(Guest blog from the director of "The Edge of Joy", originally posted on the PBS NewsHour website)
In 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."
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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.
(Al Jazeera English Headlines: 0635 PST, February 14, 2011) The opening of Egypt's stock exchange has been delayed until the economy stabilizes. The new military rulers are trying to assert their control over the country, and have warned they will act against chaos and disorder. Meanwhile transportation workers are striking in the capital, demanding better pay and an end to corruption.
In other news, the Taliban says it was behind an attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul that killed at least two people. Anti-government protests in Yemen enter their fourth straight day. The entire Palestinian cabinet has resigned and President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to form a new government. And, in Indonesia, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has gone on trial over weapons terror charges.
The latest news from Cairo, and an interview with UK journalist and Middle East expert Robert Fisk.
(Democracy Now! 0930 PST, February 9, 2011) Egypt's pro-democracy uprising is seizing new momentum one day after hundreds of thousands turned out for one of the largest protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square to date. A gathering of protesters led to the evacuation of the Egyptian cabinet building today, and tent camps are also being set up outside the Egyptian parliament. Egypt's labor movement has launched new strikes across the country, with an estimated 10,000 workers taking part. Democracy Now! senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous interviews Mona el Seif, a demonstrator outside the Egyptian parliament building.
(Democracy Now! 0930 PST, February 9, 2011) Two-part interview with Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent of the Independent newspaper in London, about the popular uprising ongoing across Egypt, its regional implications, and how President Obama should respond.
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.
Next, 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.
On 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.
In 1999 on the southern tip of Taiwan, where the majority population of Hakka Chinese had settled, the government planned to build a huge dam. The Hakka farmers went to the capital city of Taipei to protest. The dam, they said, would destroy the ecosystem, and was a risky enterprise considering the earthquakes and landslides the area experiences. (I was there during an earthquake...not pleasant.) Lin Sheng Xiang, a Hakka from the village of Meinong, and pursuing a musical career near Taipei, became involved with the struggle to prevent the building of the dam. He moved back to his hometown in Meinong, and the Labor Exchange Band was formed, giving a musical voice to the movement, and the dam was never built. Although the Labor Exchange band is no more, Lin Sheng Xiang has continued to create thoughtful music along with lyricist Zhong Yongfeng. When I interviewed him in the bucolic south of Taiwan, he played a Hakka folksong, a charming song he wrote about his daughter, and a song (co written with Zhong Yongfen) from his latest CD,"Growing up Wild" the concept of which is songs about females.
I was surprised that Lin Sheng Xiang's name came up as often as it did when I interviewed musicians and record people. And although no one ever called it "protest music" everyone acknowledged the call to social responsibility and greater awareness that his songs contain. Our own Woody Guthrie's songs reach out to the heartland, touching on family values and love of the land. I think there is a brotherly resonance in the songs of Lin Sheng Xiang.
Arab Labor Season One is now on sale, for 20% off! Plus, Link TV gets a portion of every sale made by clicking on the image below:
Check out the controversial hit series that the Los Angeles Times calls "groundbreaking and amazing."
This week, Global Pulse goes beyond today's front-page news of exec bonus furor and reports on human-scale examples of the economic crisis. From struggling carpet weavers in India to sober singles in Moscow and jobless college graduates in South Korea, we examine how gainful work is won in a new era of contraction.
In the U.S., the U.K., and South Korea, public service is billed as the next great wave of labor opportunity. The News Hour at PBS reports that more and more young Americans are turning to government and non-profit programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Likewise, the Independent chronicles a generation of young Britons eager to jump from the boardroom to the classroom as grade school teachers. And from Seoul today comes word that the South Korean government will create up to 550,000 temporary jobs in coming months, many of them for young graduates to work in fields like education.
But a less rosy portrait of labor emerges from the European Union and Malaysia, where migrant workers have experienced devastating recent changes in status. Der Spiegel interviews Mongolians in Prague, Poles in England, and Ecuadorians in Madrid who explain that jobs are newly few and far between. Across the globe, Al Jazeera English speaks to Bangladeshis locked out of Malaysia, their visas unexpectedly revoked.
Will these labor changes prove fundamental and long-term? Or will we soon see a return to boom-era ways of expansion, open borders, and private enterprise?
This week's Global Pulse examines stories of global job loss and steps that governments are taking to intercede. Just in the past few days, strikes have captured headlines in the French island nation of Guadeloupe as well as in South Africa, where the marquee 2010 World Cup stadium has hit yet another roadblock. Further strikes are deemed imminent in the UK, whose major commuter rail unions are set to vote on a coordinated work shutdown in March.
And how well are governments responding to the plight of workers? In Guadeloupe and South Africa, government authorities have for now shown little inclination to negotiate. Behind the scenes though, an ideological debate is brewing regarding appropriate labor outreach. At Firedoglake for instance, a blog thread entitled "Why American Industry (And Its Future) Matters" speculates that government investment in labor today could curtail massive economic pain in a future of shuttered companies and spiraling layoffs.
Can governments stave off a new global era of labor unrest? Check out this week's episode and let us know your thoughts in the comments section above.