Around the World in Many Ways with Global Voices

By Misa Oyama, ITVS Staff

The narrative film Boyhood has provoked significant interest for following the growth of the same actor as he ages in real time. While the approach is unique in feature films, this method is an everyday reality for a documentary filmmaker – as is demonstrated by this season of Global Voices.

Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood has provoked a lot of interest in its intriguing premise and the background of its production: follow the growth of a character over twelve years, not with different actors, but with the same person as he ages in real time. This is the first time that a narrative film has had the patience to tackle the kind of project well-known in the documentary world. Most notably, Michael Apted’s Up series follows the same people over the course of a lifetime, beginning with a group of 7-year-old British schoolchildren in 1964 and revisiting them every seven years; the most recent installment explores their lives at the age of 56. Filming over a span of years gives audiences a true sense of the passing of time.

Like these films, three documentaries in this summer’s Global Voices series approach the subject of growth and aging, despite vastly different cultural contexts. Each one explores a significant period in a person’s life, from young adulthood to middle age to the final years. You can see a lifetime in My So-Called EnemyMy Perestroika [both available to watch online], and Here Comes Uncle Joe [airing on the WORLD Channel August 31st]. Continue reading

My So-Called Enemy, Sunday on Global Voices

This Sunday on Global Voices, filmmaker Lisa Gossels presents the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through a human lens in her documentary, My So-Called Enemy. The film begins in July 2002, when twenty-two Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls traveled to the US to participate in a ten-day women’s leadership program. My So-Called Enemy is about six of those girls and how the transformative experience of knowing their “enemies” as human beings meets with the realities of their lives at home in the Middle East over the next seven years. In this post, Gossels shares her motivation for making this film.

There’s many things that a person might look like and you’re one hundred percent positive who they are. And when you talk to them, you’re shocked that they’re completely the opposite. Like whoever looks at me, “No way you’re an Arab.” But I go like, “Oh, dude, I am an Arab!” So, don’t concentrate on the first impression. If you think you don’t like the person, approach them to know who they really are.
-Rawan (Palestinian, Muslim)

by Lisa Gossels, Director

When I introduce My So-Called Enemy at screenings, I always say that making the film was an eight-year journey of both learning and unlearning for me – and a stripping away of personal narratives that I was raised with.  My hope as a documentarian is that audiences will experience some of that same transformation when they watch the movie.

I live in downtown Manhattan and shortly after 9/11, I remember engaging in some heated political conversations with close friends about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When I tried to express any nuance in those discussions, I came to understand how wars could be fought on words and how easy it is to reduce conflicts to black and white terms. At a conference two months earlier, I had the privilege of meeting Melodye Feldman (the founder of Building Bridges for Peace), and four participants from her just-completed summer program. After listening to the girls’ dramatic stories about how the program had changed them, I begged Melodye to let me film her program the next year! I was excited that Building Bridges for Peace empowers teenage girls because, as Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism.” Continue reading

ITVS and Independent Lens Receive 13 News and Documentary Emmy Nominations

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced this year’s nominees for the 35th annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, which recognizes outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism and documentary filmmaking. And ITVS is proud to say that nine of our documentaries received 13 nominations for 2013!

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PBS received a total of 43 nominations — the most of any network — including 10 nominations for Independent Lens, 11 nominations for FRONTLINE (two for the ITVS-funded Outlawed in Pakistan), and six for POV (including Reportero), so it’s a great day all around for public media documentaries! The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, in New York City.

“These Emmy nominations are a testament to the expemplary journalism that independent documentary filmmakers practice,” said Lois Vossen, Independent Lens Deputy Executive Producer. “They reflect the extraordinary vitality and diversity of our vibrant independent documentary community.”

And without further ado, here are the ITVS films receiving Emmy honors: Continue reading

Travel the World with the New Season of Global Voices!

ITVS is excited to announce the lineup for the seventh season of Global Voices, the critically acclaimed international documentary series premiering on the WORLD Channel (check local listings).

Travel the world from your living room with the latest season of Global Voices. Airing on the WORLD Channel, season seven kicks off on June 1st with 18 weeks of international documentaries made by independent filmmakers from around the world.

