was not born in this area, but I taught how to read and write during the campaign against illiteracy in the Sierra Maestra in the early years of the Revolution, and I became familiar with the mountains, with the zone of San Pablo de Yao, where Che fought and had his commander’s headquarters. One of the issues that have always worried me very much is related with the cultural hegemony exerted by the transnationals, but there is a cultural hegemony that is carried out through television and the national broadcasting, which shows essentially in the fact that it only shows the urban realities; the telenovelas it broadcasts only show Havana; in its stories, the children are those of Havana. And I asked myself: what is happening with Cuban culture? Because the culture of the mountainous zones, or that of the remaining communities is also a part of the national culture, in the same measure that this culture is not disseminated, stimulated, it runs the risk of being forgotten, and the national culture suffers with it. If we are not capable of reflecting the reality of what is happening in our small communities as part of the great community which is a country, what is going to happen with all of us? There is also an informational hegemony. Everything we knew about these farmers was whether they were productive or not. Nothing was known about their lives, their environment, their anguish, their happiness, their beauty, their concerns and their problems. Luckily, I was trained when I was sixteen years old in ICAIC (Cuban Institute for the Cinematographic Art and Industry) next to Santiago Álvarez, and TV Serrana is part of that, of the training I received. I have also been lucky to travel; I almost never get to see the big cities, but remain inside the countries, with the indigenous people. I have been involved with the Latin American Indigenous Movement for twelve years, and have become aware that my indigenous people, my farmers have very similar groups of problems concerning their work with the land, how they sew, how they cook. I remember once when I took a group from UNICEF Spain to visit the farmers of the Sierra, and when the children there began to sing to them, the songs were the same ones that had been sung in Spain many years ago, which had disappeared from there and we still had them here, even though identity is something that moves, that is not still, that changes. Philosopher and anthropologist Jesús Martín Barbero, in a conference when he visited Cuba, said: “One thing is the past that happened and another thing is the past that forms and makes us.” Then, in this regard, to me it has not only been important to gather the testimony of the men and women of the

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

133


mountains, but also that they tell the rest of the country how they have been able to keep certain human values alive. In my opinion, it is there where the very special role of the documentary lies; the documentary is the weapon, the tool that one has to penetrate, to reach reality, reality that sometimes is snatched away by the media or by the politicians in other places, and sometimes not even they are conscious of how important it is. This, which is called self-esteem, is precisely what Televisión Serrana tries to look for with its documentaries. A quick anecdote. Once we filmed one of the great alcoholics that lived in the zone, falling from his horse because of his drunken state. We did not publish it because of ethics—you have to have ethics with the community you work with—but we did call him apart and showed him the images. When he saw what he looked like after having drunk so much, he started to quit drinking. Perhaps the example is too trivial, but they were things that made us win the confidence of the farmers, made them stop regarding us as the bearded ones, made the young girls wearing shorts ask themselves what are these people coming here for. The farmers understood it, although some never did and made our lives impossible. I am certain that some of our filmmakers are interested in the topic handled in yesterday’s session, which was thrilling, about reaching a place with a preconceived truth, with an already made truth, and not reaching the place to start learning about that truth and starting to say from there. With regard to that theme, my opinion is that it is important that such a reality not only be known and shown to the rest of the people—you always wish that your documentaries will be seen—but that it be known by the same subjects that were shot. TV Serrana takes the documentaries it makes to each small community that makes up the mountain municipality, and there we hold debates. Those debates give TV Serrana the possibility of enriching the new themes it plans to handle, that is, to be one-hundred percent at the service of the community. Our method is not that of the specialist who says: “I am going to make a documentary on this theme or on this other one.” I think that the difference with the documentarian is directly related to the possibility it has of reaching places where no one has ever been before. The artist-documentarian sometimes sees what the rest of society does not see, because he is capable of penetrating those realities with his sensibility. That is why I do not like—and it is not the first time I speak about this—the word manipulation. Placing the camera in a certain place is not manipulating; when you place the camera you are expressing a feeling, an idea you wanted to transmit. To manipulate is something else. To manipulate is what journalism normally does, that journalism that is sold, that is dominated by power. On the contrary, the great journalists do continue to have problems, do continue to be questioned, just like the documentarian. To me, the documentarian is a great sociologist, because in the process of research and deepening of that reality he becomes a human being capable of understanding that other human being, even if one is capable of betraying that reality to say what one believes. But you have to say what it is, you have to speak with that truth,

