'The Power of Two' and the Power of Documentaries


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Celebrate International Women's Day for a Whole Week!
Each year on March 8, women from around the globe celebrate International Women's Day. In some countries, it is even a national holiday. But here in the US, this important day is often overlooked. Well not this year! Beginning on March 1, Link TV is dedicating an entire week to showcasing diverse stories from women around the globe.

LIVE Web Chat with Sister Fa March 4!One such story is of hip-hop artist Sister Fa and her efforts to stop the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in her home country of Senegal. From her early days as an unpolished music phenom, through a career-reinvention in Berlin, Sister Fa has continually smashed barriers in the male-dominated hip-hop world. But as the stirring documentary Sarabah reveals, her strength of character was forged in a journey of hardship and transformation. Now, with the support of her husband and child, Sister Fa speaks out about her own experience as a survivor of FGC, and travels with her band to rural Senegal, where she launches a music-packed education campaign that culminates in an emotional visit to her home village. Sister Fa will be joining Link for a LIVE web chat following the broadcast and online presentation of Sarabah Sunday, March 4 at 11am PT/2pm ET, to take questions about her story and important work. Questions can be posted in advance here.

These stories are so important, and sharing them is what fosters action and change. So tune in to Link TV (DISH 9410 DIRECTV 375) from March 1-8 to honor women around the globe. You'll see issues and perspectives uncovered and unseen on any other media outlets. Watch as Iranian women activists risk their safety to confront political candidates, and Western women trade their comfortable lives for experiences as Tribal Wives. Find out what it takes To Educate a Girl in Nepal and Uganda, and follow Nigerian doctors, midwives and families to the frontlines of maternal care. And of course -- tune in to the hit Danish drama Borgen, the TV show currently on American airwaves that showcases a female head of state.

For more information on these programs and ways to get involved in Link's efforts to lift women globally, please visit linktv.org/women

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Documenting Life and Death in Nigeria in "The Edge of Joy"

(Guest blog from the director of "The Edge of Joy", originally posted on the PBS NewsHour website)

The Edge of JoyIn the time it takes to read this post, somewhere in the world a pregnant woman will have started hemorrhaging and her baby might soon be motherless. One thousand women die every day trying to bring new life into the world, and this toll is what drew me to shoot my documentary film, The Edge of Joy.


I encountered many of the heartbreaking and hopeful stories that underpin this global tragedy, but it was only through the people, the doctors and nurses of Nigeria that I was able to tell them. The roughly one dozen Nigerian doctors and midwives I worked with closely over the course of making the film, didn't push agendas, or act as obstructionists when I asked tough questions or wanted to follow story lines to their natural conclusions.


Nigeria is better known for corruption and oil production than as the vanguard of fighting maternal mortality, but this small close-knit group of men and a handful of women trusted me not to create an indicting portrait of pregnancy and childbirth in their West African country.


Documentary filmmaking is an art, not a science, and at times during the making of this film, the process was challenging. I always kept my questions dignified and did my reproductive health homework so I could ask informed questions in hospitals and in the communities.


Getting permission to film in such sensitive settings requires government approval, a process that Habib Sadauki, the second obstetrician/gynecologist to be trained in the Nigerian state of Kano, helped me through.


After many meetings with the Ministry of Health and a mutual understanding that I would have a "minder" assigned to me while filming in the north, I was given permission to film in tertiary hospitals and primary health centers.


What I didn't know at the time is that the then Minister of Health Babatunde Osotimehin, recently appointed executive director of the UN Population Fund, had approved the access himself. During his tenure as minister, his office approved some ground breaking research about postpartum hemorrhaging.


I caught up with Osotimehin in May of 2009 at a health conference in Los Angeles. Our scheduled time to sit down and talk on camera kept being pushed back, so I made the bold move of taking over the role of the waitress at the café where he was enjoying a coffee.


Handing him a glass of water, I introduced myself as the filmmaker who had been documenting maternal health initiatives in Nigeria. I kept going on and on and he stopped me and said something to the effect of "you are persistent and persuasive just like they say" and with that got up, and came to sit with me for more than an hour.


We discussed safe motherhood, community leadership for better healthcare and, at the conclusion of our interview he shook my hand and said "your access is continued, enjoy your next trip to Nigeria." My field director and I began breaking down the equipment and she asked why I looked dazed. I said I was not even aware our access had to be renewed.


The freedom to shoot in medical settings was crucial to documenting the harsh realities of giving birth in Nigeria. In the film, blood became a ubiquitous character: women were losing too much of it, there wasn't enough of it when you needed it and midwives were always trying to keep it from flowing.


