Posts filed under 'Challenge for Change'
In another digital twist on the NFB’s challenge for change project, E-cinema comes to the island where it all began:
A scene from The Children of Fogo Island, which the National Film Board produced on the island in the 1960s and 1970s. (NFB)
A new project promises electronic delivery of films, including documentaries and dramas, to residents of Fogo Island, about eight miles off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.
It’s the first English-language test of a plan by the National Film Board to make thousands of films available to remote communities that do not have access to cinema.
The Fogo Island e-cinema theatre, to be operating by November, is a collaboration with the Shorefast Foundation, a charitable organization that works to promote economic sufficiency on Fogo.
Films will be made available electronically from the NFB’s collection of 13,000 productions, as they become digitized. All the NFB’s newest releases are available in digital format.
The films can be delivered overnight via a high-speed internet line, beamed to the Fogo screening room from a server in Montreal.
The Shorefast Foundation foresees film clubs or other community associations getting together to choose what they want to see, and setting up a screening night in the e-cinema.
That will initially be a conference room near the centre of the island, but later could be in a new community arts centre.
Fogo Island doesn’t currently have a cinema, Shorefast’s Zita Cobb told CBC News, and it got reliable internet access just a few months ago.
That’s why the foundation was eager to bring islanders this chance to get together and see films, she said.
“Cultural vitality is a key to keeping rural communities vibrant,” she said, adding that the island is facing great transitions as it adapts to disappearing fisheries and today’s economic problems.
It is not the first NFB collaboration in Fogo, which has a population of 2,700 in just 11 small communities.
Back in the late 1960s, a series of NFB films made on Fogo examined isolation and poverty on the island. Filmmaker Colin Low worked with island residents to create 28 short films about their lives in a media program called Challenge for Change.
People can see themselves
Those films led to a groundbreaking process of community development that continues to this day.
“It was a time of great crisis, the provincial government was thinking of relocating the population,” Perlmutter said. “It allowed them to understand common problems and solutions and the fish processing plant was built and it created an economic reliability and it was done through film.”
With the e-cinema set to open in November, the people in those groundbreaking films can see themselves.
“Now we have them all, and they’re beautiful now that they’re digitized,” Cobb said of the Fogo Island films. “It gives us our stories back.”
The film project in the 1960s “provided an opportunity for us to get to know each other and to see the outside world,” Cobb said. She believes the e-cinema will do the same thing for the small communities of Fogo.
The NFB’s e-cinema network began as a pilot project in five French-speaking Acadian communities in 2007.
The NFB plans to build a chain of e-cinemas to provide a forum for showing Canadian films to Canadians.
June 18th, 2009
Congrats to our pal producer Martin Potter in Australia, who has just launched a great new project, Big Stories, Small Towns.
Big Stories, Small Towns is an innovative online film project and a true Australian first. Developed and produced by the Media Resource Centre (MRC) in partnership with Screen Australia and the SA Film Corporation, its aim was to create an opportunity for experienced filmmakers to work with residents of a regional town to bring their personal stories about living in the community to the screen. The resulting films are presented in an online format only via a specially created website.
Award-winning documentary makers Jeni Lee and Sieh Mchawala (see bios below) lived in Port Augusta for several months last year - making films with the locals to create an inspiring portrait of the town. The project has been shaped through extensive
consultation and the resulting stories reveal what the community knows as its hidden truths.
“This was the first time a filmmaker residency of this type was conducted in Australia and we were thrilled it took place in regional South Australia,” says MRC director, Gail Kovatseff. “We’re especially delighted with the quality and content of the films which have been produced. Instead of sensationalised stories about rural decline and dysfunction, these are moving personal insights into a community which is diverse in age, race and economic fortune – but bound by an amazing sense of spirit.”
The international online premiere of Big Stories, Small Towns will take place at the Mercury Cinema on Thursday February 19 – with the films launched by legendary, independent Canadian filmmaker and former Adelaide Thinker in Residence, Peter Wintonick.