The seventh season of Global Voices opens with the U.S. premiere of Miss Nikki & The Tiger Girls, filmmaker Juliet Lamont’s intimate portrait of a spirited young Australian band manager as she tries to empower Myanmar’s first all-girl band to speak out in one of the world’s most repressive regimes. If you think it’s hard making it as a female pop group, try doing it with a military dictatorship breathing down your neck! Continue reading

Decisions on Deadline: Online Game Puts Ethics to the Test

“My goal…is to engage the general public in a conversation about public faith in the media, media ethics, and why we need to support institutional journalism even in this era of democratized media.”
– Samantha Grant, filmmaker

Recently Independent Lens premiered the film, A Fragile Trust, the shocking story of Jayson Blair, the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, and how he unleashed the scandal that rocked The New York Times and the entire world of journalism.

Inspired by the film, Decisions on Deadline takes the story to another level with a fast-paced game that puts players in the shoes of working journalists as they report on the daily drama of life in Southside, a fictional American town.

We asked producers Samantha Grant and Brittney Shepherd about their foray into making games, their hopes for impact, and ethics and journalism in the digital age.

How did the film, A Fragile Trust, inspire the game?

Samantha Grant (SG): I was a BAVC MediaMaker fellow in 2011, and it was there, during that fellowship, that I first dreamed up the idea for a journalism ethics game. Brittney was attending the fellowship with me, as the co-producer of the film, and at one point during a presentation on gaming, I turned to her as said ‘Yes! A Game!” I wanted to make the game because I realized that the film I was making was bringing up a lot of problems in the field of journalism without offering any solutions. I’m the type of person who, when I see a problem, I immediately start thinking about solutions. Continue reading

ITVS Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

ITVS and PBS offer viewers the opportunity to explore the rich and vibrant history and cultural contributions of Native Americans throughout the year, but this November offers a special slate of new and encore programs in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

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This November, Independent Lens is shining a spotlight on Native American culture with two new films. Premiering Monday, November 18th, Indian Relay documents an unheralded aspect of modern-day Native American life and what it takes to win one of the more exciting forms of horse racing. From the bitter cold of winter to the heat of summer, this lively documentary follows teams from three different tribes as they compete across a grueling season. Then on November 25th, Young Lakota takes viewers to South Dakota, where abortion politics bring political turmoil to the doorstep on the Pine Ridge Reservation and three young idealists, along with the tribe’s first female president, must decide how far they will go to change politics.

Throughout the month, Community Cinema and Women and Girls Lead continues to celebrate Native American Heritage Month by showcasing additional films featuring outstanding women leaders. These documentaries are available on PBS Video and additional online screenings will be offered using OVEE – the social screening platform for watching PBS content and engaging in meaningful discussions around films. Continue reading

Submit Your Film to Independent Lens!

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Independent Lens is currently seeking submissions of films in advanced rough cut or fine cut stage or completed films to broadcast during the October 2014 – June 2015 season. To learn more about eligibility, what we’re looking for, and to complete our online submission form go to www.ilsubmissions.org.

Any questions? Feel free to drop a line to ILsubmissions@itvs.org.

Hollow Premieres on FUTURESTATES

Filmmaker Lisa Robinson gives us this inside look at the inspiration behind this week’s FUTURESTATES short, Hollow, which is available to stream for free at futurestates.tv and on pbs.org.

Watch Hollow | Premiering May 29 | FUTURESTATES on PBS. See more from FutureStates.

Hollow came out of thoughts I had about my everyday internet experience, in which data seems to stream into my brain as if through an intravenous drip. I open my laptop and suddenly email, web searches, random advertising, and social networking all roar in, filling my mental space like a noisy highway and leaving less and less space for fragile developing thoughts and fleeting memories. It’s essentially reshaping my brain’s transactions and, one could argue, ultimately changing who I am.