134

Appendices


and the documentary is a tool to do it. Hence the great ethical responsibility a documentarian has, since you have to be capable of getting rid of everything you have read, you have seen, of what you have been told, and enter that reality, go to the roots and penetrate the essence. Besides, there is something else. When you make a documentary and betray reality and time goes by, that reality—the real one—hits you, and you lose as an artist, as a documentarian, as a creator. I will paraphrase a phrase that, ever since I read it, I understood that it was the essence of those who work with documentaries. One of the greatest French sociologists, Pierre Bordeau, who unfortunately died about two years ago, said: “The vengeance of the real is merciless; against the poorly instructed good will or the utopian voluntarism, the merciless reality,” which in the countryside would equal to saying: “The river always recovers its level, the river always follows its course. You make it go this way, that way, a cyclone comes, but it always follows its course.” TV Serrana intended to give all these instruments to the students of the EICTV, teach them to have that glance from the community, not to betray the community. To have a viewpoint from the community and from art, to know how to find the poetry of the place. I remember Santiago Álvarez used to say something that I have never forgotten: “I want to have a camera in one eye and a microphone in an ear, and go through life gathering those realities to show them afterwards, always with art.” ALEXANDRA HALKIN United States, documentarian, founder of Chiapas Media Project I am greatly moved when listening to the people from TV Serrana speak, because I have had this same experience in the indigenous communities in Chiapas and Guerrero, Mexico, in addition to having worked with several indigenous projects in Latin America. As a foreigner, as a Yankee, as a white woman, as a middle-class person, to me it has always been something striking and essential—as Daniel said—to reach the communities with open eyes and ears, and to remain without bringing, in my case, all the trash from the United States. To be and feel in order to exchange, to live next to them. I am a documentarian and also an activist, and the first time I found the Zapatista communities in Chiapas was when I was working on a documentary about a humanitarian aid caravan of the United States and Mexico. Speaking about how a video can change a life, I feel that it can, since in the eighties I saw a video made by peasant women from India that showed a micro-economic goat-raising project in the community. Then, to try to make the business grow, they made videos about their experiences, to show them to other women and urge them to join that work. The video was badly done, out of focus, with too much movement, but the truth is that it impacted me greatly and remained in my mind. I traveled to see the Zapatista communities during an event in which the press was highly represented. One of the things demanded by the communities was to have access to the media. Then, speaking with Commander

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

135


David in 1995, I proposed to him an audiovisual media project, and he answered yes and suggested the community we should start with. In the beginning the idea was not to create an organization and work in several Zapatista regions, but it was a test to see how it worked out, because that people live in a low-intensity war—it is already mid-intensity—in very difficult conditions, and besides, they are farmers, have to work in the corn fields to survive, they cannot remain, like you do here, in the school, they have to work, it cannot only be filming. Then we did not know what was going to happen. I also wish to say that I did not go alone. I was working with an indigenous video project in Oaxaca called Ojo del Agua. They were the first ones in Chiapas, and from the beginning we always decided not to bring people from outside; to us it was very important to have indigenous people teach their own people. We already have thirteen years working there. Together with them we have built four regional communication centers where they produce their videos themselves, they have their own equipment, production, post-porduction, audio and Internet, which is essential to them, since living in a totally militarized zone it is an obvious way to communicate among themselves and to the outside. We have also been working in the mountains of the state of Guerrero, the poorest region in Mexico, making documentaries on human rights with a center involved with the issue. The project was worked out in several ways. As a project of indigenous communities, I think we have a wider dissemination than that of any other project of indigenous communities in Latin America, because I live part time in the United States and have succeeded in creating a very extensive dissemination network, particularly with universities, although we present these videos not only in universities but as a form of social sensitizing and activism. The video on the day labourers is part of a campaign we have set up to combat the large enterprises, mainly in the state of Sinaloa where the majority of the agricultural enterprises of Mexico are established. We have used this video in the universities and we take them postcards signed by the students— which we later send to an association of agricultural enterprises, one of the largest in Sinaloa—saying that they have to abide by the Labor Law in Mexico, because the Mexican Constitution has good laws, the problem is they are not respected and there are no sanctions nor ways of demanding. I have seen videos, especially those of the Zapatistas, that have had great impact in the United States because the large majority of U.S. citizens have never seen a video made by indigenous people nor do they now that there are indigenous communities in Latin America. If they have heard something about the Zapatistas it is that they are armed guerrilla men fighting the Mexican army, and when they see those videos they exclaim: Wow!!! A sort of connection takes place. We are a very small organization without much financing, but we have had many volunteers from several countries from Europe, the United States, South America, who have helped considerably in the development of projects and who have come to work with us and then have returned to their countries with this experience. It is thus that we have succeeded in moving the information on these communities and aroused sensibility toward them.