"Hemorrhage requires that you stop the bleeding and you repair the blood loss. If you don't repair (replace) the blood loss the woman will die," Sadauki told me.


We documented a case of severe bleeding where the midwives were able to manage a patient's hemorrhage with a drug and saline until her husband found a pint of blood and she received the transfusion in time to save her life.


And there are new tools on the horizon. A low-tech first aid device, known as the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, shunts blood out of the extremities and back to the vital organs in cases of hemorrhage. No magic bullet, but a potential game changer for women giving birth in the developing world and new hope for the health care providers.


After I showed this film recently, I was embraced by a woman in the audience who thanked me for saving the world. Locked in a bear hug with a complete stranger, I thought to myself: "Thank you, but no, I'm not saving the world, I just make films about people who are saving the world."


# # #


Dawn Sinclair Shapiro's documentary film, The Edge of Joy, which was featured on PBS NewsHour in April 2011 as a selection of the PBS NewsHour partnership project with The Economist magazine -- the Economist Film Project -- will premiere on independent Link TV on Friday, October 28, at 5 pm ET and Tuesday, November 1, at 8 pm ET, and will stream on Link TV's ViewChange.org beginning on Tuesday, October 25. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, an international journalism organization, has created an online curriculum that accompanies the film to be distributed to high school educators around the country; educators and others can download the film for free to accompany the curriculum at www.viewchange.org.


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Electrifying Mali through Innovation: Winner Cambria Matlow in the Huff Post

Burning in the SunCambria Matlow is a freelance film director who has worked on several short films probing controversial world issues, and served as manager of non-theatrical programming at Film Movement, an independent and foreign film distribution company. Matlow makes her documentary directorial debut in Burning in the Sun, the story of a budding entrepreneur inspired to make a positive impact on his homeland community in Mali. To fund this ViewChange Online Film Contest-winning project, Matlow tapped into her own entrepreneur potential and co-founded Birdgirl Productions in 2005. She writes in the Huffington Post about why she chose her film’s aspiring protagonist:


"Twenty-six-year-old charmer Daniel Dembélé is equal parts West African and European, and looking to make his mark on the world. Seizing the moment at a crossroads in his life, Daniel decides to return to his homeland in Mali and start a local business building solar panels — the first of its kind in the sun-drenched nation. Daniel's goal is to electrify the households of rural communities, 99 percent of which live without power.

"For us, Daniel's work shatters notions of the need for African dependence on outside aid and embraces the view that ultimately it is Africans who will develop Africa in their own way.

"It is important to us for the film to showcase him as an African leader, not only of his country, but as a global trendsetter. So not only do viewers come away with a greater understanding of the kind of development that makes the most sense for Africa, but a sense of profound inspiration that they can take the action they have seen and apply it in their own communities."


For an inside view on Daniel's daring, charisma and intelligence, watch Burning in the Sun:


Read Cambria Matlow's full 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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SFIFF: Upcoming Documentaries

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.


The OathAlso 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.



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San Francisco International Film Festival!

San Francisco  International Film Festival  Logo

Today the San Francisco Film Society announced its program for the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival. This event is always a must for Link TV viewers in San Francisco, and the festival often features work by directors featured on Link! But this year there's an extra connection -- Link TV partners Method, who created the initial design work for Link's ViewChange.org (beta launching in June), created the festival's trailer and designed all the print materials, including the program. 


San Francisco  International Film Festival   Trailer
You can browse the film selection, and watch the trailer, on the SFIFF website. Documentaries include Marwencol and Life 2.0, both covered on this blog when they screened at South by Southwest earlier this month.


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SXSW Film: Documentary Prize Winner Marwencol

In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was beaten into a coma by five men outside of a bar in Kingston, NY. Unable to continue

Welcome  to Marwencol

Book about Marwencol produced by the filmmakers

paying for medical help, Hogancamp began to create a new world in his backyard as a form of physical and emotional therapy during his recovery (which is ongoing). The resulting 1/6th scale Belgian village, named Marwencol, is a fantasy oasis set in the middle of World War II peopled with lifelike dolls, many based on real people in Hogancamp’s life. And this town has, in turn, become the subject of a new documentary of the same name.


The story of Marwencol begins when Hogancamp’s alter ego crash-lands in a European field and is drawn into an almost-empty village by a group of beautiful women. He makes this place his home, beginning a narrative that continues and grows day by day as new dolls and storylines are introduced. This "second" world has rescued Hogancamp, helping him to deal with an attack that still haunts him and keeps him from fully functioning outside the village.


