Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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DOCUMENTARIES ON THE BIG SCREEN JULY 2011

June 30, 2011

Love Etc, Project Nim, ‘Beats, rhythm and life. The travels of a tribe called Quest’, ‘Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the darkness’, Tabloid, El Bulli – cooking in progress,  “Life in a Day” and the mind blogging “Interrupters”. Not bad right 8 documentary films will play in a few cities on the big screen. I would most definitely want to see atleast five out of these films – ‘Interrupters’, ‘Project Nim’, ‘Tabloid’, ‘Life in a Day’ and ‘El Bulli’ – all of these are fascinating stories. People go out and fill the theaters because if you do then these films will be available in a few more cities for more of us to watch.

LOVE ETC. (JULY 1st)

LOVE ETC. is a witty, poignant and humorous exploration about the universal stages of love, depicted through five real stories over the course of one year in New York City. Young, old, gay, straight – everyone has experienced love – and the joy and frustration that come with it. From teen romance to a decades-long marriage; newlyweds to a recent divorcee, and even a bachelor so frustrated in his search that he chooses to have children without a partner, LOVE ETC. documents the intimate journeys of engaging characters aged 18-89 who reflect the city’s diversity, and takes an honest look at life’s most challenging pursuit.

The film is playing in select theaters in the a few cities. Theater Schedule. NewYork times REVIEW of the film is not necessarily special but I love the old couple in the trailer and would watch the film just to know more about them.

PROJECT NIM (JULY 8th)

In 1973, a baby chimpanzee was born in a cage at a primate research center in Oklahoma. A few days later, his mother is knocked down by a tranquilizer dart, her screaming baby is seized from her and is placed into the waiting arms of his new human “mother” a graduate student of psychology with three children of her own.

PROJECT NIM is an unflinching and unsentimental biography of an animal that they tried to make human. The film combines testimony from key participants of the experiment, unseen archival footage and dramatic imagery to tell the story of one chimpanzee’s extraordinary journey through human society and the enduring impact he makes on the human beings he meets along the way. What is learned about his true nature and indeed human nature is comical, revealing and profoundly unsettling.

Beats, Rhymes & Life:
The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (July 8th)

The films is about one of the most influential and groundbreaking musical groups in hip-hop history. They released 5 gold and platinum selling albums in 8 years and became the most commercially successful and artistically significant musical groups in recent history and are regarded as iconic pioneers of hip hop. But in 1998 the band broke up.

In 2008, the filmmaker sets out on a tour with ‘A Tribe called Quest’ when they reunited almost 10 years after the release of their last album. The film captures the story of how tenuous their relationship has become and how their unresolved conflicts continues to be a threat to their creative cohesion.

Personally, I don’t care much for documentaries about bands and music groups but I am sure there are tons of hip-hop fans that will flock the theater to watch this film. Film screening schedules and venues can be found in the FILM’s WEBSITE.

Sholem Aleichem:
Laughing in the Darkness (July 8th)

A riveting portrait of the great writer whose stories became the basis of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness tells the tale of the rebellious genius who created an entirely new literature. Plumbing the depths of a Jewish world locked in crisis and on the cusp of profound change, he captured that world with brilliant humor. Sholem Aleichem was not just a witness to the creation of a new modern Jewish identity, but one of the very men who forged it.

TABLOID (July 15th)

Errol Morris must have felt like it was time to lighten up. After his last few documentaries addressed the death penalty, Holocaust deniers, the Vietnam War, and Abu Ghraib, his new one tells an astonishing-but-true story about an insane-but-functional woman named Joyce McKinney. It’s called “Tabloid,” and its purpose is not enlightenment but entertainment. Source: www.ericdsnider.com And I totally agree with this reviewer. Enough said about that film, moving on to the next one.

EL BULLI: Cooking in Progress (JULY 27th)

The starred chef Ferran Adrià is known as the best, most innovative and craziest cook in the world. Every year, the restaurant closes for six months. During this time, Adrià and his creative team retire to their cooking laboratory in Barcelona, to create a new menu for the following season. Everything is allowed — except of copying themselves.
One year with Ferran Adrià, the development of a new menu, searching for the essence of creativity and obsession in a place where they already call the „frozen parmesan air with cereals” from 2004 a classical dish. Yummy..what indulgence!

LIFE IN A DAY (July 29th)

Life In A Day is a historic global experiment to create the world’s largest user-generated feature film: a documentary, shot in a single day, by you. On July 24, you have 24 hours to capture a glimpse of your life on camera. The most compelling and distinctive footage will be edited into an experimental documentary film, executive produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald.

What happens when you send a request out to the world to chronicle, via video, a single day on Earth? You get 80,000 submissions and 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries. Producer Ridley Scott and Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald took this raw material — all shot on July 24, 2010 — and created Life in a Day, a groundbreaking, feature-length documentary that portrays this kaleidoscope of images we call life. National Geographic is bringing it to theaters starting July 24, 2011. Prepare to be amazed.

THE INTERRUPTERS (July 29)

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. From acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, this film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn, persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin FilmsThe Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape.

The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire. Founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar, they go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. The Interrupters follows Ameena, Cobe and Eddie as they go about their work, and while doing so reveals their own inspired journeys of hope and redemption. The film attempts to make sense of what CeaseFire’s Tio Hardiman calls, simply, “the madness”.

FILM OF THE WEEK – MICROCOSMOS(1996)

June 30, 2011

15 years of research, two years of equipment design and 3 years of production resulted in the creation of the visually gorgeous 76 minute documentary “Microcosmos.’ The film reveals an awesome world that is so dazzlingly breathtaking and colourful, that it is hard to imagine it is real. The film is delightfully edited and is packaged with humor, passion, conflict and drama; besides sharing the habits and habitats of these minute creatures.