136

Appendices


Profiles of the Participating Film Schools International Film and TV School, San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba (EICTV) (Mata los Indios – And AfroCaribbean community in the Dominican Republic, and Regoufe – A remote mountain hamlet in Portugal) The International School of Film and Television is considered one of the most important institutions of its kind. Created in 1986 by the Foundation of New Latin American Cinema, it is distinguished by the vision of its fathers—Colombian Nobel prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, Argentinean poet and filmmaker Fernando Birri, and Cuban film director and theoretician Julio García Espinosa, among others—, who conceived a center to nurture creative talent among students from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Since then, thousands of professionals and students from over 50 countries have turned it into a space of cultural diversity and multinational scope, better defined as The School of All the Worlds. MFA in the Art Production of Audiovisual Media. City University of New York (Harlem – A Multiethnic community of New York) The mission of the MFA (Master on Fine Arts) in the Art Production of Audiovisual Media of the City University of New York (CUNY) is to prepare those who seek to penetrate the growing field of audiovisual media, with an emphasis on the creation of original stories, both in documentary and fiction. The program focuses on the independent production, and pretends that its students be capable of making works of high creative value, social significance and effective budgets—qualities that characterize the independent mass media art community. Students are trained in the mastery of the creative and practical production techniques through a basic course of growing complexity, based on the experiences accumulated in the history and theory of independent media production. Likewise, this intensive two-year program prepares its participants to face the rapid expansion of the digital art field and obtain success in it, including the film and digital video production, making a special point in achieving an original story, both in documentaries and fiction.

The MFA on the Art Production of Audiovisual Media is the sole postgradual program of its kind that offers an institution for low-income participants in the number one market of audiovisual media. Its students are very diverse and come from different parts of the world. The MFA takes advantage of its location in Manhattan to provide rapid access to talent, to the organizations and to the different facilities, and becomes a bridge between the students and the art community of the media. The program summit is Cityvisions, a two-day festival that shows the films produced by the MFA, which is held every spring in the largest halls in Manhattan. Citivisions 2009 was held in the DGA theatre (Film Directors’ Union of the United States). Past events had guests of the height of Christine Vachon, Stanley Nelson, Alan Heim, D.A. Pennebaker, Sigourney Weaver, Hal Hartley, Peter Bogdanovich and Albert Maysles. Since its creation in 1997, the MFA graduates have taken their film and video works directly to the professional arena: television chains, international distributors, and its students have obtained Emmy prizes in the main film festivals around the country. University of Magdalena (The Wayuu – An indigenous community in northern Colombia) The film program of the University of Magdalena is an educational program framed in the area of Humanities of that institution. It pretends to consolidate the Caribbean and Colombian audiovisual culture, and is the only film program in the northern coast of Colombia. Its task is to train free, conscious, critical and creative filmmakers, with a high sense of ethics and social justice, with a spirit for research and respect to human rights; capable of articulating the art, film humanistic and technological knowledge for the creation and production of an autonomous narrative through images that communicate and respond to the demands of the universal fictional and documentary expression, and contribute to enrich and project the local, regional and national film culture and to develop the audiovisual industry.

