Last week Noé Mendelle was at Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, presenting the best of our STORIES series – short films coming out of intensive documentary workshops we've run with British Council in the Middle East. And it brought back her memories of going to Palestine for the first time for the RAMALLAH STORIES and DOC EXPRESS workshops.
Photo: Isra Odeh
As you may know, in order to reach Palestine, you need to go through Israel.
First thing to do for myself and Flore was to get new passports. Travelling with our stamps from past trips to Libya and Algeria, that will not do. However much you prepare for such trip, it is never enough.
Tel Aviv airport is a spacious and rather subdued space: dull architecture, sparse images and whispered sounds. Of course, extremely well organised and controlled. At passport control, we get questioned about the purpose and destination of the visit before getting allocated a visa. My questioning was brief, and quickly assumptions were made about my "Jewishness" due to my name. Flore on the other hand had to sweat a bit more. It was only at control number 2 that we both realised that had been given different visas. Mine got me through with a smile and a nod, Flore was once again questioned. On the return leg of our journey, it was even more accentuated. Every time, Flore's luggage had to be thoroughly checked, and she got questioned while I was receiving apologies for the delay. At the last check I was swiftly directed to the luggage X-ray for Israeli people while Flore was taken to a different queue, hidden from mine, and once again had to go through the rigmarole of more questioning and checks. Nothing threatening – but by the end of this trip we learned enough about Israeli psychological games at first hand to shift from feelings of sadness about the conflict to anger at this constant reaffirmation of their power and occupation.Read more
Sabine Hellmann is a German-born filmmaker who lives in Edinburgh. Sabine pitched her first feature documentary The Brink of Extinction at Interdoc 2012 together with Adam Barnett who also is an Edinburgh-based filmmaker and editor.
After graduating in Germany with a 40-minute documentary on the use of GMO crops, Sabine moved to Scotland for an internship with renowned producer Leslie Hills. She quickly realised that her passion lies in making films, rather than producing, and completed an MFA in directing at Edinburgh College of Art with two short documentaries. One of Sabine’s graduation films, Joseph’s Road, tells a story of a young boy from Malawi and can be watched on Sabine’s website. She is intrigued by human stories, people at a crossroads, and environmental issues.
Adam Barnett specializes in documentary filmmaking as a director, producer, and editor. His recent feature documentary Argentina in Therapy received a great response and was distributed to six broadcasters including TVE in Spain. Apart from the film Adam is making with Sabine, he also works on another feature documentary, Carbuncle Town.
The tiger or the tribe?
The team’s Interdoc project The Brink of Extinction tells the story of the Soliga Tribe in Biligiriranga Hills of South India, which now faces eviction from their homeland due to the government’s new tiger conservation laws. The government is under international pressure to save the tiger. But it ignores both the Soliga’s basic human rights and the crucial role they have played in protecting, nurturing and sustaining the forest over centuries. Who is really at the brink of extinction: the tiger or the tribe?
This is how Sabine describes the team's experience at Interdoc Scotland:Read more
Su Bainbridge works with Glasgow-based Aconite Productions, making international documentary films which bring stories of global significance to the world stage. She took part in Interdoc Scotland 2012.
Passionate about making films, Su has years of experience spanning documentaries, drama, commercials, music and arts. Su has worked as a Production Manager, Producer and Assistant Director with many production companies for almost two decades. Also, in 2004, David Hayman invited her to join the team at his charity Spirit Aid to develop and run a pilot film project which enabled a range of young people to make their own films. They learned how to develop films based on their own ideas. Su looks back at it as a great success. She continued to work with Spirit Aid to further develop the Shooters Film Project and to roll the project out to other areas around Glasgow. As a freelancer she has made many programmes and films for theatrical release and for broadcast on BBC, Channel4, STV, ITV and ARTE. One of the latest productions she managed was My Lives and Times for Aconite which was nominated for a Creative Diversity Network Award and broadcast on BBC2 last July. A longer version will be released later this year, called Everybody's Child.
Su was selected to participate in Interdoc Scotland 2012 to develop an international documentary, Playground directed by Palestinian director Wesam Mousa in the Gaza Strip. The film explores how four children, between 12 and 14 years old, play in the streets of Gaza. Their games, dreams and fantasies reflect their desire to live normal lives and also their way to survive the consequences of war. It is an intimate portrait that exposes how children view the world and their future when their playground is in the middle of a war zone.
Here is what Su said about her experience at Interdoc:Read more
This is part two of our portraits of Interdoc Scotland alumns. Today we'd like to tell you about Jonathan Carr and his film MY BROTHER THE ARK HUNTER.
