The Story of Chocolate: Winner Robin Blotnick in the Huffington Post

Robin Blotnick has worked as a freelance editor, and as a developer at Walden Media. His current project, "Gods and Kings," is a feature documentary about media, magic and popular culture in the Mayan highlands of Guatemala. If it is anything like his award-winning entry for our ViewChange Online Film Contest — Chocolate Country — then we want to see it! Chocolate Country is a catchy story about a group of guitar-plucking cacao farmers in the Dominican Republic. In the Huffington Post, Blotnick describes the idea behind his work:


“The story I set out to tell was the story of chocolate itself. I wanted to show city people what a mazorca of cacao looks like when it's cut open to reveal its syrupy white seeds. And I wanted to reveal the faces of the men and women who grow and harvest the ingredients for our chocolate bars.”

The short film features the lush, beautiful rainforest region of Loma Guaconejo. The campesinos (farmers) of the area had decided to stop competing with each other against the harsh competition set out by the big cacao companies, and were now working together in a cooperative. They work to directly market an improved, organic product. Blotnick expresses his admiration for their enthusiasm to engage in their community:


Image from Chocolate Country“People always remark at how, despite their poverty, the cacao growers in Chocolate Country seem genuinely happy. I believe they're happy because they're empowered. Working together, they're taking some control over the fate of their community. My wish for the people of Loma Guaconejo is that they develop in a way that doesn't alleviate the bad by sacrificing what's good: the freedom of working without a plantation or factory boss, the music and stories they have time to create and share, their ties to the land and, most of all, their ties to one another.

"While being a "conscious consumer" no doubt does some good (or, more accurately, un-does some bad), I'm under no illusion that it's enough. If we really want to transform the conditions that maintain human suffering, we'll have to transform ourselves first, to break out of the passive role of consumer and unite with our neighbors to actively engage the forces of history. In other words, we'll have to be more like the members of the Loma Guaconejo cooperative.”

To hear the music and stories of the empowered campesinos, watch Chocolate Country below:



Read Robin Blotnick full article in the Huffington Post.


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Start Your Year Off Right With Link TV

With all the challenges confronting the world as a new year begins, it is more important than ever to be engaged with and connected to every part of the globe. That’s why it is our New Year’s resolution at Link TV to bring you even more fresh voices, independent views, and inspirational stories from different countries and cultures.

We’re kicking off the New Year with the Link TV's groundbreaking documentary series Doc-Debut, showcasing a new international film every Sunday evening. Our first premiere is Niko von Glasow’s powerful film NoBody’s Perfect, a look at the physical and psychological barriers facing twelve people born disabled due to Thalidomide poisoning. The filmmaker, also affected by Thalidomide, brings these strangers together to confront their disabilities through a nude photo shoot.

Tune in next week for The Unwinking Gaze, a unique behind-the-scenes look at the daily life of the Dalai Lama. Filmmaker Josh Dugdale had unprecedented access to His Holiness for a three-year period, showing what this extraordinary figure is like in his private life and the grueling work that goes into taking on a world power on behalf of an entire people.

Favela RisingNext, travel halfway around the world to the slums of Rio de Janeiro in Favela Rising. Former drug trafficker Anderson Sá has sparked a social revolution through music, helping kids in one of the most dangerous places on the planet have a positive outlet and alternative to gang life. Filmmaker Jeff Zimbalist (The Two Escobars) provides a visually stunning and musically dynamic documentation of Anderson's life and impact in the favela.

While Anderson Sá was transforming his community through music in Brazil, José Antonio Abreu was doing the very same thing with his youth orchestra in Caracas, Venezuela. Starting January 12th, Link TV will be broadcasting his inspirational speech as part of our ongoing TED Talks series. We are proud to be a part of the TED Open TV Project, helping spread these important ideas from these innovative talks and charismatic speakers.

The powerful Dollar a Day series also continues in January with the premiere of The New Silver. This six-part international series documents what life is like for the billions of people living in poverty around the world. The New Silver chronicles the transitioning economy of Bolivia and how access to capital changes lives and nations.

Arab LaborOn a lighter note, 2011 continues on with the new season of Arab Labor. The hit Israeli sitcom, dubbed “The Seinfeld of the Middle East,” pokes fun at the cultural similarities and differences between Palestinians and Jews and looks at life in the holy land from a different angle.

Algeria: Quitting Terrorism, from the United Nations’ 21st Century series, is another documentary bringing a fresh perspective on an age-old issue. Much has gone into figuring out why people turn to terrorism, but this film takes a unique look at why an Algerian man has given up violence.

That, in a nutshell, is what Link TV is all about: challenging established assumptions about how the world works by exploring different viewpoints and perspectives. We hope you join us throughout 2011 for many more groundbreaking shows, insightful stories and brand-new programs to come.


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Hip-Hop, Recycling, and Youth Activism: Another contest winner in the Huff Post

Trash is CashWhen we launched the ViewChange Online Film Contest we encouraged entries of all genres – and we got them! One of the most creative – and certainly the catchiest – entry was Peter Jansen’s “Trash is Cash,” which won the contest’s “Sustainability” award.