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

137


Department of Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland (Voices of Oceania – A Polinesian community in Samoa) The film teaching system of the University of Auckland is the main program of this kind in New Zealand. It offers an intensive course “in the typical style of film schools” for future writers, directors and producers, both of fiction and documentary. Through this program, the students have access to state-of-the-art equipment like Red cameras, which allow shooting with film quality. Besides, they are supervised by internationally renowned figures. Its students, graduates and teaching personnel have won numerous prizes and have succeeded in presenting their works in important international festivals in Venice, London and New York, as well as in the regular shows during the New Zealand Film Festival. The University of Auckland takes pride in the large number of its students who remain linked to the industry, and in the high creative level they show. Its courses are characterized by involving professionals of the sector, since the majority of the teachers are active both in the country and abroad. This influence in the training is reinforced by guest teachers and production supervisors from the industry, who act as consultants in the final projects of all the students. In 2006, the University received the Screenmark distinction, which is granted to the courses that stand out for their high quality in the practices and the training for the screen industry. Film and Television Institute of India (The God Makers – A community of religious idol sculptors in Calcutta) Founded in 1960 in the former Prabhat Studios, in Pune—which makes it heir of a rich legacy of quality cinema—the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has truly achieved its targets in the field of filmmaking training and in the production of television programs. Today, the FTII is considered a center of excellence, not only in India but also in Asia and Europe. The films of its students have been registered in festivals in India and abroad, and many of them have been awarded both nationally and internationally. The students of the FTII have penetrated every corner of the film and television industries in India, and have been outstanding in every aspect. For example, Subhash Ghai, Mani Kaul, Nasiruddin Shah, Jaya Bhaduri, Raza Murad, Shatrughan Sinha, Mithun Chakraborty, Tom Alter, Kanwarjit Paintal, Adoor Gopal Krishnan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Raj Kumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra have been students of this Institute. The FTII is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India. Its policies are determined by a Management Board, which appoints the Institute’s director, who is presently Mr. Pankaj Rag.

138

Appendices

Institute of Cinematographic Arts of the Red Sea (The Bedouins – A community in the desert, Little Petra, Jordan) The Red Sea Institute of Cinematographic Arts (RSICA)—a postgradual level designed to serve the Middle East and North of Africa—offers a two-year full-time course (in addition to the summer), which leads to the obtention of the MFA degree in film. All RSICA students have the opportunity to put into practice their abilities in the different film modalities through a balanced study program that comprises the writing of scripts, production, direction, photography, sound, edition and marketing, as well as the history of film and its analysis. During the summer, RSICA students can obtain academic credit working as supervised assistants (often through the Royal Film Commission) to complete scripts or cinematographic projects, or take part in one of the Institute’s productions. Along the two years, the students collaborate in numerous film projects, both fictional and documentary, covering a wide range of local topics. To achieve a safe environment for experimentation, first-year students are not allowed to exhibit their films in public, which is not the case for those in second year, who receive aid for the presentation of their works in festivals and contests. The current enrolment at RSICA is 46 students, the majority of which are Jordans, but there are students also from Palestine, Egypt, Tunis, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. The teaching staff is made up by eight professionals from the United States, Europe and Jordan, and has sufficient equipment and edition rooms, in addition to a mediatech that pretends to be an important resource for all the Middle East. It shelters a collection of films, scripts and books, as well as of ancient equipment, etc. Bachelor in Documentary Film. Madrid Film Institute (NIC) (El Rastro – An old Madrid street market neigborhood) The Bachelor degree in documentary film is a theoretical-practical study program whose main purpose is to train filmmakers with a personal perspective in the area of contemporary documentary. With a strong theoretical base on the characteristics of the genre, the Bachelor degree is articulated around the creative process of a documentary—from the idea through the post-production. Its objective is to provide knowledge and develop the student’s skills for direction and scriptwriting of documentaries with a personal viewpoint. The idea is to support the training of documentary directors-scriptwriters with a wide profile, knowledge and skills that will help them work in the different stages of the creation and production of documentaries. In this regard, it is important to clarify that the course approaches the documentary essentially as space of cinematographic creation and search. At the end of the course each participant will have shot and edited a documentary short film of up to 10 minutes and participated in several practices shot collectively.


