Friday, August 18, 2006

August Film Roundup: Africans fleeing to Europe, New Orleans searching for hope, and Rwandans who have found it.

I’ve been having quite a bit of fun this month taking time to read the writings of some of my favorite bloggers and discovering newcomers to the blogosphere. Sometimes it is a good idea to keep quiet and pay attention to what others are saying and writing, although I could not resist the temptation of adding a comment or two here and there.

As usual bloggers around the world are writing about everything under the Sun from the recent 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon to the historic multi-party democratic elections taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the first such elections in over 40 years. The media and press of the world have aired and published some outstanding work this month as well and that is where I would like to start today.

LIVING WITH ILLEGALS – a film by Sorious Samura

CNNI (CNN International) kicked off the month with a new documentary from the renowned Sierra Leone filmmaker Sorious Samura titled Living with Illegals. The film deals with the increasing crises faced by Africans and Europeans in the hotly contested illegal immigration debate. Samura, using his trademark style of immersing the viewer into the lives of his subjects, makes the treacherous and oft-times deadly journey of an illegal immigrant from the coastal forests of North Africa (Morocco) over the Mediterranean Sea into southern Spain and then on to France and England. Here is an excerpt from the Insight News TV website:

In "Living with Illegals", award-winning journalist Sorious Samura becomes an illegal immigrant. His journey is epic as he travels from Morocco into Europe through Spain and France, finally crossing the English Channel to Britain. Samura wants to understand the reality of being an illegal immigrant, so he lives in the exact same conditions and experiences the same gruelling hardships as his companions. The story begins in Northern Morocco, where hundreds of illegal immigrants live in forests waiting for their chance to break into the enclave of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Africa. For them, Europe means work: "I am ready to do any kind of job. If I have to I’ll wash the toilets, bathrooms or train stations and I’ll be very happy. Forget I am a graduate". All that separates them from Ceuta and Europe is a 50 km, 6 m fence, around which they camp. Huddled together in cold, flimsy tents and hounded by daily police raids, the immigrants struggle to survive with no food, money or peace of mind, but their determination to reach the promised land is unyielding.

Related news and resources:

Insight News TV – home of Sorious Samura’s films and other great filmmakers
Why Western newsrooms hide the truth – The Observer, June 11, 2006

BBC News – In Depth news articles on Europe’s immigration crises
Seeking Europe’s Promised Land – Sep. 29, 2005
Eyewitness: Migrants Suffer in Morocco – Oct. 14, 2005
African Migrants Desperate Journey – Jul. 06, 2006

Der Spiegel (International English-language edition)
A Look at Germany’s Ellis Island – Aug. 08, 2005
An African Dream: I’ll make it to Europe or die trying – May 18, 2006

WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE – a film by Spike Lee

HBO Network is airing a Spike Lee documentary film about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina titled When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts. NPR (National Public Radio) conducted an interview with the award-winning African-American film director and writes in their program intro for August 13th:

Director Spike Lee examines the collision of race and politics in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in his provocative new HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke, which has a special showing on August 16 at the New Orleans Arena. The film, which has no narrator, weaves together the stories of survivors, including their angry-- and controversial-- criticisms of the Bush Administration.

HBO Documentary Films has a website with lots of resources and background information on the film, including an exclusive interview with Spike Lee. HBO will air the film in four parts on cable and satellite television in the U.S.A. starting on Monday, August 21 (Acts I and II) and Tuesday, August 22 (Acts III and IV).

I’m not certain if the film will be available for viewing outside of North America, but would appreciate it if any of my readers outside of the U.S.A. and Canada who can receive HBO would inform us about the film airing in their county. Unfortunately HBO TV (Home Box Office) is not available here in Germany and other parts of Europe so viewers here will not have an opportunity anytime soon to see what promises to be a blockbuster event. German TV networks have a very bad habit of translating foreign films and video programs without providing a dual language track selection capability for the original audio. Countries like Denmark and The Netherlands are not so stupid, you get the original language track in those countries. Here is an excerpt from the interview with Spike Lee conducted by HBO:

HBO: When did you know you had to do a film about this?

