Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Buzludzha monument, Bulgaria.

On the remote Buzludzha peak in the mountains of Bulgaria stands an unusual abandoned monument. The peak itself was the site of a battle between the Bulgarians and the Turks in 1868. In 1891 a group of socialists lead by Dimitar Blagoev met on the peak to plan for Bulgaria’s socialist future. To celebrate these events, the government in power during the height of Soviet influence decided to erect a monument commemorating socialist communism. After the government’s fall from power in 1989, the site was abandoned and left open to vandalism. The main entrance has been sealed and therefore closed to public. However, there is still a little way to get into the building.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dr. John Kitchin (Slomo) quit a medical career to pursue his passion: skating!

Directed and produced by Josh Izenberg

Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho, homeless poet in São Paulo, Brasil, and his dream of publishing a book

Raimundo Arruda Sobrinho was homeless in São Paulo, Brazil, for nearly 35 years, and became locally known for sitting in the same spot and writing every day. In April 2011, he was befriended by a young woman named Shalla Monteiro. Impressed by his poetry and wanting to help him with his dream of publishing a book, she created a Facebook Page to feature Raimundo’s writing. Neither could have expected what happened next.

Production Studio - Already Alive, Director/Editor/Original Music - Michael Marantz, Director of Photography - Tim Sessler, Producer - Jason Oppliger, Post Producer/Editor - Drew English, Local Brazil Producer - William Guimaraes, Local Brazil Production Company - Southside Productions

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Japanese Noh - nōgaku or nō, 能 - theater, performed in one of Asia's most famous crossroads, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Noh flutist and one of Japan’s Living National Treasures Jiro Fujita was giving a workshop in Uzbekistan, while Japan was hit by the earthquake. Not able to return, Fujita stayed in Uzbekistan for several weeks and felt he was hosted with great kindness and was immensely inspired by the beauty of Samarkand. He made a decision to return and offer two special performances dedicated to the people and the place.
Noh is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 13th century.

Filmed by Itai Keshet

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Solar mamas by 'Why poverty?'

Rafea is the second wife of a Bedouin husband. She and 27 other women from across the world are selected to attend the Barefoot College in India that takes uneducated middle-aged women from poor communities and trains them to become solar engineers. The college's 6-month programme brings together these women. Learning about electrical components and soldering without being able to read, write or understand English is the easy part. Witness Rafea's heroic efforts to pull herself and her family out of poverty.

Directors: Mona Eldaief & Jehane Noujaim,  Producer: Mette Heide, Produced by Plus Pictures.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mushrooms of Concrete, Albania's abandoned cold war bunkers.

Documentary by Martijn Payens
Over 750,000 bunkers were built under the direction of communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania as one of the most isolationist Stalinists from the end of World War II until his death in 1985. 
The concrete constructions scar the Albanian countryside, a permanent reminder of this "crime against ourselves." But to a younger generation they are not solely a bitter reminder, for they also offer an opportunity for a better future. The concrete mushrooms are being used as commercial space, nightclubs, storage facilities and high-end restaurants. They are displayed to tourists with pride: 

"The bunkers are our cathedrals." 

map of albania 


Friday, January 31, 2014

Why should the majority of the poor in countries like Venezuela be forced to live in the slums if there are empty office towers in the city centres?

 The 45-storey Torre David skyscraper was designed for a financial organisation in the 1990s, but construction was abandoned following the death of the developer and squatters began moving in. The building is now home to around 3000 residents, who have adapted the concrete shell by partitioning off rooms to suit their needs. "When you look inside you will find that the apartments are actually like any middle class apartments in the world," said Urban-Think Tank founder Alfredo Brillembourg at the preview on Monday. "So this is not a slum; the slum is in your head." 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Photographer Clic Clac Baby from Ivory Coast.

by Babito Creative (John James).
A little video to evoke the 1960s in Ivory Coast, West Africa, as brought to light by the photographs of Clic Clac Baby, an 81 year old photographer whose work is only now reaching wider acclaim with his first exhibition, at the Institut Goethe in Abidjan.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mongolian cultural heritage, Traditional Contortion.

Mongolian traditional contortion is a form of acrobatics involving dramatic bending and flexing of the human body into complicated positions. This cultural heritage incorporates elements of Mongolian dance and Buddhist fine arts. It is performed at some rituals as well as festive events. Many people, mostly girls learn this nationally respected art form because of a passion or as a career as it is considered of cultural importance. The training practice begins in early childhood, for those who become contortionists a career rarely lasts past the age of 40.

Produced by Pearly Jacob
Executive Produced by Storyhunter

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Anhey Ghorey Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse), by director Gurvinder Singh, a movie about a Sikh community in Punjab.

The title of the story is taken from Hindu mythology that portrayed Dalits as the descendants of the asuras or the demons. When there is a lunar or solar eclipse, the demon Rahu comes on a chariot led by blind horses to settle scores with his enemies- the Sun and Moon gods. The title itself speaks a lot about the theme of the film. It shows one day in the life of a Mazhabi Sikh in Punjab that at best is stoic, and at its worst is impassive in the face of hardships. It shows a family that lives on the fringes.
Based on a novel of the same name by Gurdial Singh.