On the Filmmakers Tanya Valette (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1962). She is the seventh EICTV Director, and the first graduate of the school to take up this position, which she assumed in January of 2007. She studied Social Psychology at the University of Santo Domingo, and was later a member of the first generation of graduates from the EICTV, specializing in Editing. She lived in France, where she continued her studies in Screenwriting, and took her first steps in documentary filmmaking, winning the Aide à l’écriture du CNC award. Back in the Dominican Republic, Tanya devoted her time to the writing and analysis of fiction films and the production management and directing of documentaries and experimental videos. She also conducted workshops on screenplay writing for private and public institutions and was the Director of Educational Television Projects and the Project Director of the National Institution of Film in the Dominican Republic. Russell Porter (Melbourne, Australia, 1945). Australian documentarian, writer and teacher with over thirty-five years of experience. He has won several Australian and international awards for his films, many dealing with cross-cultural and social issues, and the relationship between science and society. He has extensive international experience and recognition as a film teacher at film schools in the Australia, Latin America, USA, and Europe. He is currently the Head of the Documentary Department at the EICTV and until 2010 he was a tenured faculty member at Columbia College Chicago where he

coordinated the Documentary Program. He is currently writing a book on documentary ideas and another on the Amazon and is developing several film projects including a feature documentary on Human Consciousness. Marcos Pimentel (Juíz de Fora, Brazil, 1977). Graduated in Documentary at the International Film and TV School in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba (EICTV) and specialized in Documentary at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He also studied Social Communication in Brazil from the UFJF and Psychology at CES-JF. As a director, screenwriter and independent producer, he has made documentaries shot in 35 mm and 16 mm, video and television, winning 69 awards at national and international film festivals. In television he has worked in the Department of Special Projects of Rede Minas de Television, in the making of educative and cultural documentaries, such as the series Palabras, Caminos and Minas en fiesta, that were nationally distributed by TV Cultura. He has also written screenplays for TV Cultura, the new public television of Brasilia. He is currently one of the directors of Cineport (Film Festival for Portuguese Speaking Countries), in which he also coordinates a net for the audiovisual cooperation between young Portuguese speaking filmmakers. Ivan Morales Jr. (Pindamonhangaba, Brazil, 1981). He studied Audiovisual Media in Brazil. Following his studies he graduated from the Department of Editing at the EICTV in 2004. Through the Talent Campus

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

139


of the Berlinale in 2005 he won a scholarship to continue his studies in editing in the Academy of Media Arts of Cologne. After he graduated he continued to live in Cologne, where he works freelance as an editor of documentaries and fiction products for the movies and television. He has also made some short films of his authorship. He is the editor for the films of Marcos Pimentel and together they have won prizes for documentary films in different festivals. He composes music and draws comics. Gina Villafañe (Panama City, Panama, 1979). Graduated in Electronic Engineering for Communications from the University of Panama in 2004. Gina graduated from the EICTV Sound Department in 2007. She works as an independent sound designer for feature films and short fiction and documentary films en Central America and Cuba. She is Coordinator of the Sound Department and a member of the Academic Council of the EICTV since 2009. Gina has taught workshops in sound and post production in Central America as a member of the Norwegian Peace Corps (Fredskorpset). She has directed the sound design for feature films and documentaries like la yuma, by Florence Yaugey (NicaraguaFrance), lisanka, by Daniel Díaz Torres (Cuba), María en Tierra de nadie, by Marcela Zamora (Spain-El Salvador), and Temperamento, by Jorge Fuentes (Cuba), among others. Nicolás Ordóñez (Bogotá, Colombia, 1977). Graduated in Literature from the University of Los Andes (Colombia), with a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He has worked as a journalist and photographer in publications like el espectador, in Bogotá. He directed the feature documentary Trip Voyeur (official entry at the Festival de Cine Pobre of Gibara, Cuba, 2010). He attended the script workshop “How to Tell a Story,” conducted by Nobel Prize Gabriel García Márquez. Recently he was a juror of Non-Filmed Scripts at the 32nd Festival of the New Latin American Cinema of Havana. He exhibited his first fotographic series in Casa Gaia, Havana, under the title Glamour in the Rubbish, in February 2011. At present he works as copywriter and photographer in the Cultural Division of the EICTV, where he is working on his second photographic series on the occasion of twenty-five years of that School.