SYNOPSIS:
It chronicles one symbolic day in a meadow in the French countryside around Aveyron. Close-up shots make the insects look like huge, bizarre extra-terrestrials, and single drops of water appear to be gigantic, gooey objects from outer space. Dancers could be inspired by the rhythmic cavorting; lovers moved by the extraordinary passion of the Burgundy snails; a drop of rain is a cannon blast; there are circus-like feats with gymnasts, and construction workers busy at work; bees buzzing in a field of red poppies waving in the wind and the overwhelming beauty of the butterfly.

The film employs time lapse cinematography, slow motion and shallow focus to create this world. It is organized episodically with a lot of mini narratives – a grasshopper gets killed and eaten by a spider, rainstorms plunges an anthill into chaos. etc The narration, by Kristin Scott-Thomas, is kept to a bare minimum, as directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou let the marvellous images do their work. The films is magical and must be experienced.

PS: Can be watched on Netflix Watch Instant but I would recommend renting the video if you are interested in the extras!

IS “AT THE EDGE OF RUSSIA” a DOCUMENTARY?

June 29, 2011

Poster - At the edge of Russia

No border incursions ever occur at this or other northern Russian posts except occasional animal invaders.

SYNOPSIS: This is an absurdist look at Russian border guards on the frontier of northern Russia in one of the few remaining outposts on the Arctic Ocean.Young recruit Alexei gets flown in and is oriented to the ritualized ways of living and working in the permafrost.   He is schooled by the other soldiers, who in the Russian tradition quote poets, sing bawdy songs, play macho games like removing hands from wood about to be chopped, and share wisdom such as “When you start to freeze, hold your breath, and your body will start to function like it’s hooked up to a battery.” The film is a satire of nationalism and borders, packaged in a modest portrait of a few men performing their  absurd duty in this snow covered no man’s land, hundreds of miles from the nearest human settlement. Source: (various review sites)

When this film popped up on my twitter feeds, I marked in on my list of films to watch. I was intrigued by the idea of a filmmaker going to harsh terrains and was just interested in the logistics of the whole operations. The naive documentary filmmaker in me presumed he secured permission to actually go to an existing military outpost, filmed an observational documentary and edited it together as a film.

Marczak says he set out to make his film as a pure observational documentary. He traveled for three months searching for the ideal military base to shoot. “During this time I went through cadet training, spent two days in a snow cave, meet a lot of soldiers and visited various outposts,” he explains. He hired former soldiers to populate the outpost. He says there was no script, no set idea. “The protagonists were never tested on camera before the shoot. After one month, the base was fully operational and the life of the soldiers was set according to military standards, which the captain enforced very strongly.” Filming began on the helicopter flying in the cadet, who did not know that he was flying into this “sort of staged situation.” Shooting continued for two months. The film is “undoubtedly” a documentary, says Marczak. “The initial situation was helped, but everything that followed came from inside the people. I had no clue how the story would develop.” Marczak believes he has staged much less than many documentaries “which are never questioned about being documentaries. Source: www.documentary.org.

Yes all documentary films are subjective views of reality. But would Restrepo a film by Sebastian Junger and Late Tim Hetherington or Heather Courtney’s – “where the soldiers come” evoke the same response and emotion from the audience if it was revealed to them that Hetherington scouted Afghanistan found an outpost and then hired former soldiers and flew in a recruit and got the post functioning. Then he spent 9 months filming their “real” interaction. Does it not ridicule the whole situation? What about filmmakers like Tim Hetherington who put themselves in dangerous situations to get those stories to us or Heather Courtney who embedded with the soldiers on and off to film them.

Let me give you another example, director Micheal Winterbottom’s “In this world” ( the youtube trailer below) and “The road to Guantanamo” are fictionalized films about reality.

These films are shockingly real at times and do blur the lines of fiction and real but the filmmaker lets us the audience know upfront that this is not a documentary. That does not take away from our experience of the reality of what the two refugee Afghans go through.

Therefore films like “At the edge of Russia” do not sit well with me. If the situation was set up and non actors – former soldiers were “hired” and an actual cadet (even if he was oblivious to the actual situation) were all put in a situation and the camera filmed their interaction then call it what it is. Acknowledge it and reveal it to us, we would come and watch the film gladly and appreciate the nuances it brings in but please this is not the same as “Restrepo” or “Where the soldiers come from”, were the situations are real, the people are going through their real lives. Granted the filmmakers make subjective choices and force things to happen or wait for things to happen but it is still a very different story from “At the edge of Russia” And I believe it is necessary to communicate this difference.

Does the film reveal this in the credits? Are most of the audience oblivious to the set up? I just don’t get it.

FREEHELD – THE MARRIAGE PARADOX

June 25, 2011

Today June 23rd 2011, New York joined Conneticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hamsphire, Vermont and the District of Columbia in legalizing same sex marriage. I was reminded of a powerful short documentary “FREE HELD” that went on to win the Academy award for best short documentary.

The documentary film “Freeheld” chronicles Laurel’s struggle to transfer her earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. With less than six months to live, Laurel refuses to back down when her elected officials – the Ocean County (New Jersey) Freeholders -deny her request to leave her pension to Stacie, an automatic option for heterosexual married couples. The film is structured chronologically, following both the escalation of Laurel’s battle with the Freeholders and the decline of her health as cancer spreads to her brain. Source: http://www.freeheld.com

Free Held Website has an interactive map which shows state by state rights of same-sex couples. With New York State legislature’s approval of same-sex marriages, my natural reaction was that it is going to be lot easier for couples like Laurel and Stacie. but then I  read this article in New York times which kinda got me thinking.

New York City has a domestic partnership law that allows both same-sex and different-sex couples to register as domestic partners, and many private and public employers treat employees who are in such partnerships as entitled to the same rights as married employees. But they have done this to rectify the injustice created by same-sex couples’ inability to legally marry. Once the marriage ban in New York State is lifted, domestic-partner couples, both gay and straight, will risk losing access to health care and other benefits if their employers treat marriage as the only ticket for entitlement to these benefits, which are increasingly expensive. Source: www.nytimes.com

In other words, will couples in long term committed relationship who do not want to marry be forced to marry to obtain or keep their benefits or to be respected or deemed as good citizens. Would that not be unfair?

