Can social-issue documentaries play a role in helping to end global poverty?
Link TV thinks so.
Almost one year ago, the nonprofit global affairs media organization and broadcast network launched a project based on the idea that documentary storytelling, combined with social actions and the latest news, could make a meaningful contribution to the challenge of global poverty. The idea became ViewChange.org, an online portal built on the foundation of semantic Web technology that connects documentary stories to news and social actions in global poverty. In other words, in one place, people can watch character-driven stories, read the latest news about issues covered in the films, and then connect directly to action campaigns around each social issue. It’s a site and tool that’s primed for grassroots awareness and action.
The ViewChange.org platform is now a curated documentary hub with more than 400 short- and long-form character-driven documentaries from around the world – and all of them illustrate real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which together comprise the world’s “blueprint” for ending global poverty. The portal site now includes the best stories from top global development organizations and filmmakers around the world.
I work on the project in a kind of hybrid role that combines documentary producing, communication campaign strategy and partnership cultivation with top global development organizations, including Devex, InterAction, Save the Children, UNICEF, PSI, Global Health Council, ONE, Comminit, Bread for the World and more. And thanks to the expertise of these groups, combined with the amazing repository of films now licensed to ViewChange.org, we’ve started producing half-hour TV specials in partnership with several top global development organizations – the ViewChange TV series. For each show, the narrative is informed by the expertise and objectives of the partner organization, and the main story and outreach campaign are developed simultaneously against the backdrop of the group’s organizational (and sometimes advocacy) objectives, creating a powerful campaign-style approach.
But one key to the project is simple and so powerful for those in the social-justice community to organize around specific issues – the fully-sharable/embeddable formatting of the acquired films and the final jointly-produced shows. By giving the videos, films and global development shows to groups and blogs to embed and share for their own purposes, we’re offering a tool that’s useful not only in our own campaign outreach, but for others to use in theirs. Interested in raising attention about the connection between climate change and drought in developing nations? Want to support innovative hunger relief programs in poor areas of the world? Need a documentary story that can be used in your own awareness/activist campaign to organize for purposes of advocacy or other goals? Navigating through the ViewChange.org tool provides all of these opportunities.
Just last week, one of these jointly-produced documentary specials premiered on Link TV (Friday, August 12 and 16) and on ViewChange.org. Working closely with Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy organization, the “ViewChange: Challenging Hunger” documentary special combines filmmaking from Bread for the World itself, along with short films from Oxfam and the Sundance Institute. In this particular show, the organization’s advocacy goals – to use foreign aid more effectively to help poor and hungry people – provide the narrative thru-line.
The call to action is urgent: With more than a billion people suffering from chronic hunger, the timing of potential budget cuts would be particularly devastating to developing nations. And the special debunks a key foreign assistance myth and provides new insight into the ripple effects of chronic hunger: Most Americans believe that about 25 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign assistance, but, in fact, less than 1 percent supports crucial foreign assistance programs—including anti-hunger programs and food aid. The funding is vital to the continued development and management of innovative programs that provide long-term solutions to hunger.
The outreach includes a grassroots campaign to reach out to Bread for the World’s network of thousands of individual members, churches and denominations around the country, as well as reaching out through its college-age hunger activists group. Teams at both Link TV and Bread for the World are working jointly in an integrated strategic communication campaign model that includes traditional media outreach, blogging, sharing the show via embeddable links, outreach to top global development influencers, and social media.
To support Bread for the World’s work directly, check out its fact sheets and advocacy opportunities on its site: Tell Congress to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the US and abroad.
The gruesome images that made their way out of Rwanda during the summer months of 1994 are indelibly etched into all of our minds. Over a million people were killed while the world looked on and ultimately did nothing. In a media atmosphere where the world's attention shifts rapidly away from tragedy almost as soon as it ends, Rwanda in 1994 has stuck with us.
But what has happened in this small, landlocked country since then? Exactly seventeen years have now passed since the genocide occurred, and Rwanda has managed to maintain a semblance of stability, avoiding the crises that its neighbors have endured. What is the reason for this? How has this country reconciled its past, and how do victims and perpetrators alike live together in the present?
Charles Annenberg Weingarten and the explore.org Team traveled to Rwanda to answer that very question. The film that resulted from the trip, Raindrops Over Rwanda, focuses on the Kigali Memorial Centre and a young man who survived the genocide and now serves as the Centre's head guide. Link TV is bringing you the world broadcast premiere of Raindrops Over Rwanda on Monday, 5pm PT/8pm ET and Wednesday at 8pm PT/11pm ET.
Kigali Memorial Centre is more than just a museum. It is a focal point for honoring the anonymous dead, a communal cemetery for a country where there were too many bodies for most to be identified. It is a space for the community to come together for reconciliation and healing. It is a way to remember the past in the hopes that it will never be repeated.
For most foreigners experiencing the memorial for the first time, Honoré Gatera is the guide, teacher, storyteller, and historian all in one. Honoré is our guide in this film as well, providing a first person perspective on genocide that few people in the world are able to give.