140

Appendices

Jean Jean (Thomassique, Central Plateau, Haiti, 1980). Filmmaker. At an early age his mother migrated with him to the Dominican Republic to escape from the Duvaliers’ dictatorship. He graduated from the “Ángel Haché” Acting Laboratory, at the National School of Dramatic Arts, Fine Arts, in 2003. He attended the workshop on acting in the School of Film TV and Voiceovers in 2000/2001. Founder of the Group of Organic Theater, where he staged several plays about political issues, like the most recent one, Henrik Ibsen’s An enemy of the People. He performed several supporting roles in the fledgling Dominican film industry. He entered the EICTV in 2008, with an experience of life nourished by the coming and going through the border of two territories divided as war treasures or defeats. This life story makes Jean Jean a full citizen of an island that is essentially one, based on its common African root. Through the Department of Documentary Direction at the EICTV, he has made several documentaries and a short film adapted from a story by Juan Bosch, entitled The Woman. Ismael “Kique” Cubero García (Santurce, Puerto Rico, 1978). He studied Philosophy at the University of Puerto Rico. He worked as production assistant at the TV public station TUTV during the first season of the documentary series Duty-Free Zone, which won an Emmy. Later he worked alongside filmmaker Pedro Ángel Rivera in the production and as cameraman of the documentary ¿Why Do Workers Organize Themselves? Under Pedro Ángel Rivera’s tuition he learned to edit, and edited the documentaries Another World is Possible, from the second season of the series Zona Franca, and Che expresso, and was also coeditor of the TV program The new School, also from Zona Franca. He additionally wrote the script for the TV program efrén Rivera: from Protest to Proposal, from the awarded documentary series Geoambiente. He is a graduate of the EICTV regular course, in the specialty of Documentary Direction. Leiqui Uriana (Maracaibo, Venezuela, 1984). Documentarian. Member of the Wayuu nation, of Sijuna origin. She has directed and produced several documentaries on the Wayuu culture and is currently studying the second year of Documentary Direction at the EICTV.


Helena Salguero (Bogotá, Colombia, 1982). She studied Audiovisual Media at the Politécnico Grancolombiano of her native city. In parallel she worked in commercials as production assistant. She participated in the production of several short films, as art director and costumes designer, and developed the idea and production of the short film echoes of a navigator. Since 2007, she is part of the team of Karamelo Producciones, participating in the production of the institutional TV series The Time of Truth in different regions of the country and other projects focused on human rights. She is currently a post-graduate student of Creative Writing at Universidad del Magdalena, in Santa Marta, and instructor of documentary subjects of the Film and Audiovisual Program of that school. Rafael Ruiz (Madrid, Spain, 1988). He began his Bachelor on History in 2006, which he left to enter the Film Institute (NIC) in 2008. The first year he obtained the double diploma in Scriptwriting and started studying Direction. Having obtained the Scriptwriting diploma, he wrote the double chapter and the bible of the first season of a sitcom (Addicts), shot that same year, in addition to other short films (The illness, The Movie is Out There, etc.). As director he made two shorts and worked as camera operator in another two. In 2009, he specialized in the field of documentary filmmaking, in which he is about to graduate, and also has unfinished personal projects. In April of 2010 he was elected by his colleagues and teachers for the direction of the Spanish episode of the series To Be a Human Being. Thais Taverna (São Paulo, Brazil, 1983). She studied Audiovisuals in the United Metropolitan Faculty of Sao Paulo, obtained her bachelor diploma in Documentary at the Film Institute of Madrid and is currently an exchange student of the Chair of Photography of the EICTV. She has been director of photography of documentaries and television series, in addition to having frequently been an assistant. She has directed several documentaries, among them one on her grandfather, a very popular