INDIA: THE MISSING GIRLS – A SOCIETY OUT OF BALANCE

June 24, 2011

A survey conducted by UK based Thompson Reuters Foundation ranks Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia the five most dangerous countries for women to live in. In these countries basic human rights are systematically denied to women. Though this might be the harsh reality for the majority of the women in these countries, the intent of the series of articles in Real Talkies, on each one of these nations is to showcase possibilities. The focus will be on the pioneers in these countries who break these concrete barriers and let the little girls dream, aspire and believe that anything is possible in their lives.

According to the Census commission of India, in 2001 the sex ratio ( females per thousand males) was 933. It was 946 females for every 1000 males in rural India and surprisingly 900 in Urban India. (CENSUS DATA 2001). 2011 Census data indicates the number slightly improved to an average of 940. (District Wise Sex Ratio 2011). Out of the 640 districts, 102 (thank god) districts have reversed ratio where the females are higher in number than males. While there are some districts where the females to male ratio is in the 500s. The link elaborates more on the specific numbers. Unlike countries that restrict access to education, healthy life, basic sanitation, economic empowerment, equality, India truly nips them in the bud. Why deal with all these issues, let us just not let them be born! It is estimated that 12 million girls were aborted in the last three decades.

INDIA: THE MISSING GIRLS

A Society out of balance

In someways this is far worse than wars. The perpetrators are not men with guns but family members. They are not an isolated group but are spread across the cross section of civil society from urban to rural, rich to poor, educated to uneducated. It is an epidemic!

Petals in the Dust: India’s Missing Girls, will explore the reasons behind this “gendercide”, it’s origin, growth and consequences.It is the intention of the film to serve as a voice for the women of India, calling attention to female infanticide and foeticide, practices that have lead to the biggest genocide in India’s history.  The U.N. has warned that these acts if left unabated, would lead to an increase in trafficking, sexual abuse and violence towards women.

This is not to say, that the status for women who are born is any better. A large section of the female population deals with cultural/religious/economic discrimination, domestic violence/abuse and sex trafficking. It is very true there are many Indias. it is a country of paradoxes. According to me, the main culprit in my opinion that has driven families, women and men to selectively abort their female fetus is the fear of the INDIAN WEDDING and the UGLY dowry.

The great Indian wedding bazaar.

While Indian marriages are fun and colorful for many there is a darkside to the whole affair.The marriage pressure for millions in India does not end with the marriage, a family has continued pressure to contribute to the family that their daughter has been married into – during festivals, at major milestones in their marriage, during childbirth and so on – so there is continued monetary pressure for a lifetime.

A change in the society’s perceptions of the role of women in the Indian family is absolutely necessary for eliminating female infanticide.  While this may sound archaic and primitive, vast majority of families in India are afraid of the consequences and continued pressure they experience after their daughter is married. To break this pattern, education, employment and empowerment of the Indian women is absolutely necessary.

HOT COFFEE & TORT REFORM

June 24, 2011 1 Comment

Tort is defined as a wrongful act not including a breach of contract or trust, that results in injury to another’s person, property, reputation or the like and for which the injured party is entitled to compensation. (Source: dictionary.com). One of the most famous tort cases in America is the McDonald’s hot coffee case.

SYNOPSIS of HOT COFFEE – Is Justice being served? Seinfeld mocked it. Letterman ranked it in his top ten list. And more than fifteen years later, its infamy continues. Everyone knows the McDonald’s coffee case. It has been routinely cited as an example of how citizens have taken advantage of America’s legal system, but is that a fair rendition of the facts? Hot Coffee reveals what really happened to Stella Liebeck, the Albuquerque woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s, while exploring how and why the case garnered so much media attention, who funded the effort and to what end. After seeing this film, you will decide who really profited from spilling hot coffee.

The film is directed by a personal injury attorney Susan Saladoff and that essentially throws objectivity out of the window.

Saladoff seeks to dispel myths surrounding the case brought by 79-year old Stella Liebeck against McDonald’s. In 1989, Liebeck was a passenger in a parked car who was trying to put cream and sugar in a cup of McDonald’s coffee she held between her knees when it spilled. She won a $2.9 million jury award in Albuquerque, N.M., after she suffered third-degree burns to large portions of her thighs and buttocks, injuries graphically displayed in Saladoff’s film. An appeals court later reduced the award to $480,000, and Liebeck eventually settled for an undisclosed amount. Saladoff’s aim is to show that Liebeck’s case is just one example of the misperceptions and misinformation the public has about the American legal system. Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight

Over the last two decades there have been campaigns to convince the public against frivolous lawsuits and the need for civil justice reform.

Tort reform is not a single law or idea but it is a group of ideas and laws designed to change the way the civil justice system works in the USA. In general tort reform law intends to do the following:

  1. Make it more difficult for injured people to file a lawsuit.
  2. Make it more difficult for injured people to obtain a jury trial.
  3. Place limits on the amount of money injured people receive in a lawsuit.

Source and For more information on Tort Reform: What is Tort Reform?

Recently, U.S. Supreme Court threw out a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart that could have as many as 1.5 million plaintiffs alleging sexual discrimination. With that in mind, the film is strongly from the plaintiffs perspective and wonders if this is reform or is it severely limiting people’s access to the court systems. It premiers on June 27th on HBO in their summer documentary series. Visit film’s website for more information: HOT COFFEE.

FIRE IN BABYLON – OUT THERE IT WAS WAR

June 23, 2011

If you grew up watching cricket you would know about the WINDIES team that brought the world to its knees and a nation to its feet. Fire in the babylon is the story of the West Indian triumph over its colonial masters through the achievements of one of the most gifted teams in the sporting history.

SYNOPSIS:  In a turbulent era of apartheid in South Africa; race riots in England and civil unrest in the Caribbean, the West Indian cricketers, led by the enigmatic Viv Richards, struck a defiant blow at the forces of white prejudice worldwide. Their undisputed skill, combined with a fearless spirit, allowed them to dominate the genteel game at the highest level, replaying it on their own terms. This is their story, told in their own words.