Peter Jansen has worked as art director and production designer in film and TV for 25 years. He now lives and works in Kenya, finding creative ways to combat poverty in the slums of Nairobi. There, Jansen discovered a group of motivated youth who use hip-hop music to call attention to an important issue in the city—recycling. Jansen writes in the Huffington Post about the youth group Walfame (the Kings) and the goal they are trying to achieve through hip-hop:



“They communicate through music: the message in this way is very powerful because music has long been a favorite pastime of teens and has influenced the minds of youths all over the world, and they use their music to raise awareness, inspire action, and accelerate the worldwide movement to reduce extreme poverty. Music meets life, seeing beauty, giving hope and alternatives. All eight of them are living in an African slum. Living on less than one dollar a day. Not turning to a life of idleness, drug abuse and crime but acting positively and being a positive example for all the youths who live in poverty.

"They live in shacks made by pieces of corrugated metal, without any hygienic services. They live in dusty roads full of potholes and mud puddles and crossed by a big number of bad smelling streams mixed with organic scraps and urine, where children play and meat and vegetables are sold.

"Trash bins have not arrived in Mathare, Dandora and Korogocho. These two slums are totally lacking trash collection, despite the fact that houses, shops and hotels from all of Nairobi dump roughly 1.5 tons of trash there every day. Only the youths have been able to organize themselves and to clean up the streets once a week: In this way they have created jobs and a way to keep the environment clean. With their activism the youth are progressive. They show us how recycling can be the best solution.”



Jansen created the music video “Trash is Cash” to highlight the positive, transformative powers of the music and activism. Watch the talents of these hip-hop stars below:


Read Peter Jansen’s complete article in the Huffington Post.


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4REAL Documentary Series Airs on Link TV This Summer

4REAL is a fresh-faced documentary series with an urban feel that transports you across the globe, connecting with young leaders making a difference in their disadvantaged communities. Series host Sol Guy is joined by some of his celebrity friends--including Eva Mendes, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, K'naan and Joaquin Phoenix--as they learn about an area's culture and history, and volunteer much-needed services with locally-run humanitarian groups, ranging from the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to Carolina for Kibera in the Somali-populated slums of Nairobi.

4REAL: PeruFrom the City of God favela in bustling Rio de Janeiro to the remote Yawanawa tribe in the Amazon rainforest, the communities we see in 4REAL are challenged by poverty, hunger, disease, addiction, homelessness, and the effects of war. However, the strength and resilience of these people become apparent in the work done by their determined youth. These young visionaries have helped their communities achieve economic independence, have set up medical services and education, inspired and guided their children, and above all, have given their people pride and hope.

4REAL does a great job of familiarizing viewers with each community and the issues at hand through the eyes of the celebrity newcomers, and the stars are paired well with the communities they visit. Sunny SoCal native Cameron Diaz meets with medicine man Puma Singona and his Quechuan youth group Cusi Huayna ("Happy Youth") in the picturesque Andes, while rapper M.I.A.--who spent her early years in the midst of the Sri Lankan Civil War--works with child rights leader Kimmie Weeks to help Liberian schoolchildren, who are themselves war survivors.

Each episode is lighthearted and full of fun, keeping in the spirit of its youthful vibe and hip-hop soundtrack. But occasionally an interview with a local child or volunteer suddenly turns somber, reminding us of how difficult the circumstances truly are, and how much more work there is left to be done.

4REAL is now airing on Link TV, and the episodes are also available to watch online. Check out the 4REAL homepage for tips on how you can help and to learn more about the series. And right now, we're offering a 4REAL gift pack for a donation to Link TV--support the only channel bringing you unique international series like this one!


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Submissions NOW OPEN for the explore/HATCH Disaster Film Award!

explore/Hatch Disaster Film AwardCALLING ALL FILMMAKERS!

Our friends at have teamed up with HATCH to champion the selfless acts of others through a film competition at this year’s HATCHfest Bozeman.


The explore/HATCH award presented by will be given to a filmmaker who best tells the story of a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event. From a woman who adopted orphaned children after the tsunami to a captain and his crew that saved the 115 survivors of Deepwater Horizon, wants to see how you define heroism in the face of catastrophe while inspiring others. is a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, they create a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others. In line with explore’s mission, HATCH inspires service and makes a positive impact on people and the planet in a creative way through film, music, photography, journalism, fashion, architecture, design, technology and more.


Winner of the first explore/HATCH award presented by will receive an all-expense-paid trip to HATCHfest Bozeman September 22-25 and be presented with a Canon HD SLR camera package from’s founder and documentary filmmaker, Charles Annenberg Weingarten, and HATCH. If you or someone you know has made a film highlighting a cause that inspires others to make a difference, submissions are now open!


Funding for the explore/HATCH award is made possible through the efforts of and the Annenberg Foundation.


Withoutabox Submission Guidelines:


  • Submit a short documentary that has been completed in the last 5 years
  • The short film will showcase a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event
  • Submission length for explore/HATCH award is 20 minutes or less
  • DVD submission must be labeled explore/HATCH award
  • Any accompanying paperwork and the outside of the envelope must be labeled explore/HATCH award
  • Deadline is August 25, 2010, no exceptions will be made
  • The final 5 nominees will be posted on for audience consideration
  • The explore/HATCH award panel will announce the winner September 1, 2010


Learn more OR submit now!


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