character from the Bixiga neighbourhood in Sao Paulo. She has presented several still photo shows in Brazil and Spain Sreya Chatterjee (Calcutta, India, 1984). Sreya Chatterjee is currently pursuing postgraduate Diploma in Film Editing from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. She scripted, directed and edited the short film The labyrinth (2006) as a part of her graduation project in St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta; scripted, directed and edited the short film Prometheus and the Other (2007) as first year end project in the Film and Television Institute of India. She edited the short film A Coincidental Tale, 2009, as second year end project in that same institution; this film was screened in the 40th International Film Festival of India, Goa, as part of the Indian Panorama section; in the same section at the Kohima International Film Festival 2010, and in the IBDAA Awards, Dubai, 2009. She edited Rahomshi (2009) as second year video documentary project in the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune—the film was selected for screening in the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, 2010. Under a Student Exchange Programme between the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, and the Stuttgart Media University, she shot a documentary on the Christmas markets and street musicians of Stuttgart, Germany, in December 2008. She has worked in postproduction departments as an editor and post-production controller, and participated as a freelancer in many other fiction and nonfiction projects. She plans to edit films and also to continue making documentaries, especially those based on themes of her native Calcutta, to the memories of this old metropolis and its transformations with the passing of years. Abdelsallam Al-Hajj (Um Qais, Jordan, 1984). A 2003 graduate of Yarmouk University in Jordan with a BA in Journalism/Radio and Television, Abdelsalam went on to study Documentary Filmmaking for six months at the Arab Institute of Film in 2005. He completed a feature documentary called My City about the women in his village, which has since been screened at Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival and the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival in 2007 and 2008. He has been working in Jordan as a camera operator, AC, grip and sound designer on independent features, short films and music videos. He loves sculpture and has completed many sculpture projects.

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

141


Osama Namrouqa (Amman, Jordan, 1978). For the last 10 years, Osama Namrouqa worked in the film industry of Jordan and the surrounding region. He began in the Lighting and Electric departments and moved into producing and directing fiction and documentary films. He worked in various local and international films including the Oscar-winning The Hurt locker, Redacted, Fair Game, and Captain Abu Raed. While attending the RSICA, Namrouqa produced several short fiction films and directed a series of documentaries. Said Najmi (Amman, Jordan, 1980). He completed his degree in Multimedia Technology from the University of Huddersfield. Later he participated in several digital filmmaking workshops,, where he directed his first short film The Other Side of My neighborhood, which was screened in many festivals. He began to work in films as a director/ editor/cinematographer. Then he was granted a scholarship to become a Master of Cinematic Arts in the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts, Aqaba, Jordan. Already a graduate, he is eager to make more films and work professionally in the Middle Eastern and around the globe. Laura Cardona (Bogotá, Colombia, 1978). Editor and documentarian. She started her career at Florida State University Film School in 2001. She worked as associate producer and assistant editor of Fighting For life in the Death Belt, a human and social rights documentary. Over the years she has worked on multiple award- winning documentaries and television programs for HBO, PBS, ABC, Showtime, History Channel, National Geographic, and others. She is currently an MFA student at CUNY’s City College concentrating in writing/directing documentary films, and is in preproduction for her thesis film My House your House, an observational documentary about a Latino adult daycare center. She also works as a freelance editor at HBO programming and resides in Harlem, New York.