“The model for Big Stories, Small Towns came from Canada, in fact from Katerina Cizek – who was Peter’s co-director on Seeing Is Believing – so it’s great Peter can be with us as we share these amazing tales with the rest of the world for the first time via the Internet,” says Ms Kovatseff.
Following the launch, the films will be available for viewing online by people around the world at either www.bigstoriessmalltowns.com.au or www.bigstories.com.au
March 3rd, 2009
We are excited to announce a very unique Filmmaker-in-Residence event: HAND-HELD: an [un]conference about harnessing digital storytelling to improve health. March 20th, at MaRs Facility in downtown Toronto, in their very smart rooms. The event is a culmination of all the stuff we’ve been doing and learning during the residency, especially about participatory media.
The conference is [un] because most of the sessions will be led and driven by participants, rather than pre-established with panels and such.
We’ve had the pleasure of designing the day with our event facilitator Misha Glouberman, perhaps best known for his role as host of the Trampoline Hall Lecture Series.
At HAND-HELD, we are premiering the latest video work of the I WAS HERE artists.
For the day, we’re bringing together health-care professionals, academics, media-makers, politicians, advocates, decision-makers, and young parents who have experienced homelessness - all experts - to speed brainstorm together.
We’re also planning on launching our “hand-held: health and homelessnes DVD“.
If you’d like to join us, save the date and register soon (through the event URL here), for space is really limited.
We’ll be posting more updates about the event so stay tuned!
December 19th, 2007
Hey. It worked for Al Gore. So now, we have one too. A powerpoint presentation.
The I WAS HERE photobloggers presented their powerpoint photoblog yesterday to a packed-out room of City employees. I eyeballed it at 100 or so. Mostly social services (welfare workers), Toronto Public Health, Parks and Rec and others.
It was at the invitation of Patrick Chartrand, a go-getting city social services manager if I ever met one, who wanted introduce the art, and presentation as sensitivity training - and as a starting point for discussion within the system on how to improve service delivery to young parents in the city. (This is PURE Challenge for Change, the way George Stoney described it to me a while back, btw.)
Alice Gorman, our Public Health nurse-hero got us started by explaining our project to the crowd. Catherine and Rebecca were on childcare duty, and I worked the spacebar on the powerpoint computer.
Adrienne, Meghan and Jess took over the microphones at the head of the room.
“This picture is my life,” proclaimed Meghan. Behind her, the powerpoint projected a large screenshot of her view outside her window at St. Jamestown one night. Its a hauntingly gorgeous photo, with blurs of lights and firetrucks below her, responding to a fire in the building next door.
“The chaos, the uncertainty, the feeling of danger nearby. This is my life.” she continued. She described the bed bugs, things constantly breaking down, the daily violence and even murder next door. You could hear a pin drop in Metro Hall. “I’ve had people tell me that I should feel grateful for even having a place at all. I wake up in the morning with my baby, and I wish I wasn’t there.”
Meanwhile, Adrienne had just made the case for co-op housing, and why it works.
“Its safe, affordable and decent. That’s why I think our city should have more coop housing,” she declared.
With another stunning photograph behind her, (also blurry and haunting) she described her situation at the moment she took it. She was about to move out of her co-op, because she couldn’t afford the rent, when the co-op approached her and offered her a subsidy she was eligible for.
“I’ve always been an artist,” explained Jess, with her highly composed and expressive flower photos illuminated behind her. She explained all that we’ve collectively learned about the power of photography and the power of voice.
“What’s your number one issue?” one worker asked.
The photobloggers had just finished explaining their 15-page policy document called WE ARE HERE that outlines 8 or 9 key issues facing young parents, and some feasible solutions to them. Patrick had kindly printed up copies of the document for each worker in the room.
“Open Minds,” said Meghan.
“There’s so many issues, but if I had to chose,” reflected Jess, “I’d say RESPECT.”
Adrienne reiterated her cause: “Safe, affordable housing.”
