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

ITVS Names Claire Aguilar as Executive Content Advisor

ITVS is happy to announce that Vice President of Programming Claire Aguilar has been named Executive Content Advisor.

In this new consulting role, Claire will provide high-level, portfolio analysis and content feedback under the direction of Jim Sommers, Senior Vice President of Content and head of ITVS’ Content Strategy Team. With a focus on recommending content for ITVS International and selected public television series, Claire will also continue to co-curate programming for Independent Lens.

Previously, Claire served as head of ITVS’s programming department. She joined the organization in 2000 from public television station KCET/Los Angeles, where she programmed the station’s schedule and managed programming acquisitions. Earlier in her career, Claire worked as a film programmer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, one of the leading exhibition venues for international documentary and classic Hollywood films. She has served as a programming consultant and panelist for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Rockefeller Foundation, the NEA, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and many other media and funding organizations. She has also led and participated in film juries for IDFA, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Silverdocs and Visions du Réel. Claire holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies and a Master of Arts in Film and Television Studies from UCLA. She serves on the board of Women Make Movies, STEPS International, and the EURODOC Steering Committee.

For more information, please click here.

Online Symposium Examines and Asks: Why Poverty?

Women play a vital role in the economic prosperity of their families, communities, and countries. Yet in every part of the world, women work longer hours than men, are consistently paid less for their work, are at a higher risk of unemployment, and are far more likely to live in poverty. This central theme is the topic of a global online film symposium Wednesday, December 12 at 2pm ET / 19:00 UTC. To participate, visit

The online symposium will feature clips from Welcome to the WorldSolar Mamas, and other films from Why Poverty?, a global media event created to encourage people to talk about poverty around the world. Continue reading

Welcome to the World, Tonight on Why Poverty?

By Brian Hill
Director of Welcome to the World

130 million babies are born each year, and not one of them decides where they’ll be born or how they’ll live. Welcome to the World premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices.

Apart from those in the medical profession, there can’t be many men in the world who have seen as many babies born as I did this year. It all started when I was invited to make one of the films for the Why Poverty? season, a global initiative posing important questions about poverty and inequality.

I wanted to start at the beginning, at the birth of a child, to see how poverty might impact the life of an infant, and how we might then imagine how that life would turn out. Once you decide to start right there, at the moment of birth, you are necessarily involved in questions of infant mortality — the chances a child has of survival. And infant mortality goes hand in hand with maternal mortality. You can’t talk about one without the other. Continue reading

Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty

By Ben Lewis
Director of Poor Us

The poor may always have been with us, but attitudes towards them have changed. Beginning in the Neolithic Age, Ben Lewis’s film Poor Us, which premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices, takes us through the changing world of poverty. You go to sleep, you dream, you become poor through the ages. And when you awake, what can you say about poverty now? There are still very poor people, to be sure, but the new poverty has more to do with inequality…

I got the idea of how I wanted to make this film from a coincidence of spelling. The first three letters of the word POVERTY are POV, which in filmmaking language is an acronym for Point-of-View. It made me realize instantly that I wanted to tell the history of poverty from the point of view of a poor person.

I wanted to make a film that, like the others I have made, was simultaneously a meticulously researched historical documentary and a wildly imaginative fictional envisioning of history. In other words, I wanted to make a film that blurred the line in new ways between documentary and fiction.

So the first thing I did was spend two months in the British Library reading scores of new micro-histories of poverty, studies of poverty in specific historical epochs and locations, which have been published in the last fifteen years. All this new research is little known. I read Sharon Farmer’s Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris, Mine Ener’s Managing Eygpt’s Poor 1800-1952, and Lillian Li’s Fighting Famine in North China, as well as John Iliffe’s classic The African Poor. Continue reading

Land Rush: A Journey of Discovery

By Osvalde Lewat
Director of Land Rush

75% of Mali’s population are farmers, but rich, land-hungry nations like China and Saudi Arabia are leasing Mali’s land in order to turn large areas into agribusiness farms. Many Malian peasants do not welcome these efforts, seeing them as yet another manifestation of imperialism. As Mali experiences a military coup, the developers are scared off – but can Mali’s farmers combat food shortages and escape poverty on their own terms? Land Rush premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices.