If you do not know what cricket is and are still reading this far then imagine a cricket ball (cherry red cork ball) hurled at you at a mind numbing pace not to get you out but to intimidate and possibly hurt you. Now that was what it felt like facing the bowling attack of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Joel Gamer and Malcolm Marchall. After their fast bowlers cleaned up the opponent’s batsmen, their batsmen, the legendary Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Clive Lloyd will toy with the opponents bowling and send the battered and bruised ball to remote corners of the cricket field. Greenidge would say, “We could not take it out on a fellow human being, but we could do that on the 5.5 ounce cherry”. That the intensity of the windies game in their glory days and this documentary! Source: www.cricketweb.net)

Fire in Babylon explores what turned West Indies of the late 1970s into a cricket’s legends, that went on to dominate the game for 15 years without losing a test series. I have not yet seen the film but in general the reviews say that the film does not deal with cricket enough to appeal to someone not initiated into cricket and omits and distorts facts to outrage a die hard cricket fan.

I am not sure I buy into the image of the West Indian team being the pioneering post colonial heroes. All of that sounds pretty theatrical and over the top. But it is an indisputable fact that Llyod’s men possessed unbelievable talent, matchless skills and brutal pace attack. A documentary was much needed to immortalize their domineering era. Watch the film and judge it yourself. All, I can tell you is that every cricket fan will watch it once and there are millions of us out there!

THE BATTERY POWERED CAR

June 22, 2011 1 Comment

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?

In 2006, Chris Paine released the documentary, “Who killed the electric car?”. It is the third highest theatrical grossing documentary in 2006. Who killed the Electric Car? chronicles the creation, limited commercialization and subsequent destruction of battery electric vehicles specifically the General Motors, EV1.

General Motors (GM) responded in a 2006 blog post entitled Who ignored the facts about the Electric Car?  It was stated  that, “despite the substantial investment of money and the enthusiastic fervor of a relatively small number of EV1 drivers — including the filmmaker — the EV1 proved far from a viable commercial success. In March 2009, however, the outgoing CEO of GM, Rick Wagoner, said the biggest mistake he ever made as chief executive was killing the EV1 car, and failing to direct more resources to electrics and hybrids after such an early lead in this technology. GM has since championed its electric car expertise as a key factor in development of its 2010, Chevrolet Volt, a gasoline/electric hybrid.
( Source: Wiki).

This film fortunately was screened with “Inconvenient Truth” and received tremendous publicity through grass root level campaigns and info sharing via the Web.

According to Chris Paine, “It’s a rare privilege to be able to tell the story of how sometimes change has too much momentum to be stopped. You can’t kill an idea whose time has come”.  “Revenge of the Electric Car” is that story.

In “Who killed the electric Car?” they followed a group of activists. “REvenge of the Electric Car” sets out to follow Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, GM’s vice chair  – Bob Lutz, Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn and DIY expert  Greg “Gadget” Abbott . Each one allowed access to their journey over three years on condition that the film will not be released until 2011.

This is one rare occasion when we want all of them to win, their cumulative success is success for the earth, for us and for a life without dependence on fossil fuel. This remarkable film is on its festival circuit. DC folks can see it at SilverDocs on June 25th. For future screenings visit their website.

IF A TREE FALLS – When you are screaming at the top of your voice and no one is listening what do you do?

June 21, 2011

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT tells the
remarkable story of the rise and fall of this Earth Liberation Front (ELF) cell, by focusing on the transformation and radicalization of one of its members.

In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front– a group the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

MARSHALL CURRY (Director): Well, the story sort of just dropped in my lap, actually. My wife runs a domestic violence organization in Brooklyn and came home from work one day and told me that four federal agents had walked into her office that afternoon and arrested one of her employees, this guy Daniel McGowan. And he was not at all what comes to my mind when I think of somebody who would be facing life in prison for domestic terrorism, as the government called it. And for me as a filmmaker, when reality clashes with a stereotype that maybe I have, that’s interesting. And so, you know, Daniel, he doesn’t look like a terrorist, doesn’t talk like a terrorist. He grew up in Rockaway, Queens. His dad’s a New York cop. He was a business major in college. And so, I just thought, how could this have happened? How could this guy have been involved in these arsons, and how could he be facing life in prison for them? And so, Sam Cullman, who’s the cinematographer and co-director on the project, and I just said, “Let’s try to figure it out.” Source: www.Democracynow.org

With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country. Over the next five years the filmmakers spent time with Daniel from the time he was arrested to when he went to prison and when he was on house arrest.

Drawing from archival footage  and intimate interviews with ELF members, and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them, IF A TREE FALLS explores the tumultuous period from 1995 until early 2001 when environmentalists were clashing with timber companies and law enforcement, and the word “terrorism” had not yet been altered by 9/11.

FILM OF THE WEEK – SUSHI: THE GLOBAL CATCH

June 21, 2011

SUSHI THE GLOBAL CATCH

Production Still from "Sushi: the Global Catch" - Tunanigiri

On the last student film set I worked on, a generous Sushi place in Austin, Texas, donated a 100 piece Sushi platter. The Sushi was kept safe over a pack of ice for an hour under the hot Texan sky before it was all consumed. But have you ever wondered how Sushi became a global cuisine?

The tradition that required 7 years of apprenticeship in Japan transformed to a quick training and mass manufactured solutions elsewhere. The expensive delicacy has become common and affordable, appearing in restaurants, supermarkets and even fast food trailers. Beautiful raw pieces of fish and rice now appear from Warsaw and New York to football games in Texas towns. Can this growth continue without consequence? Sushi: The Global Catch is a feature-length documentary shot in five nations that explores the tradition, growth and future of this popular cuisine.

I love my Sushi, as many of you. While I am willing to become a more informed and a conscious Sushi consumer, I am unwilling to let go. Therefore my favorite line in the film’s trailer is, “WE ARE GOING TO FIGURE IT OUT”!

The film had its world premiere at the 37th Seattle International Film Festival on the 8th of June 2011. For screenings in your area or to organize screenings check their website. Looking forward to seeing this film.