“It’s so refreshing to see you up there, you are all so motivated,” remarked another worker, “How do we motivate other single (sic.) young moms that don’t seem to want an education?”
“Our project is different,” replied Jess. “Its our choice. To photograph. To blog. It’s our choice. and so if I am going to answer your questions right, we need more CHOICES.”
Meghan reminded the workers of how sometimes, the urgent issue of getting decent, safe housing come first, and outweighs the need to join “programs” as priorities for young parents.
Then, the powerpoint and questions were over, and Patrick asked the city employees to break-out into small groups and brainstorm ideas for how to implement positive changes for young parents within the system - both short-term and long.
Alice stayed for the afternoon, bless her heart, and reported back to us that by the end of the day, the workers had come up with over 30 concrete ideas for change.
“The message that young parents need to get housed came out loud and strong,” Alice confirmed.
Ah yes. we may just be a power point presentation today. But watch out Oscar. Watch out Nobel! We are not done yet…
October 17th, 2007
On July 24, I’m moderating an interesting panel in Montreal, as part of WITNESS’ first ever Video Advocacy Institute.
July 16th, 2007
There is arguably nothing more rewarding for a documentary filmmaker than to have a film become part of a political process.
This afternoon, we showed an excerpt of The Interventionists at a Toronto Police Services Board meeting. They run the police in our city. (When he introduced us, the Chair of the Board revealed he had attended our premiere at the Rendez Vous with Madness festival last fall. I had no idea!)
Dr. Ian Dawe, my co-presenter, then made a compelling argument for three recommendations to the Board about Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams.
1) Equal access to services across the city (there’s still big areas in the city without service)
2) Extension of hours of operation of the teams
3) Using the film to build awareness around mental heath throughout Police Services
Vice-Chair Pam McConnell said that the film “Gives us all a peek into not only the crises, but into the skills needed to do this important work.” She also talked about the need for proper supportive housing to prevent mental health crises from escalating in the first place.
Then, she moved to adopt a resolution in principle for all three recommendations, and to ask the Police Chief review and report on the current MCITs in the city, with a view to adjust the operational budget accordingly.
Police Chief Blair said the team has “proven its value” and that the Police are already actively looking to extend the reach.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Interestingly, we are cited in another item on today’s agenda. John Sewell of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition sent a letter to the Board reacting to the Police Chief’s recent request to purchase 3,000 tasers for 8.5 million dollars.
Sewell writes: “We note the Board will receive a presentation on the film ‘The Interventionists’ … We believe that the best way to respond to the kind of crises which provoke Taser use, is through such units. Currently, units are not available 24 hours a day throughout the city — they are used in only a few divisions, and only until 11 pm. The issue is money, and as our group has urged in the past, money is better spent on Mobile Crisis Units than on Tasers.”
And as we were leaving, the Board was about to discuss another very sad, related matter: the Police response to the Jury Recommendations from the Coroner’s Inquest into the Death of Otto Vass. Vass, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, died while being taken into custody forcefully by the police in 2000.
That was the year the MCIT was just getting started. But, alas on the southeast side of town, not in the west where this event occurred. So there was no chance of ever finding out if MCIT might have prevented such a tragic outcome.
July 11th, 2007
A project I helped mentor is up and at ‘em.
It’s called Lifeboat, and one of the short films is now on-line at a virtual museum for women. The project is about the rights of HIV-positive women to bear children.
“They may already have children or may deeply desire to have them. They may also be under strong familial and societal pressure to have children. Whatever their situation, they must inherit the legacy of the HIV stigma, which is compounded in motherhood.”
Manu and I met in an Italian monastery during a weeklong documentary love-in. She had come with the idea to work with AIDS and motherhood, but wasn’t sure how to form her project. After a session I gave about new media and emerging forms for documentary for political action, she asked me to mentor, and she began mapping out an awesome plan. She decided to forgo the usual film/tv industry approach to make a standard documentary, funded by film grants and tv stations.