The film starts with the demolition of Dharma’s house by the local landlords who have sold their piece of land, as well as Dharma’s, for setting up a factory. When Dharma and members of his landless Mazhabi Sikh community approach the sarpanch to intervene, they are asked to go to the courts. The sarpanch, who is evidently a representative of the landholding Jatts uses a combination of guns and mollycoddling to evade the group. Soon, Dharma is arrested and his community is scared off.

Festivalscope Information
Film festival Rotterdam

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Kola nut tradition in West-Africa - Kumbo Kola, Cameroon.

 by At Films

The kola nut comes from a plant which grows as a big tree in the tropical forests of West Africa. To the Nso people of Cameroon, the kola nut is sacred. It holds great spiritual, economic, gastronomic, symbolic, and historic significance. The esteem and importance given to kola brought about myths, narratives, and rituals to protect it. 
The rituals involved in cutting down a kola nut tree not only speak to the essence of Nso culture, but also to what the Nso can teach the rest of us (particularly the West) about the creation and upholding of value and meaning.
In many West African cultures like Southern Nigeria the kola nut is given as a symbol of hospitality, friendship and respect; and is presented to guests at important social events such as weddings, funerals, and infant naming ceremonies; as well as for medicinal purposes.

Featuring Dr. Ajume Wingo


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Roma ( Gypsy) artists in India - Barah Pal.

                                                                      by Jennifer Rosen.

12 Castes of Romani artists ended their nomadic tradition nearly 50 years ago and started squatting on a plot of land in New Delhi. The capital promised economic and artistic opportunity; and slowly but surely the community developed from a sprawl of tents to a vibrant neighborhood of artists and non-artist families from all over India. Nearly every region and religion is represented in Kathputli Colony, a true microcosm. The government was preparing to dismantle the slum under a rehabilitation plan and when construction is completed only residents granted priority would have the right to return. My focus was not on the topic of slum development but I did want the audience to view the film with the knowledge that this unique community (one of the largest artist colonies in the world) would soon be demolished and that construction and rehabilitation would birth a new Kathputli Colony but that the colony captured in this film would be forever gone. 

In Hinduism, they say, “Your guest is your God” and in truth, the hospitality I received can only be described as feeling like a deity in human form. The Kalakar Trust is working towards the improvement of the lives of poor artists in Delhi's slum. The Kalakar Trust has grown to benefit more than 2,600 families of mostly puppeteers, dancers, musicians, acrobats, and magicians. The aim of the Trust in India is to keep the traditional arts of artist communities alive by providing them with services to meet the basic needs they have identified. The most important needs are centre on education and health services, income generation projects, drinking water, community management and related activities. The artists themselves play an important role in the planning, monitoring and adjustment of all project activities. Another important goal of the Trust is to work with the artists to raise their social status, which is quite low. Research and filming was also carried out in Nagaur, Rajasthan and Mumbai, Maharastra.

Jennifer Rosen


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Tajik nomads of Tashkurgan, China.

                                                                    photofilm by Li Xinzhao

Tashkurgan is an area on China's western frontier (Xinjiang Province), located in the eastern part of the Pamirs and on the so-called roof of the world, and it has a long history as a caravan stop on the Silk Road. In the Uyghur language, tash kurgan means stone fortress. Li Xinzhao documented the Tajik nomads and way of life of the region.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Kazakh Eagle Hunters, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

by James Morgan.
Two hundred years ago the advance of the Russian empire into Kazakhstan sent many Kazakhs across the border into western Mongolia where they settled in the region of Bayan Ulgii. As the Russians continued to occupy Kazakhstan, traditional Kazakh culture was diluted to the point where, when the soviet union collapsed in 1991, new prime minister Nursultan Nazirbyaev began offering financial and domestic incentives for diaspora Kazakhs in Bayan Ulgii to relocate back to Kazakhstan. The idea being that they would bring with them traditional practices such as eagle hunting and dombra playing and that this would inspire a revival in the dwindling Kazakh culture and population.


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Chernobyl Workers Now, the story of Pripyat, Ukraine.

Documentary by Maisie Crow.

The word Chernobyl strikes a very particular, fearful chord. The Ukrainian power plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear reactor accident, back in on April 26, 1986.  Viktor Koshevoi, then the plant’s chief engineer and part of the liquidation (read: cleanup) team, was there. Photojournalist and multimedia producer Maisie Crow interviewed him and many others about what happened to the people who lived near and worked at the plant.  The film tells the story of Pripyat, a city of 50,000 that was forced to evacuate 36 hours after the disaster. Its residents were transplanted to the newly created city of Slavutych, which was essentially carved out of a forest. Many people who live there still work at Chernobyl, disassembling the plant, which was in operation until 2000.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Yupik, living with the effects of climate change, Alaska