After explore.org's trip to Rwanda, Honoré came to the United States for the very first time and sat down with Charlie at Link TV headquarters for a memorable interview. Stay tuned after the film as we bring you this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the movie was made, as well as Honoré's experiences and unique worldview. Survivors like Honoré, and the Rwandan people in general, have the ability to teach the world not only about how to avoid genocide, but also how to heal and forgive in order to live together in the future.
Each year, Oxfam estimates that more than 500,000 people are killed due to armed violence with countless more left devastated, displaced, traumatized, and angry. Armed violence destroys lives, drains government resources, undermines development efforts, and fosters a culture of violence, fear, and corruption. It is big business with huge ramifications.
At the moment, there is no global arms trade treaty regulating the transfer of arms. Too often, cheap yet highly destructive weapons land in the hands of those who use them to assert power insidiously and further continue a vicious cycle of violence. For developing countries, particularly those in conflict or post-conflict situations, the low-cost accessibility of weapons wreaks havoc on efforts to achieve reconciliation and development. While decades of tensions slowly settle, an arsenal of cheap, available weapons remains—stunting efforts to move forward peacefully. Families are left displaced and devastated by the loss or injury of a family member; their home may be destroyed or no longer safe to live in, and they may be left virtually income-less with no able-bodied workers or farmland. Already struggling health care systems are overburdened; schools are forced to closed or get by with meager support; access to food becomes limited. Anger, hopelessness, and fear grow. Any tensions that may arise or continue in communities—ethnic or religious conflicts, neighbor or land disputes—are resolved through violence. And when you are angry and disempowered with no job or education opportunities—no potentials to grow or support your family, when an AK-47 or grenade is as cheap and accessible as a pint of beer, as is the case in Burundi, it is easy to see how violence remains the preferred medium for conflict resolution. Violence infiltrates every aspect of the culture; it becomes a daily part of life.
“Weapons call out to other weapons,” says Teddy Mazina, a journalist in the documentary film Bang for your Buck. The huge supply of cheap weapons leftover from Burundi’s civil war has contaminated his country, he says, causing an intractable cycle of violence and corrupt power that undermines all development efforts. Underlying issues such as why violence is so easily resorted to are obscured by the sheer supply and availability of cheap grenades and Ak-47s. There needs to be regulation: a path towards disarmament.
Bang for Your Buck beautifully illustrates this need. As winner of Oxfam’s "Shooting Poverty” contest, the film was made to galvanize the Control Arms Campaign, a global civil society alliance, of which Oxfam is a part of, calling for a universal Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would outline universal standards for arms exporters and importers, eradicating any loopholes or variance in regulation that could be used to evade responsibility and further fuel armed conflict, poverty, and human rights violations. The Campaign calls on members of the United Nations to secure this urgent treaty—one round of negotiation is underway this week in New York with the final conference scheduled for July 2010. You can join the campaign and help ensure the government takes this opportunity to comprehensively regulate the deadly weapons trade.
A universal Arms Trade Treaty is an important step towards ending irresponsible arms transfers that promote corrupt agendas and violate human rights, drain resources, and hinder development efforts in countries striving to rebuild, particularly in the aftermath of civil war. Much more needs to be done, however, in order to start over. To learn more about the struggle for new beginnings check out ViewChange.org’s new episode, Starting Over, where Bang for Your Buck is featured along with two other powerful films. In the episode you will meet Teddy Mazina as he walks you through the realities of daily grenade attacks in Burundi, learn about Rwanda’s Gacaca justice tribunals, and witness one ex-patriot’s dream to promote economic development through tourism in Sierra Leone.
Starting Over airs on Direct TV Channel 375 and DISH Network Channel 9410 on:
Friday, July 15th 4 pm PST Sunday, July 17th 12am PST Tuesday, July 19th 8pm PST Wednesday, July 20th 3am and 10am PST Friday, July 22nd 5am PST Saturday, July 23rd 11:30pm PST.
This week marks the beginning of the San Francisco International Film Festival, a must for Link TV fans in San Francisco. On the Link TV blog we'll let you know about some great films screening at the festival that you should look out for in the future, regardless of the city you're in. One of the best things about living in a city like San Francisco is the opportunity to see an international line up of films year round, but we all hope that the Internet will give us more and more chances to connect with world cinema and documentaries.
Earlier this year I was at South by Southwest in Austin, and reviewed the documentaries Marwencol and Life 2.0, which are both screening at SFIFF this week. Marwencol offers not only a glimpse back into our childhood world of make believe, as told through a moving personal story, but stands up as an exploration of folk art and its delicate relationship to the world of its creator.
Also screening this week is The Oath, a riveting documentary portrait of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden's bodyguard of four years, and Jandal's brother-in-law Salim Hamdan, who was released from Guantanamo after the landmark case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Supreme Court. Director Laura Poitras was given striking access to Abu Jandal, and follows him with her camera, even when she's not there in person, as he teaches young students about jihad, drives his taxicab, and slowly reveals to us his past actions and dreams. Jandal is a study in the uneasy balance between religion, pride, and truthtelling - the more we're let into his charismatic world, the less we're able to trust what we're hearing. PBS' POV will premiere The Oath in September.