 Also check out Sustainable Sushi Blog -http://www.sustainablesushi.net/.

9.9 Million

June 20, 2011

9.9 million. That is the total number of refugees in the world. Wars, famine and natural disasters are the most common reasons that force people to leave their homes and flee their homelands. People get displaced internally within their own country, other times within a continent and under extreme circumstances they seek refuge in other continents. They wait and hope that sometime during their lifetime, things will get better and they will either return home or find a new home.

Source: Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, UNHCR.

June 20th is the WORLD REFUGEE DAY, RealTalkies is pleased to compile a list of documentaries from around the world that bring their problems to light. We also want to thank the refugees who allowed unprecedented access to the filmmakers at the time of great distress to share their stories with the world in the hope that something positive could happen. The works of filmmakers like Tim Hetherington who put their lives at risk to document these stories and the scores of NGOS, activist and Foundations who work tirelessly to do their bit to improve the lives of the refugees is much appreciated as well.

Please share this compilation with groups and individuals who might find this useful.

DOCUMENTARIES ABOUT CHILD REFUGEES

WAR CHILD (2008) Sudan

Emmanuel Jal, child soldier of Sudan turned Hip-Hop artist, has incorporated his experiences into “War Child”

WAR DANCE (2007) Uganda

In civil war ravaged Northern Uganda, three children Dominic, Rose and Nancy residents of Patongo camp are invited to compete in an annual music and dance competition, their historic journey to their nation’s capital is also an opportunity to regain a part of their childhood and to taste victory for the first time in their lives.

God grew tired of us (2006) Sudan, New York.

God Grew Tired of Us explores the spirit of three Sudanese young men who leave their homeland, triumph over adversities, and move to America.

A Great Wonder: Lost boys of Sudan (2003) Sudan, Seatle.

Documents the difficult transitions of three of the sudanese lost boys and girls from Sudan to Seatle, Washington.

Lost Boys of Sudan (2003) Sudan and American Suburb.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s56SEqfZRUU]

Lost Boys of Sudan is an Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia

MIGRATION AND RELOCATION STORIES

In the matter of Cha Jung Hee  (2010) USA, Korea.

Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the United States in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, the 8-year-old girl quickly forgot she had ever been anyone else. But why had her identity been switched? And who was the real Cha Jung Hee? In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is the search to find the answers, as acclaimed filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem (First Person Plural, POV 2000) returns to her native Korea to find her “double,” the mysterious girl whose place she took in America.

Home Across Lands (2009) Ethiopia, USA

It is a film documents the journey of the Kunama refugees as they travel from the Shimelba refugee camp in Northern Ethiopia to their new home in Rhode Island.

The Fortress (2008) Switzerland

Unrestricted access was given to the center of asylum seekers in Switzerland.  It presents a human gaze at an austere transition place, where 200 men, women and children, torn between doubt and hope, are awaiting the state’s decision on their behalf.

THE Betrayal: Nerakhoon (2008) Laos, Newyork

It is a tale of perseverance – one family’s struggle to survive their journey from war-torn Laos to the streets of New York.

24 DAYS in BROOKS (2007) Alberta, Canada.

Centering around a 24 days strike at Lakeside, the film explores how people work together and adapt to change.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars (2006) Guinea, Sierra Leone

The remarkable story of a group of six Sierra Leonean musicians who come together to form a band while living in a West African refugee camp.

The Letter (2003) Somalia, Lewiston.

In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy a firestorm erupts when Mayor Larry Ramond of Lewiston, Maine sends an open letter to 1,100 newly arrived Somali refugees advising them that the city’s resources are strained to the limit and asking other Somalis not to move to the city. Interpreted as a rallying cry by white supremacist groups across the United States, THE LETTER documents the crossfire of emotions and events, culminating in a “hate” rally convened by the World Church of the Creator and a counter “peace” rally involving 4,000 Lewiston residents supporting ethnic and cultural diversity.

In this world (2002) ( docudrama)

Michael Winterbottom’s courageous docudrama is a deeply moving account of the shocking cost of the human traffic in economic migrants.

The Split Horn: Life of a Hmong Shaman in America. (2001) Laos, Appleton, Wisconsin

The Split Horn is the sweeping story of a Hmong shaman and his family living in Appleton, Wisconsin. Documenting the journey of Paja Thao and his family from the mountains of Laos to the heartland of America this poignant film shows a shaman’s struggle to maintain his ancient traditions as his children embrace American culture.

Shadows and Whispers (2001) North Korea, China

Since 1995, 2 million North Koreans have starved to death from famine. Hundreds of thousands of others cross illegally to China in search of food. Filmed in the remote northeast mountains of china it captures the dire circumstances of North Korean Refugees who journey to China.

Blue Collar and Buddha (1986) Laos, Illinois.

This dramatic documentary explores America’s Laotian refugees struggling against the mounting tension of a post-Vietnam era filled with guilt and anger. A group of Laotian refugees have built a Buddhist temple on a small farmstead on the outskirts of a resolutely blue collar town. Their efforts to preserve their culture and religious heritage have been greeted by several terrorist attacks upon their temple.

STORIES OF WOMEN REFUGEES

MRS. GOUNDO’s DAUGHTER (2009) Mali and Phildelphia

It is the story of an African mother’s fight for asylum in the US to protect her two-year old daughter from genital mutilation.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Films will be added to this list and please comment on the blog, or tweet or send me a facebook message with suggestions for films that have not made it to the list.

MUKHTAR and the VERDICT in PAKISTAN

June 20, 2011 1 Comment

A survey conducted by UK based Thompson Reuters Foundation ranks Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia the five most dangerous countries for women to live in. In these countries basic human rights are systematically denied to women. Though this might be the harsh reality for the majority of the women in these countries, the intent of the series of articles in Real Talkies, on each one of these nations is to showcase possibilities. The focus will be on the pioneers in these countries who break these concrete barriers and let the little girls dream, aspire and believe that anything is possible in their lives.