142

Appendices

Joslyn Duncan (Philadelphia, United States). Writer and producer of film/video and theatre works. As the Founding Director of Griotworks, Joslyn aims to bring communities together through the production and distribution of storytelling and culturally-based mixed media projects. Her work as a community producer began with the All Stars talent show network. With the All Stars she worked with communities to produce over 40 talent shows in neighbourhoods in Philadelphia and New York. Later, Joslyn worked for Scribe Video Center as program coordinator with community groups, to complete 12 independent short films through the Precious Places Neighbourhood History Project, and organized 20 indoor and outdoor independent film screenings in Philadelphia and Camden neighbourhoods. She is currently working on an MFA in film/video from the City College of New York. Maria Cláudia Ribeiro Vasconcelos Alves (Lisboa, Portugal, 1980). Graduated in Painting from the Fine Arts School, at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. In 2001 she moved to Italy to study at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan. Since 2003 she included the video-documentary in her line of work. In 2004 she went to Barcelona to participate in the development of a public art project at the University of Barcelona. In 2005 she attended the intensive workshop on Documentary Direction at the Lisbon videotech in 2005, and directed her first documentary, The Occasion, which received two national and one international award (Best Short Documentary at the Cineport Festival). In 2008 she premiered the documentary The next Occasion, produced by Filmes do Tejo II, in the public television channel (RTP2); this film has been selected to take part in many national and international festivals. Until June 2008 she taught Visual Arts at High School level in Lisbon. In September 2008 she joined the regular course at the EICTV, specializing in Documentary. Her latest documentary— Private Domain, part of the documentary series Scenes from Real life, made for the Portuguese television—was produced by Valentim de Carvalho Filmes and supported by RTP2. The film is currently in the sound post production process.


Rodrigo Carneiro (Laranjal, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1984). Bachelor in History from the Federal University of Ouro Preto. He studied Drawing at the Arts Foundation of Ouro Preto. He worked as an editor in the Audiovisual Experimentation Center of the Federal University of Ouro Preto and in the audiovisual section of the “Trem da Vale” Patrimonial Educational Program. He was the coordinator of the Sagarana Café-Theater cultural space. He participated in the production teams of several feature and documentary films. He is currently specializing in cinematographic mounting in the EICTV. Marina Alofagia MCCartney (Manukau, Auckland, New Zealand, 1981). From an English father and a Samoan mother, she has always been aware of her cultural heritage and how this can affect the way we are viewed, as well as how we view others. After 12 years of working in the fashion industry she returned to the University of Auckland in 2007 to complete a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Film, Television and Media Studies (FTVMS) with a minor in Pacific Studies. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at the end of 2008, which also included two years of Summer School. During these two years, Marina was selected for the Faculty of Arts Maori and Pacific Leadership Programme. As part of this programme she completed an internship as a tutor within the FTVMS department. In addition to this selection, she was appointed the Tuakana mentor for the FTVMS department. Marina is currently enrolled in the MA in Screen Production. She has been awarded The University of Auckland Maori and Pacific Graduate Scholarship for 2010. Her BA (Hons) Short Film, Granda, won the Audience Award at the Pollywood 2010 Film Festival in March of that year. Her academic areas of interest are based on the representation of customs and manners of the Pacific through the mediascape and how this affects identity formation in the diaspora. It is her hope that the stories she tells visually will encourage trust and faith in the importance of the different cultural groups—both the ones that live in the Western world and their own indigenous groups—and in their stories, not only for them but for the rest of the world as well.

Zanna Gillespie (Auckland, New Zealand, 1981). Producer. She has been studying film at the University of Auckland since 2007. She is both a writer and producer. Following a six year break from academia during which she lived in New York City and Melbourne, studying dance and yoga, and working in different areas, she returned to the university to continue her film studies. In 2008 she wrote her first short film Perfect Match and has subsequently written four additional short films. She is currently working on a feature length script for her Master of Screen Production, specializing in screenwriting. In 2009 she produced and directed two short films—Signs of a Cheat and Behind Closed Doors. Zanna has also worked as producer/director on some short videos, including promotional videos for the University of Auckland and the New Zealand Film Commission. In 2008/09 she worked as an archive researcher for the well-known New Zealand documentary maker Annie Goldson, and contributed in the proposal writing of her upcoming feature documentary Brother number One. In the future, Zanna plans to continue writing and producing works for film and television.

Appendices

TO BE A HUMAN BEING

143


Talleres y grabaci贸n de m煤sica en la EICTV / Workshops and music recording at eiCTV.


Harlem, Nueva York / new york.


Mata los Indios, RepĂşblica Dominicana / Dominican Republic


Voces de OceanĂ­a / Voices of Oceania, Samoa


Voces de OceanĂ­a / Voices of Oceania, Samoa


Little Petra, Jordania / Jordan

To Be A Human Being  

Book about To Be A Human Being, Documentary Series

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you