Jonathan Carr graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an MA in History, and then worked for ten years as a journalist, writing and sub-editing for a variety of national newspapers. In 2007, he studied practical filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. After gaining practical and administrative experience in London, Jonathan set up his own production company, Plainview Films, and created filmmaking workshops for schools, adult education units and community groups. Jonathan’s short documentary Get Luder produced through the Bridging the Gap scheme, won the Delphic Art Movie Award 2010. It was also selected for screenings at many film festivals such as Sheffield Doc/Fest and Palm Springs ShortFest. In 2012 Jonathan took part in the Interdoc Scotland workshop which is geared towards helping Scottish producers secure feature documentary commissions. He pitched his first documentary feature under the working title, My Brother the Ark Hunter.
The film tells the story of Derick Mackenzie’s brother Donald, a self-styled evangelist adventurer from Stornoway, who went missing in September 2010 while searching for Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey. No one has heard from him since. He may have fallen from the mountain, perished in a storm, been killed by bandits or targeted by Islamic militants. Or he may have crossed paths with the archaeologists who claimed to have found the ark to exploit those who make the annual pilgrimage to the mountain. Derick leaves his family home in the Western Isles of Scotland and travels to the remote eastern edge of Turkey to retrace his lost brother's last journey in an attempt to discover what became of him.Read more
Following our series of Bridging the Gap alums, we'd like to introduce you to previous participants of our Interdoc Scotland workshops, starting with Karen Guthrie.
Karen is a freelance artist and filmmaker who came out of Edinburgh College of Art and is now working on independently generated and commissioned projects. From time to time she gives lectures and professional development workshops within educational contexts, having lectured in Fine Art extensively over the last 15 years.
Karen’s first feature doc was co-directed with Nina Pope: Bata-ville: We are Not Afraid of the Future, a left-field road movie which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2005. Their latest film Jaywick Escapes, which is a portrait of the people of Britain's most deprived place premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest in 2012.
Karen was selected for Interdoc Scotland in 2012 with her solo directorial début under a working title What About Dad? Hear what she has to say about her experience:
Following the success of our Tripoli Stories, British Council gave us the opportunity to return to Libya for a second time. This time we were due to run our workshop in Benghazi and make another three short films, Benghazi Stories. Unfortunately, the political situation there meant that we had to relocate the workshop back to Tripoli but with participants coming from Benghazi.
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya and the bed of the revolution, with the first uprising against Gaddafi taking place there in February 2011. Ever since last summer’s election, various militia have been exploiting a certain political unrest, reflecting Benghazi’s disappointment with the election results and their representation in parliament.
Of course, the killing of the US ambassador only days before our arrival was a drastic turning point. Banned from Benghazi for security reasons, we had to re-organize the workshop in order to deliver those “Benghazi Stories”. Prior to our arrival in Libya, we helped organize a camera workshop and briefed the participants to start researching potential stories with their cameras.
Starting the workshop in Tripoli, we spent the first two days exploring these rushes from Benghazi, and we shared a number of inspiring documentaries, offering solutions to questions raised about characters and structures. We had 48 hours to get the lads of Benghazi to understand the difference between “What is the story?” and “What is the film about?”Read more
It’s a bar in Ramallah called Beit Aneesh. Apparently named after an old lady that lived there. A laid-back place with posters from the history of the struggle of the Palestinian people. We had just completed a documentary workshop in Ramallah, and Tue Steen Müller, who has helped so many emerging filmmakers from all over the world, suggested anyone who likes joins us for a beer or coffee at eight.
Few have come. Most have long, unpredictable journeys through the occupied territories where they will undoubtedly be stopped several times.
Khaled Jarrar has turned up though – just arrived from France where his work as a radical conceptual artist has become celebrated. We’re so pleased to see him – a filmmaker of huge promise as well as an artist. Tue has just seen the rough cut of his first film which is about the wall. He shows us a scene with him with a tiny chisel, chipping little bits of the wall off. Tue suggests he end his new film like this. It’s a futile act of defiance, made funny by its impotence.Read more
Our arrival in Tripoli was an anti-climax, all the clocks had stopped. There was no life at the airport, even the duty-free shop was closed, the shelves empty. A driver from the British Council had patiently been waiting for our delayed flight. We would soon learn that time is of no consequence in Libya... But this whole workshop was going to be a race against time: delivering basic film skills, engaging our 13 participants with creative documentary, showing them clips of doc gems so they open up to a new form of storytelling – beyond their Aljazeera experience – and produce a short film suitable for international festivals. Yes, I agree, we were asking for the impossible – but hey, we are filmmakers!Read more