In the western media,  besides the attention Pakistan received for Bin Laden’s raids, the unprecedented floods, the deadly earthquakes, the nuclear weapon(s); it is also infamous for the status of women and honor killings. In some ways, tt is very unfair, I can imagine what it feels like to be a Pakistani women for documentary filmmakers like Sabila Sumar while reading these statistics. I mean India is not far behind, it is fourth on the list, we have the dubious distinctions of getting rid of our girls even before they are born. The statistics are real and reflect the ground reality but it is also true that a large section of the women in the both the nations do exercise free choice, are cherished and adored by their family and live very successful lives.

Therefore, it is best to start talking about the status of women in Pakistan from the perspective of women like me, who do question the status quo in our country, who got to do anything we wanted (albeit with our own struggles).

A PLACE UNDER THE HEAVENS (2003)

An insightful documentary by Sabila Sumar who was born and raised during secular and liberal times in Pakistan. In this film, she struggles to comprehend and understand the tension between liberal and fundamentalist forces that shape the life of contemporary Pakistan. Granted this is the perspective of educated and affluent women in Pakistan who have the options and means to be liberal/fundamental/anything between, unlike the vast majority of Pakistani women yet it is thought provoking and worth a look.

SHAME (2006)

Around the time when Sabila was editing her film, in 2002, Mukhtaran Bibi (or Mukhta Mai) was gang raped by a group of men and paraded in Meerwala, Pakistan. Her brother apparently had a relationship with a girl from a higher caste and to even the score, Mai was raped. Overwhelmed by shame she initially tried to commit suicide but with nothing more to loose, she eventually decided enough was enough and instead of suffering in silence she went public with her story.  Her journey resulted in the building of  two schools and a crisis center for women in her village.

While the film’s trailer is overly dramatic and the film played extensively world wide and received rave reviews and an autobiography of Mukhtar is popular too, life for her is still pretty dangerous.

 On April 21, 2011,Pakistani’s court acquitted suspects in Mukhtaran Mai’s case. This verdict puts Mukhtaran Mai in even greater danger but she has vowed not to shut down her school. The Supreme Court’s decision shocked and disappointed many Pakistanis especially human rights activists. It is a major setback in the broader struggle to end violence agains women in Pakistan.

An article about the status of women in Pakistan has to include Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto is a two hour documentary about the first woman to lead a muslim nation. The film encapsulates the life of Benazir, her rise to power and her eventual assassination, in the context of Pakistan’s troubled history and its corrupt-scandal filled political environment.

In 1965 Fatima Jinnah, sister of Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the first muslim woman to contest for presidency. Begum Shaista Ikramullah was the first woman elected member of the constituent assembly of Pakistan.  Beguam Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan was the founder of All Pakistan Women’s association and Begum Nusrat Bhutto led the pakistani delegation to the UN’s first women’s conference in 1975.

Political participation and presence of women in political parties and in the political and legal structure in the local, provincial and national levels remains insignificant. There are very few people like Mukhtar who step forward to advocate and fight for justice and few women in positions of power to support the righteous cause of women and 9 years after her rape, her rapist were acquitted.

Does this verdict reinforce to the women in Pakistan that it is better to suffer in silence as at the end of the justice will not be served? or Thank God for Mukhtar, this issue is up for debate and discussion!

MOBILE PHONES AND RAPE the CONGO CONNECTION

June 17, 2011 1 Comment

A survey conducted by UK based Thompson Reuters Foundation ranks Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia the five most dangerous countries for women to live in. In these countries basic human rights are systematically denied to women. Though this might be the harsh reality for the majority of the women in these countries, the intent of the series of articles in Real Talkies, on each one of these nations is to showcase possibilities and share documentaries that shed light into the problem

2. Congo has epic proportions of sexual violence and rape. Women have almost no legal rights without a husband’s authorization. In the democratic republic of congo, rape is a weapon of war. Since 1999 over 5 million people have perished making it one of the deadliest conflict. The instability in Congo and the lures of mineral money further fuels and sustains this unspeakable violence inflicted on the women of Congo.

BLOOD IN THE MOBILE

Phones are essentially financing the war in Congo. Minerals used in the cell phones come from the mines in Eastern Congo. These mines and the transportation of the minerals are controlled by the different armed groups. According to human rights organizations, the purchase of the minerals from the conflict zone funds the bloodiest civil war since world war II.

WOMEN ON THE FRONTLINE – DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Though the minerals did not start the war, it is what is sustaining and prolonging it now. In the democratic republic of congo, women bear the brunt of a 10 year war in the eastern provinces, a spill over from Rwanda genocide. This bbc show explains the origin of the conflict and the impact on the women.

THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO

Poster of documentary: The greatest Silence: Rape in the congo

Rape is the strongest and most brutal weapon of war against women. “The Greatest Silence” was made by Lisa Jackson a survivor of gang rape herself. Lisa shared her experience with the women of congo and in response the women recount their stories of chilling barbarity. This film finally broke the silence that surrounds their plight. While the documentary allows the women to share their stories, women continue to get raped and victimized as the conflict continues to be sustained.

PUSHING THE ELEPHANT

In the 90s, Rose Mapendo lost her family and home to the violence that engulfed Congo. She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation and is a vital voice  in her nation’s search for peace. Rose separated from her 5 year old daughter Nangabire and escaped with 9 out of her 10 children and resettled in Arizona. A decade later, she is reunited with her daughter. The film follows a year in the life of the mother and daughter who try to make up for time lost, move past their painful past and redefine themselves as women and survivors.

Rose’s family like those of some “lucky refugees” atleast have the opportunity to reconcile and find peace. But for the majority women of congo, violence is omni present as long as the war continues. And the war will continue as long as the armed groups can finance their warfare by selling minerals. The world is too damn globalized for our actions not to have consequences far and wide. But are we responsible for the Rapes in Congo indirectly? How can we act or respond? TAKE ACTION

SRI LANKA’s KILLING FIELDS

June 16, 2011 1 Comment

The Human Rights Council in Geneva convened to view a special hour long Channel 4 film, “Sri Lank’s Killing fields”. The film provided video evidence of atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan army and LTTE ( Tamil Tigers) during the final months of the Sri Lankan MIlitary Offensive in the Northern Tamil region of Sri Lanka.