I obsessed over this idea, this web brain experience, and it tumbled forward, shaping into a character named Iris, a young woman who is trying to survive in a future world where this kind of data exposure is peaking. I imagined the future web as more aggressive and personal, having lost most of its anonymity and privacy. This felt like a small stretch from today, as our growing dependence on the web will almost certainly be paired with challenges to its overall security. Corporate and government surveillance will expand, as well as tracking and profiling systems. As all prosthetic devices (computers, cell phones, etc.) become vulnerable to hacking, powerful interests will find other ways to secretly move information. I was irresistibly drawn to this imaginary future with new industries, new opportunities, and unlikely “heroes.” Continue reading

Mapping Our Memories: Tributopia Launches Memorial Day

Tributopia, the project inspired by the ITVS-funded documentary The Grove, is a free iPhone app for creating virtual memorials and remembering lost loved ones by posting tributes on an interactive map. Tributopia invites engagement by connecting memories to a specific place. With the augmented reality feature, users looks through the viewfinder and can find virtual tributes overlaying the real world around them. Tributopia launches in conjunction with Memorial Day, just before Gay Pride Month.

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Filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson gives us this inside look at the inspiration behind the app and his take on the changing interactive media landscape:

How did making The Grove inspire your idea for Tributopia?

The AIDS Memorial Grove founders envisioned a nature-based memorial in which individuals could till their grief and find comfort in seeing their own human experience reflected in nature. While the stigma of AIDS created invisible victims and survivors often excluded from traditional rituals of burial and remembrance, having a special place to remember and share was especially important.

While I was in the midst of production on The Grove, I vacationed in Mexico and witnessed scores of roadside memorials adorned with flowers, pictures, and photos. I was mesmerized and wanted to know what happened and whom it happened to. It was as if those shrines wanted to speak to me, to tell me their story. I began to realize how vital the connection was between memory and place, and between community and communication.  Hence, the idea for Tributopia was born: a way to use new media to tell stories of loss – to connect memories to place and join in a community of remembrance.

What was the experience like, going from being a “traditional” documentary filmmaker to working in the interactive media space? Was there a large learning curve?

There was an enormous learning curve. We tend to take for granted our mastery over our own craft. Suddenly I found myself facing a technology, terminology and business model that were alien to me. While we cling to the idea of “storytelling” as a unifying theme and comforting commonality, I really did feel like I was entering a brave new world! Continue reading

Rebel: Examining Race and the Exclusion of Women in History

Filmmaker María Agui Carter discusses the Women & Girls Lead film Rebel, race, and the exclusion of women in national history. Rebel is the story of Loreta Velazquez, a Confederate soldier turned Union spy. She was dismissed as a hoax for a hundred and fifty years, but new evidence shows Loreta, a Cuban immigrant from New Orleans, was one of an estimated 1000 secret women soldiers of the American Civil War. The documentary premieres on the PBS series Voces on May 24, 2013 (check local listings).

Watch Rebel – Preview on PBS. See more from VOCES.

Loreta Velazquez, a Confederate Soldier turned Union spy, did not change the course of the American Civil War. Why would this one woman’s story, out of the three million Americans who fought in the Civil War, matter today? She was one of hundreds of women and thousands of Latino Civil War soldiers whose stories remain outside of the national narrative of history. While the US only recently lifted the ban on women in combat, she was fighting 150 years ago.

Latinos have emerged as the nation’s largest ethnic group, while, according to a Hill and Knowlton study, 1/3 of Americans believe Hispanics are recent immigrants who have come here illegally.  Few know that over 10,000 Mexicans fought in the Civil War, entire regiments who spoke only Spanish joined in battle, and that Spanish surnamed soldiers, from South Carolina to New York, joined the ranks. Loreta’s rebellious and daring character, the tragedies of her life – and her refusal to be defeated by them – made her a riveting film subject, but it was the fact that she had been erased that propelled me to make Rebel.

As Walter Benjamin has said, history decays into images. But our society has not always deemed women and minority history worthy of documentation, I had only one, not even authenticated, photo of Loreta. But her memoir and a trove of recently discovered archival documentation about her allowed me to bring her to life, using voiceovers, recreations, animation, and contemporary storytellers.

I am interested in the tension between national narratives and community histories and in the politics of gender and race in the creation of stories about the American past. In Loreta’s lifetime, proponents of the Lost Cause rejected Velazquez for her frank criticisms of the South, and for the fact that, as a Hispanic and as a woman soldier, she disturbed their carefully crafted portrayal of the Southern soldier in the Confederacy. Continue reading