Before working on Land Rush with Hugo Berkeley (co-director of Land Rush), questions relating to the global food system, international agricultural policy, and the sale of arable land in the South were abstract for me. Certainly the 2008 global food crisis, with its scenes of rioting, had shocked me. But I didn’t fully grasp the global scale of the crisis and what it meant for each one of us.

Once I started filming Land Rush, these issues became unavoidable. My own perception of events collided with the reality of Malian farmers and the agribusiness corporation Sosumar. They were no longer distant or unknown names, but people made of flesh and bone, whose fate hung perilously in the balance.

I discovered the invisible thread that connects disparate points on the globe, that binds Malian farmers to the thousands of people around the world who must fight to keep their heads above water, yet who ultimately discover that they have been excluded from the ways of the modern world. They are excluded by those who believe that only finance and the need to generate large profits must prevail. Continue reading

Questioning the Power of Celebrity: The Making of Give Us the Money

By Bosse Lindquist
Director of Give Us the Money

From Live Aid to Make Poverty History, celebrities have become activists against poverty. Bob Geldof and Bono have been the most prominent voices advocating on behalf of the poor. But have their concerts and campaigns really lifted millions out of poverty? Give Us the Money premieres tonight as part of the Why Poverty? series special on Global Voices.

Summer of 1974, I hitchhiked from Sweden to Kenya in order to escape my family and upbringing. I ended up teaching in a small rural secondary school by Lake Victoria. It changed my life in many ways and I fear I learned more about life than I managed to teach my students.

Living on a local Kenyan salary in a mud hut gave me a crash course in the basics of life for a substantial part of Earth’s population. It also gave me a different perspective on development workers and foreign aid. I could see my fellow wazungus (white people) whiz by on the national road in luxurious air-conditioned cars, too often insulated from reality physically, culturally, and intellectually. To me, this seemed like at least a partial explanation to why many development projects didn’t deliver the goods in those days.

Ever since I’ve been wondering what outsiders can do to affect change in somebody else’s country. Especially when it comes to beating the totally atrocious and unacceptable extent of people living in extreme poverty. Continue reading

Audiences Ask Why Poverty?, This Week on Global Voices

Why Poverty? is a groundbreaking film series featuring a simultaneous global broadcast of documentaries, online shorts, and interactive discussions. Why Poverty? focuses on the question: Why do a billion people in the world still live in poverty?

Why Poverty? was created four years ago by STEPS, a group of broadcasters and producers who created a series focusing on HIV in South Africa (STEPS for the Future) and the multi-part documentary series Why Democracy? For Why Poverty?, STEPS and other broadcasters collaborated to create an international media event that would showcase films about poverty and engage a global debate on issues revolving around poverty.

Spearheaded by STEPS Producer Don Edkins, BBC Storyville Commissioning Editor Nick Fraser, and DR (Denmark) Commissioning Editor Mette Hoffman Meyer, the project now involves over 70 international broadcasters who will broadcast and transmit the films during the month of November and reach over 50 million people.

ITVS is the US partner for Why Poverty? and has already broadcast the premiere film, Mona Eldaief and Jehane Noujaim’s Solar Mamas on November 5th, followed by Alex Gibney’s Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream on November 12th on the PBS series Independent Lens. The remaining 6 films will be broadcast on the Global Voices series on the World Channel during the week of November 26. Continue reading

Independent Filmmaker Helps Personalize Politics in North Korea

The death of Kim Jong-Il has triggered a mysterious changing of the guard in North Korea, as his son Kim Jong-un prepares to assume leadership. The ITVS International documentary Return to the Border helps personalize the country’s recent history and is available to stream on PBS Video.

Chinese filmmaker Zhao Liang Chinese-born filmmaker reflects on the personal ramifications of the political ideals of communism and socialism from his memories of a childhood in the border town of Dandong to his experiences in North Korea.