She decided instead to partner with NGOs across Europe to create collaborative media using internet, video that informs and inspires about the right for women with HIV to have children. She involves the community and participants, she has concrete political goals, creative license, and a sweet distribution approach that gets her stuff seen by the people who need it the most. Sounds like FIR in action!!
March 20th, 2007
“You are like some kind of wild, exotic flower!” exclaimed an audience member after my presentation about Filmmaker-in-Residence at the Making Your Documentary Matter conference in Washington DC.
Image I get when I google: wild exotic flower
It seemed hard for some Americans to believe that an agency of a government (a Canadian one!) would actually hire a filmmaker and put them in residence at a hospital for several years simply to make media to fuel social action, and to work with frontline workers.
At least one American believes what we’re doing. George Stoney is the legendary 91-year old filmmaker whom the NFB hired back in 1968 to head up the first-wave Challenge for Change project. It was the first institutional experiment to use film as an instrument of social change. Filmmaker-in-Residence is in part inspired by the work they did back then, and I had a chance to speak with George on-camera and showed him our website while in Washington.
“What do you think of the NFB reviving Challenge for Change?” I asked.
“It’s about time!” he said.
George Stoney surfing our website, being filmed by Liz.
February 3rd, 2007
Spent the weekend with my old friend, Montreal.
I weaved in by train at the invitation of the Concordia Documentary Centre, a new-ish brainchild of 4 great profs Liz, Dan, Tom and Marty, who are bridging documentary thought to action. They put together a day-long event to discuss the old and new Challenge for Change projects.
And it sure is fun to watch old films. Tom Waugh screened great archives from the first-wave Challenge for Change. He gave us a strong historical analysis of a program that sought to use film as an instrument for social change - rather than just document it. Here’s a pic of one of his favorite films out of the 230 films created between 1967-1980. This one’s called “A Young Social Worker Speaks Out” and the whole movie is just a talking-head shot, discussing how the system keeps the poor poor (can’t dig up the subject’s name anywhere… Tom?)
Dan the Man Cross and his colleagues Mila and Gadget updated us on their phenomenal online creation, Homeless Nation, a website by and for the homeless. They have 1,400 + members now, and there’s great stuff going on there – podcasts, music videos, political organizing around the squat movement across Canada.
The Doc centre is actually about to publish an interview I did with Dan, in a book called “D is for Discursive: Digital, Documentary, Democracy” here’s an excerpt:
KC: The very name “Homeless Nation” challenges the presupposition that democracy need be based on a group of citizens who share a geographic “home.”
DC: The first title was actually “the Homeless Archive.” The idea came to me because I was sick and tired of just editing people’s stories — 400 hours of footage — to deliver a 75-80 minute narrative piece of entertainment. This is criminal. Danny O’Connor’s the king of the hobos, a character in Dan’s first film, The Street] and I just cut his story out, after working six years of his life with me to tell it. I thought there should be a place where people can go and tell and listen to these stories without them being edited for ease of consumption.
So when I first started the project, I was literally going to take my camera across the country and collect a 5 minute testimonial from every single street person in Canada and put it on a website. That’s all I really wanted to do. But as I thought about it, and worked with the technology, I realized it could be way more interactive, way more immediate. It could have an ebb and a flow, it doesn’t just have to be an archive.
Now the name is the Homeless Nation. It’s a website, a meeting place, a communication space. It’s really important that it be accessible and available to anybody and everybody who wants to take part in a respectful dialogue. To express their own first hand experiences of being homeless, of working at street levels with poverty, disenfranchisement or homelessness. Or maybe talk about a family member that they’ve lost, displaced to the world of the street. It’s meant for everybody to use, participate and breakdown barriers between the different strata of class society.
I gave a rundown on FIR, and we spent the afternoon talking about possible collaborations between old and new… It’s actually a Challenge-for-Change-kinda-week for me, I meet George Stoney in Washington tomorrow. It could be a Challenge-for-Change-kinda-year, it’s the 40th anniversary in 2007, after all.
January 30th, 2007