Spike Lee: When Hurricane Katrina went through New Orleans or around it, I was in Venice, Italy at a film festival. It was a very painful experience to see my fellow American citizens, the majority of them African- Americans, in the dire situation they were in. And I was outraged with the slow response of the federal government. And every time I'm in Europe, any time something happens in the world involving African-Americans, journalists jump on me, like I'm the spokesperson for 45 million African-Americans, which I'm not. But many of them expressed their outrage too. And one interesting thing is that these European journalists were saying the images they were seeing looked like they were from a third world country, not the almighty United States of America.

Y’all stay cool back home in the States now, don’t be running out in the streets wanting to tear up stuff after watching this film like some folks did after viewing the ABC TV mini-series Roots by Alex Haley back in 1977. Just stay cool.

Related news and resources:

NPR (National Public Radio) - All Things Considered – Aug. 13, 2006
Spike Lee on Race, Politics, and Broken Levees

HBO Documentary Films
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts
HBO interview with Director Spike Lee about the film

Der Spiegel Online (leading German magazine, international edition)
Katrina Fallout: America’s Dark Underbelly – Sep. 12, 2005
Hurricane Katrina and Its Wake – series of articles from Der Spiegel


My friend Fola of the
Ethnic Loft blog wrote about an HBO Documentary Film feature that aired August 10th in the U.S.A. titled God Sleeps in Rwanda. The film was written, directed, and produced by filmmakers Kimberlee Acquaro and Stacy Sherman with narration by Rosario Dawson (more info). The riveting documentary is a project of the highly successful Women Makes Movies foundation, a non-profit media arts organization founded in 1972 to help facilitate the production, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of independent films and videos made by and about women (more info about WMM). God Sleeps in Rwanda has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short and has already won four other prestigious film awards (more info here).

Unfortunately here is another great documentary film that will not be airing on German TV networks anytime soon to the detriment of people here who are very interested in this subject. The film can be purchased from the
Women Making Movies online store (more info here). Following are excerpts from the HBO Documentary Films website about this important work:

In 1994, one of the most reprehensible chapters in human history took place in the African nation of Rwanda, as one million people were killed during a 100 day purge by Hutu nationalists against their Tutsi countrymen. The genocide wiped out much of the male population, leaving behind a country that was, suddenly, 70% female. Ironically, as much as survivors had to cope with the loss of family and innocence, the incident opened up new opportunities for women on domestic, political and business fronts. In this powerful documentary, five courageous women struggle to rebuild their lives - and that of Rwanda itself - in a society still reeling from its bloody recent history.

A dozen years after the Rwandan genocide, many Americans are familiar with its horrors, in part due to news coverage and through movies like Hotel Rwanda and HBO Films' Sometimes in April. Ten years after the tragedy, God Sleeps in Rwanda explores the long-term aftermath of the genocide as it impacts five young women who were orphaned in 1994, and who have faced difficult, life- altering choices in the years since. Each lost several if not all her family members in the genocide, and several were raped by members of the Hutu militia - a tactic of war orchestrated by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the former Minister of Women and Family Affairs (later indicted for genocide and rape as a war crime). Despite their hardships, the women are determined to provide for their families and, in light of recent legislature giving women more rights and influence, impact positive changes in their community and their country.

Like the heralded feature films Hotel Rwanda and Shooting Dogs, God Sleeps in Rwanda is a must-see film that presents the hard facts about the suffering of women during the genocide along with the welcome progress made by a nation’s women and children who are struggling to recover from atrocities and war during one of the darkest chapters in human history.