Jon Snow presents an investigative documentary about events that transpired in the final weeks of the 30 year civil war between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels. The film is available on online, a simple google search will lead you to one of the many uploads. Be warned the film has horrific disturbing and very distressing visuals, descriptions and inhuman executions. It is appalling and disgusting that this is happening in a land that practices buddhism.

Captured on mobile phones, both by Tamils under attack and government soldiers as war trophies, the disturbing footage shows: the extra-judicial executions of prisoners; the aftermath of targeted shelling of civilian camps; and dead female Tamil fighters who appear to have been raped or sexually assaulted, abused and murdered. Source: http://www.channel4.com

A week ago, I watched the film, “A film unfinished” . It documents some of the worst horrors of our times and exposes the efforts its perpetrators, to propel their agenda and cast their actions in a favorable light. The haunting images of helpless starving people, who were pawns in the hands of Nazi were reviewed and dissected by historians to understand the intentions behind the filming and archiving of these atrocities by the Nazis.

The United Nations was specifically created at the end of world war II precisely to prevent such inhuman treatment of powerless people by people of authority. But, we the world community continue to wait and watch the atrocities as an after thought. We let Rwanda happen, Darfur happen and have allowed the Tamil’s to perish even though they send SOS to the entire world and their diaspora stepped out and staged huge demonstrations all over the world.

Earlier in April 2011, UN appointed experts concluded that as many as 40,000 people were killed in the final weeks of the war (in Sri Lanka) but the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon refused to launch investigation into the credible allegations of war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan forces. (UN REPORT)

Channel 4 made and broadcast this film to share with the world, the presence of powerful evidence and urge the international community to act and provide long over due justice for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.

If the UN and the international community fail to act, What will the consequences be? Do we need to have an United Nations that leaves the country at the time of crisis and fails to act even in the presence of numerous evidence? How can reconciliation happen in the absence of justice. Is it wrong for the people to find their own ways to seek justice and peace?

STORIES FROM AFGHANISTAN

June 16, 2011 1 Comment

A survey conducted by UK based Thompson Reuters Foundation ranks Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia the five most dangerous countries for women to live in. In these countries basic human rights are systematically denied to women. Though this might be the harsh reality for the majority of the women in these countries, the intent of the series of articles in Real Talkies, on each one of these nations is to showcase possibilities. The focus will be on the pioneers in these countries who break these concrete barriers and let the little girls dream, aspire and believe that anything is possible in their lives.

1. AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and 70-80 percent of women face forced early marriages. Opportunities for education, health access, reproductive health choice is minimal. Besides that women are victims of domestic violence and discriminatory laws.

AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED

In 2002/2003, AINA an organization founded by renowned photojournalist Reza Deghati (Iranian-French woman) began to educate and empower Afghan women in the use of media. 14 young women many of them in their teens were trained to operate cameras and travel to rural regions to Afghanistan and obtain unprecedented access to their country women. This resulted in the making of “Afghanistan unveiled”,  a documentary produced by an all-female production team in Afghanistan and was nominated for an 2005 Emmy Award.

Afghanistan Unveiled was televised extensively in the western world. It probably was very pleasing and compelling to tell the world look we went out there, over came the Taliban and liberated the group of women. Despite all of that, as someone who was born and brought up in a small town were every woman I knew was a homemaker, I can only imagine the sparkle in the eyes of the girls in the Afghani villages and small towns who were exposed to an alternative life choice. The impact that the 14 Afghani women with cameras would have had on the lives of thousands is priceless. Most of these women continue to function as video journalist and story tellers. Everyday they step out to document and share stories, they are inadvertently sowing  the seeds for the next generation of filmmakers.

ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS

In 2003 a 502 delegate Loya Jirga (grand council)  produced a constitution guaranteeing a place for women at the political table and gender equality for all as a basic right. Enemies of Happiness (or also called “A woman among warloads”) follows the campaign of Malalai Joya one of the country’s most famous and controversial woman, running in Afghanistan’s first democratic parliament elections in 2005 (after 35 years). Malai is an activist, writer and a critic of the Karzai administration. In 2010, Time magazine placed her on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world and most recently in 2011, “The Guardian” listed her among the top 100 women:activists and campaigners.

Afghan women had equality, freedom and rights. It is not like these women were oppressed for generations, the documentary “Afghan Women, the history of struggle” explores historical events that led to the deterioration of the status of women in their society.

AFGHAN WOMEN THE HISTORY OF STRUGGLE

Afghan Women: A History of Struggle challenges mainstream media’s portrayal of Afghanistan’s female population, unveiling the hidden revolutionary achievements of a much-stereotyped women’s culture.

The next two documentaries Thread and Half Value life, shares stories of women who are trying to rebuild their lives, enter the work force and be a part of their nation’s restructuring efforts in the economic and legislative fronts.

THREAD

Thread tells the inspirational story of 5 remarkable Afghan women who are taking control of their lives and their futures and in the process, are helping to rebuild their devastated country.

HALF VALUE LIFE

Half Value Life is a documentary that explores the work of the first Afghani-Hindu women’s right activist working for the elimination of violence against women. The documentary highlights the investigative cases of young girls in forced marriages and in abusive marriages. The 49 minute version of the film can be watched online in www.cultureunplugged.com.

All of the above documentaries do not understate the dangers and resistance experienced by these women but it just reiterates the fact that anything is possible and there are numerous women who are doing everything to change the status quo.

PS: Please share documentaries about women in Afghan to add to this list.

BRAIN INJURY CAN LAST A LIFETIME

June 12, 2011

The Edge of Things Synopsis : The Edge of Things is documentary about Lucille, a woman living with an acquired traumatic brain injury. The film follows her daily experiences and perceptions of life: Her thoughts and desires, which, in their pureness and urgency somehow embody our global human song, in all of its wonder and lament, its beauty and imperfection, and its fierce courage to go on. To carry on Lucille’s life reflects the very nature of nature: That which we cannot escape– the sudden occurrences that happen out of nowhere, changing us forever.