Nel­son Kanuk, a 17-year old who learned how cli­mate change was affect­ing his com­mu­nity and felt he could best help by shar­ing his story. In this film, Nel­son explains that the main prob­lem fac­ing the north­ern parts of the world is that win­ter is com­ing later and later. This results in increased ero­sion due to per­mafrost melt, increased flood­ing due to warmer tem­per­a­tures, and inten­si­fied storms because the sea ice forms later in the sea­son and is unable to pro­vide a nat­ural bar­rier for our coastal com­mu­ni­ties. This, in turn, leads in the loss of homes, com­mu­ni­ties, cul­tures, and a way of life.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Karakul hats of the president, Afghanistan.

 by Joe Sheffer
Saeed Habib Sadat has been making Karakuli hats for 45 years in the same shop near Kabul's Shah Do-Shamshira mosque for 45 years. But in 2001, his hats suddenly became a very visible symbol of President Karzai's reign over a new Afghanistan.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Transnistria, a region of internal displacement.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the countries that have gained their indepenence question their new identities. Transnistria, an enclaved zone, between Moldova and the Ukraine, is an unrecognized de facto state situated in the Republic of Moldova. Between Transnistria and Moldova, four languages are spoken daily: Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian and “ Moldavian.” This political entity with its own cultural attributes is not recognized by any country of the international community including Russia where its troops are still deployed. Transnistria has become a region of internal displacement. The United Nations uses this term to refer to people who live in situations of internal displacement as a result of conflicts or natural disasters.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Frame by Frame, photography in Afghanistan.

 by Red Reel.
In 1996, the Taliban banned photography in Afghanistan. Taking a photo was considered a crime. When the regime was removed from Kabul in 2001, their suppression of free speech and press disappeared. Since then, photography has become an outlet for Afghans determined to show the hidden stories of their country.
In this coming year, as foreign troops pull out of the country, international media will inevitably follow. The Taliban is poised to gain influence, if not fully return to power.
The future of journalism in Afghanistan is unknown. The need for local photojournalism here couldn’t be more important in documenting the country’s issues both now, and in the future.
Frame by Frame is a  documentary that follows the story of four Afghan photographers to explore the recent revolution in local photojournalism. These Afghan photojournalists are the storytellers, the truth-seekers, the voice of their own people.
They’re seizing a unique opportunity to build democracy here in a way that never existed before: through a free press. Their work is a crucial part of showing what is happening during this very uncertain time.

At the same time, they face major hurdles: threats from Taliban or other extremists, skepticism of their own people, lack of security and financial support, and for Farzana, one of the only female Afghan photographers in Kabul, gender barriers.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sustainable Farmer, Northern Thailand.

by Kerrin Sheldon
After years of being a mechanical engineer, Sandot quit his job and moved back to his family farm in Northern Thailand. Now, he works to reforest the area and create a sustainable lifestyle and culture for both his neighbors and his family by growing his own food, building bamboo houses, and living the simple life.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Thousand Suns, East Africa's Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia and Kenya

 "People think that the air is not speaking,
the soil is not speaking,
the sky is not speaking.
But there is a kind of spirituality 
when the sky is roaring with thunderstorms
and rain is coming and clouds are rising.
There is a spirit in it."

Kapo Kansa, an indigenous elder of the Gamo Highlands

A Thousand Suns tells the story of the Gamo Highlands of the African Rift Valley and the unique worldview held by the people of the region. This isolated area has remained remarkably intact both biologically and culturally. It is one of the most densely populated rural regions of Africa yet its people have been farming sustainably for 10,000 years. Shot in Ethiopia, New York and Kenya, the film explores the modern world's untenable sense of separation from and superiority over nature and how the interconnected worldview of the Gamo people is fundamental in achieving long-term sustainability, both in the region and beyond.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The Hyena Men ( Gadawan Kura) of Northern Nigeria.

from nina Bernfeld
project by Thomas Balmés.

Myths surround Nigeria's Gadawan Kura (Hyena Men in the Hausa language). Many Africans believe they have magical powers and are even part animal. When they walk into town with their rock pythons, monkeys and hyenas in chains, the spectacle is overwhelming. Baboons dressed in Chelsea football strips turn somersaults, ride motorbikes and handle snakes while the men collect money, selling voodoo fetishes and charms amidst the chaos of Nigeria's grid-locked street. 

The Hyena Men makes uncomfortable viewing. It reveals the extraordinary relationship between a Nigerian street gang and their wild-caught animals. Through immersive techniques of observational documentary, it shows how the wild finds its way into one the most choked cities on earth, and how families, born into poverty, become utterly dependent on animals for their survival.

This project was never completed because of conflicts in Nigeria.

Map of the area where Hausa people live in Nigeria:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lezginka dance, Caucasus.

Lezginka Ensemble of Dagestan 1960

                                                   by Alison Brockhouse for Narratively.
                                    The Lezginka dance school of  Anatoliy Vartanian in Brooklyn.
Lezginka is a sharp, expressive style of dance that originated in Caucasian Mountain villages hundreds of years ago and remains popular in places like Dagestan, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Although people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds dance Lezginka, most of Anatoliy's students are Kavkazi Jews--those from the Caucasus, also called Gorsky or Mountain Jews. Many Kavkazi Jewish families settled in Brooklyn in the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union.