Related resources:

HBO Documentary Films –
God Sleeps in Rwanda (with video trailer)
Women Making Movies –
God Sleeps in Rwanda official website
Women Making Moves – homepage

HBO Documentary Films –
Sometimes in April (a film about Rwanda)HBO – Interview with Raoul Peck, writer and director of Sometimes in April

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

BlogHer Conference 2006: Look in the Mirror and Lead!

Here is some good news for a change, and it is of special importance to women bloggers around the globe from emerging countries*1. There is a lot of good stuff here for guys too if you are smart enough to be able to keep pace with the fast-moving women and girls of the world.

While researching news and blog posts today on the historic election in the Democratic Republic of Congo I came across a “Heads Up” post at the Blogpulse Newswire blog about the BlogHer Conference 2006 in San Francisco. BlogHer is an online network of over 4100 women bloggers co-founded by three American business professionals Lisa Stone of Surfette, Jory Des Jardins, and Elisa Camahort. The purpose of the network is to help “… create opportunities for women bloggers to pursue exposure, education, and community.” (More about BlogHer mission and vision and the BlogHer co-founder biographies)

This year’s conference in San Francisco had attendees from around the world, and even I received an invite back in the Spring of this year but unfortunately could not attend (O.K., I admit that I was a bit Chicken to be around all of those top female bloggers but I plan to go next year
. Really!). Professional journalist and tech writer Chris Nolan of was the moderator at the closing keynote address and she conducted interviews with some of the rising stars of new media and new media technology: Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post, Caroline Little of State of Grace, Mena Trott of Six Apart (creators of Typepad & Movable Type), and Grace Davis of Also have a look at the BlogHer Conference 2006 list of corporate sponsors.

I can remember writing to my friend Sokari of the Black Looks blog and the newly launched African Women Reblog some months ago that I thought it would be a great idea if she and more African women bloggers looked into capitalizing from their work online. In other words, making money from their excellent writing and multimedia content creation (photos, video). It appears that many of the women bloggers attending the BlogHer Conference 2006 have mastered the art of blogging for dollars and having fun while you are doing it. Here is an excerpt from Lisa Stone’s post "Look in the Mirror and Lead" along with other posts and resources from the conference and a related article at the Wall Street Journal:

"In the past year, each of these women has leveraged Web-based technologies to pursue their professional agendas and triumphed -- while experiencing with unrelenting public pressure and excoriating personal criticism. If success is the best revenge, revenge must be sweet indeed for this quartet. For today, each of these women enjoys kudos from their readers/users (even critics), while at the same time being able to point to cold, hard facts such as Web traffic and revenue that demonstrate their ideas were worth pursuing.

How'd they do it? Nolan's skillful interviews Saturday evening revealed four very different women whose core message was remarkably the same: Look in the mirror and lead."

· "Instead of waiting for the white knight to come and save us, we need to find the leader in the mirror and act on those skills fearlessly." - Arianna Huffington

· "I've always had my pilot light on. Sometimes I don't pay attention to it but it's there. In responding to Katrina, I didn't even think about the obstacles. I just thought that I should be there helping somehow." - Grace Davis

· "You either fly with it (change) or you don't ever get on the boat. And I think you get on the boat." - Caroline Little

· "I've followed my gut and my passion...I 've seen so many people driven by title. As soon as you know someone cares more about title than the product, it really shows." - Mena Trott

BlogHer Conference 2006 blog posts, articles, and resources

Look in the Mirror and Lead by Lisa Stone
(BlogHer Conference 2006 Keynote Address)

The Wall Street Journals Who’s Who in New Media by Marianne Richmond

Blogher '06 Session Discussion: Audience Building and $$$ Generation on Day One BlogHer

More BlogHer ’06 Session Discussions, Panels, and Speakers

BlogHer Network Blogroll – blogs by women (and sometimes men too)

Note*1: BlogHer is looking for contributing editors and members from developing countries, especially editors from the African continent. Get in touch with Lisa Stone if you are interested in joining their team.

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