Mark Hogancamp at his White

Columns art show in New York City.

And then there are the photographs. Moving and beautifully realized, Hogancamp has taken thousands of photographs of Marwencol, chronicling its stories, and capturing them with a stunning sincerity. Drawing on our popular ideas of everything from war nostalgia to pulp exploitation cinema (there’s a river scene reminiscent of the original Inglorious Bastards movie), the “discovery” of the photographs have led to an appreciation in the art world of Hogancamp’s work.

Three weeks ago, when director James Benning was in San Francisco, he spoke briefly about his love for folk artists such as Vivian Girls creator Henry Darger. At the same time he pointed out that we’re too apt to label this work as primitive; the so-called folk art that really rises to the top needs no context, it’s successful in and of itself. While Hogancamp’s story is deeply moving, and in the documentary he comes across as intelligent and endearing, it’s the work itself that elevates the story. Director Jeff Malmberg features Hogancamp's photographs heavily, which is a good choice, especially considering Hogancamp remains reluctant to leave his home, so this is a rare chance to see his images of the town writ large.

Jeff Malmberg
Jeff Malmberg, Director
Malmberg treats the story behind the photos with a deft touch, guiding the audience through unfolding revelations about Hogancamp’s life, while showcasing the photographs in a way that allows their artistry to glow. The story also evokes the vivid connection adults lose between themselves and the world of make-believe, the complex imaginative narratives that once lived inside us, and the real connection we once felt with dolls and other inanimate objects.

Marwencol is the well-deserved winner of the SXSW Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature (I predict there will be a screening in San Francisco and other cities soon). Director Malmberg and co-producer Chris Shellen were in attendance in Austin, and were selling a small book of Mark E. Hogancamp’s photographs. This isn't currently available for sale online, but check back at the Marwencol website in the coming weeks.


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Michael Moore Speaks Out on Link TV

Right on the heels of the release of his latest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore stirs up controversy again on Link TV, taking on Obama, the media, and America's very financial underpinnings. Link's special features Michael Moore's standing-room only talk at the Commonwealth Club of California, as he gives insight into his new film while getting in his trademark jabs at the rich.

What makes his latest movie a love story, a "romantic documentary", as Moore calls it? "It is a love story. It's about the wealthy, who love their money. Except the movie has a twist - they not only love their money, but they love our money too. And they want all of it."

The critics have weighed in with fairly positive reviews of Capitalism: A Love Story, though Manohla Dargis in the New York Times takes Moore to task for his lack of "any real answers... which tends to be true of most socially minded directors in the commercial mainstream." And while some of Moore's cinematic decisions left Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, blogging on the website True/Slant, a bit perplexed, he was nevertheless impressed that the film addressed "a taboo subject for every other major media outlet in the country": a society undergoing a "rapid peasant-ization."

Need Moore? Check out this interview with Blanche Shaheen (who has appeared recently as a host on Link TV), where the filmmaker reveals his premonition that the economic "house of cards was about to come down" even before the global economy officially tanked. And he pulls no punches for the capitalists, who he depicts as continually concocting new schemes to part working folk from their cash: "In capitalism, for the wealthy, there's no such thing as the word "enough". "Enough" is the dirtiest word in capitalism."


What do you think? Does Moore speak the truth, and does he have the answers? What do you think the repercussions will be after Moore's exposé of Wall Street and the capitalist system? Be sure to watch Link's special and let us know!


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Cinema Encounters in Tehran

The conflict in Iran has brought media attention to a diverse group of young Iranians. As David Michaelis stated in his recent blog post, "Iran has gained a new face. Instead of relating to Ahmadinejad as the only face of Iran, we now see a multitude of younger people."

Link TV has been producing a series of documentaries to give Americans a unique glimpse into the lives of ordinary Iranians, called Bridge to Iran.  Showcasing documentaries by contemporary independent Iranian filmmakers living and working in Iran, Bridge to Iran shatters preconceived notions about a nation and culture that most Americans know little about and have never experienced firsthand.

Tonight marks the premiere of a new installment of the series: Cinema Encounters in Tehran. An original production of Link TV, the film follows Americans Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed as they travel to Iran for the 2007 Verite Film Festival, where they meet two young filmmakers Atefeh and Abbas. The film documents their efforts to overcome language and cultural barriers and use cinematic language and friendship to create a movie.  In the end they find that the friendship and understanding they develop in a short time transcends the barriers of the national and political divisions that separates them.


Watch Online!


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