Diaries from a Sahrawi tent (3): Disco in the desert

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(Continued from part 2.)

Day 4

I want to start the film with the 'wall of shame' as it is known from a beautiful song, as a way to introduce the history of Western Sahara. In order to get there, we had to get permission of the Polisario Protocol Bureau and get a police car escort. I asked Khadra if she would consider coming with us. She immediately accepted and offered that some of her family members join us. That meant two daughters and her son and his wife and a few kids!

They asked me to go and buy camel meat so we could have a picnic in the desert. The two Land Rovers were loaded with pots and pans and meat. It took a 2-hour drive across sand and stone to get there. The police car was driving sometimes at the front, sometimes at the back, trying to foresee danger. It felt like we were in a car chase movie! Meanwhile in our Land Rover, music was blasting out of the speakers and the women were waving their arms in the air and singing along. They have many revolutionary songs with wonderful rhythms. It was impossible to film or take photos, as the car was shaking so much. But I want you to imagine those beautiful, rather large women, with every inch of skin covered but their eyes. And some of them had large black sunglasses. In total disguise, yet having the time of their lives!

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Bart Simpson – obsessed with corporations?

bart.jpgThe Scottish Documentary Institute was lucky to have Bart Simpson in town for a masterclass. Of course I’m talking about the Canadian producer (and now also director) of documentary films. I first came across his work with The Corporation. The film won many awards at festivals including Sundance, Toronto, and IDFA.

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Diaries from a Sahrawi tent (2): Chasing goats

Day-2-.jpg(Continued from part 1.)

Day 2

Woke up with the anticipation of visiting Algiers. It is such a beautiful city, built on hills and looking at the sea. People compare it to Marseilles, but actually it is more beautiful. White buildings with beautiful blue iron balcomies. Large pleasant avenues with trees and gardens, and the constant view of the sea. Having a rest from walking through the casbah, we saw that the cinematheque was playing one of my favourite films, Touki Bouki, so we went in. There were four of us! The sound kept breaking down, but it was still pleasurable to see the film on a big screen in Africa.

Time to get to airport, only to discover that we had two seats but bad luck: the pilots were on strike, so we may or may not have a plane... So we waited and waited, and two hours later we were rushed through customs (yes, it seems they can do it) and onto a plane to Tindouf. Our poor fixer Hamdi had been waiting for us there for the last 30 hours.

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Berlin – one day left of freedom

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(Part of Lou's diary from Berlin.)

10th Feb 2012

I wake up in a small hostel room, having left Tali's flat in East Berlin. I am nearer the centre now, near Hauptbahnhof. Happily the hostel changed my booking from a 6-bed dorm to a 2-bed room, and my room-mate, the morning light reveals, is none other than Tamara Scherbak, an experimental film-maker from Canada who I already know from the talent campus at Reykjavik. More importantly, as anyone who has shared a room in a hostel will attest to, she does not snore violently. 

I have one more day of freedom before the Talent Campus starts and have been warned that, once it starts, there is barely any time to watch films let alone explore. So I bolt out of the hostel early to make the most of things. It is slightly warmer: all omens are good.

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Diaries from a Sahrawi tent (1): Recalling two weeks in hell

The Scottish Documentary Institute has been commissioned by Aljazeera to make a six-part series on Poets in Protest. One of them is on the Sahrawi poetess Khadra who happens to be an old lady living in exile in one of the Polisario Camps in the middle of Sahara.

Map: Wikimedia (Creative Commons)For those of you who do not know about the Sahrawi cause, these citizens of Western Sahara not only got colonised by the Spanish many moons ago. Once they managed to become independent, the Morrocans moved on their territory, pushed them out, and build a 3,000km wall around it. They also planted over 8 million land mines to make sure that the Sahrawi will not cross back into their land. Algeria gave the Sahrawi liberation movement, the Polisario Front, refuge on its territory and set up several camps for people to live – and so they have for the last 35 years. The war has moved into diplomacy rather than military and therefore they now live peacefully in those camps but In a state of complete dependence on international aid.

With Roxana Vilk, the producer of the series, we decided that Al Khadra will be the perfect example of grassroot poetry. She uses words instead of bullets in order to express her anger at Morocco's invasion. 

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Lessons from Denmark

Photo: Per Palmkvist Knudsen (Creative Commons)Over the last few years the Scottish Documentary Institute has been cultivating close ties with Denmark, and the more we work with them the more we are envious of their system. While we go on and on talking about the politics of financing film and TV, Denmark has become one of the major European players in film – and it has a population similar to Scotland. How come?

For the first half of this year, Denmark is taking over the presidency of the EU, and to celebrate it, once again it is film that is being pushed. Danish embassies are organising screenings of some of their films all around Europe.

In UK we keep on asking: Why does a country need to spend people's tax in order to subsidise films? Why can't cinema take care of itself?

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Why we should build our own nations

Although this headline may sound like it, this is not really a post about the independence debate in Scotland. It's more about what independent filmmakers can learn from politicians when it comes to nation-building.

I explained in my previous post about the Virtuous Circle why it's particularly important for documentary producers to take their audience with them across projects, rather than starting from scratch with every film. 

In tech speak, we want a toolkit that combines Customer Relationship Management (i.e. your audience) with a Content Management System (i.e. your films, each on a dedicated website) – and fully integrates with event management, fundraising and social media. 

It was during last year's election campaign of the pro-independence Scottish National Party that I first came across powerful software called NationBuilder, geared towards political use but flexible enough to be used for all sorts of campaigns, including outreach to those niche audiences of documentary films...

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Amy is blogging!

Just a quick note to say that Amy Hardie, acclaimed director of The Edge of Dreaming and Head of Research at the Scottish Documentary Institute, has started blogging at Amy on the Edge.

Her latest post is on why impartiality is not the right aim for her.

We recommend that you sign up for updates from amyhardie.com, as Amy has some very exciting projects coming up!


Berlin, minus nine

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(Part of Lou's diary from Berlin.)

One day from the Berlinale now and the sadism in the air has condensed into snow.

People walk around pretending its ok – but I know better.

Here's three of them as seen from the window of ex-ECA classmate and Bridging the Gap film-maker, Tali. Notice how these three lunatics have left their houses to promenade through the polar-powder, jauntilly and purposefully and, in some cases, pouting to whistle bravely like nothings wrong at all. Unfortunately the man with the hat on the corner had been in mid-stride for 3 hours. That's where bravado gets you.

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Berlin, minus 18

(Part of Lou's diary from Berlin.)

Having finished my copy of Stasiland I now feel ready for a stay with my ex-ECA film making buddies Tali and Johanna in East Berlin. I am hugely excited about the Berlinale Talent Campus. Guest speakers include Kossakovsky, Juliette Binoche, Herzog and Mike Leigh. And the company of 300 other 'New Talents', from all walks of the film making. For what it's worth, I'll also be spilling the beans on new films at the Berlinale.

7th Feb 2012

On arrival in Berlin the moisture in my nose freezes on the short one minute walk to the airport station. An odd sensation, like having badly mixed concrete in the nostrils.

It is -18 degrees. Some say -22. The numbing cold rises rapidly up from feet to stomach. It is too cold to remove my hands from their pockets to hold the map I should be following. Better lost and moving than still and searching. My mind jumps to the lesson of Oates, the bloke who travelled with legendary 'Scott of the Antarctic'. Childhood stories say he insisted on letting the cold kill him whilst walking into the Wilderess, rather than dying standing still. Now I understand. I understand Oates. While there is movement there is hope.

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I AM BREATHING
FUTURE MY LOVE
PABLO'S WINTER
STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS

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