Leading Causes of TBI (2002-2006). Source: CDC

According to the CDC (centers for disease control), Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious public health problem in the United States and on average, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually.  A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. A little over 6 months ago, Gabrielle Gifford was shot in Tuscan Arizona. She sustained critical injuries to her brain. Weeks following that, I have had numerous conversations with people who truly believed that she would recover completely and be back to her old self.

According to Pia Caruson (Giffords’ Chief of Staff), Giffords remains a shadow of her former self as she has difficulty stringing together sentences and relies heavily on gestures and facial expressions to communicate. She also faces some difficulty in expressing bigger, more complex thoughts. While Giffords will soon be released from intensive inpatient therapy, she must undergo outpatient therapy for years and her recovery may plateau at any point along this journey.

National TBI Estimates. *The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who receive no care is unknown. Source: CDC

Giffords is fortunate to have both the medical and social support that this long arduous journey of rediscovering self absolutely needs. She will surely come out of it as a changed person needing help for several things in her life and a true advocate for others but not as the former Gabrielle Giffords. The journey is particularly hard for those with minimal or no medical support. It is even harder for family, friends and support network who wait patiently for the slow, small amplitude improvements to accumulate. BRAIN INJURY DIALOGUES is another documentary that explores this journey.

 

BRAIN INJURY DIALOGUE – Synopsis: Though he appears normal, Rick Franklin’s brain injury has made his life anything but.Teaming up with veteran documentary maker and friend Lyell Davies, Rick explores the impact that brain injury has had on himself and other survivors. As they visit with brain injury survivors, invisible aspects of this disability become more clear; we see the wide range of deficits that survivors must face, both physically and mentally, and learn how no two brain injuries are alike. We also hear how survivors learn to deal with life after a brain injury by means of personal, medical, and even political strategies.

According to the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, there are 5.3 million Americans living with a disability as a result of Traumatic Brain Injury. These individuals and their families experience profound changes in their daily lives as a result of TBI. The financial demands that result from such a catastrophic injury, the loss of earnings and earning capacity, need for continued medical and rehabilitative support can and has made many homeless. Marwencol is a story of Mark Hogancamp, who created his own long term therapy to cope and heal himself.

Marwencol Synopsis: “Marwencol” is a documentary about the fantasy world of Mark Hogancamp.After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a bar, Mark builds a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard. Mark populates the town he dubs “Marwencol” with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town’s many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack. When Mark and his photographs are discovered, a prestigious New York gallery sets up an art show. Suddenly Mark’s homemade therapy is deemed “art”, forcing him to choose between the safety of his fantasy life in Marwencol and the real world that he’s avoided since the attack.

“Brain injury can last a lifetime, but it doesn’t have to cost a lifetime.”…Anonymous person with TBI. Source: Brain Injury Association of America.

Brain injury has unpredictable consequences. It affects everything about us – who we are, the way we think, act, feel and move. We wish Gabrielle Giffords and the numerous people with TBI and their caregivers strength, energy and resources for their rehabilitation.

FOREIGN PUZZLE

June 10, 2011

Production Still Foreign Puzzle - Directed by Chithra Jeyaram

UPDATE JUNE 2011

SYNOPSIS FOREIGN PUZZLE

Confronted with her mortality, angered and frustrated over her inability to handle the disintegration of her body, Sharon begins to consciously deal with it through art and decides to create a dance called “Materiality of Impermanence”. Through the creation of the dance, Sharon escapes to another realm that is not confined by physical limitations, disease, childrearing, teaching and running a home. “Foreign Puzzle” is a visual testimony of the transcending power of the human spirit.

As of 2010, there are 2.5-million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. alone. 207, 090 new cases were diagnosed in 2010. For many women, the disease becomes the focus while everything else fades into the background; through Sharon’s dance and her story, we hope to look at it the other way around. I am hoping that it can help re-define the psychological outcomes for women who deal with their diseases with disturbing anonymity.

LIKE US AT http://www.facebook.com/The.Foreign.Puzzle

Read about us at http://foreignpuzzle.com/

Follow us @foreignpuzzle

We have filmed a total of 47 days so far and will continue to film Sharon’s transformative journey till April 2012. Simultaneously, we have stepped into the fun phase of  organizing our footage, transcribing interviews, building little scenes and getting some initial feedback from folks. Besides that, we are reaching out to foundations and funding agencies to support the continued production of the film and support the initial phases of post production. We also want to think of creative outreach and community action ventures that can be associated with this project. Please contact chithra@utexas.edu if you are interested in learning more about this project or you have an exciting community engagement idea or just want to support the project.

BAD BLOOD

June 4, 2011

FIlm Poster

SYNOPSIS OF THE FILM:

What if your life-saving medicine contained deadly viruses – and the drug manufacturers, the government, and your own doctors knew but failed to warn you? Through the eyes of survivors and family members, BAD BLOOD chronicles how a “miracle” treatment for hemophilia became an agent of death for 10,000 Americans. Faced with evidence that pharmaceutical companies and government regulators knew the product was contaminated with deadly viruses from the 1960s through the early 1990s, they launched a powerful and inspiring fight to right the system that failed them and to make it safer for all.

BAD BLOOD, a feature-length documentary film, recounts this cautionary tale from the perspective of six families affected by this tragedy and the doctors, nurses, and scientists who cared for them. Challenging viewers to their own vigilance, BAD BLOOD humanizes this under-reported medical disaster, stimulating further and much-needed public debate about the government’s role and effectiveness in regulating the pharmaceutical industry today.

Hemophilia is a genetic blood disorder that prevents blood from clotting normally and results in uncontrolled bleeding. It is passed usually from mother to son, resulting in severe crippling and often death. There is no cure for hemophilia to this date. However, in the 1960s, a new product called “Factor concentrate” transformed the prognosis for this disease, mortality rates dropped and people with hemophilia were able to live somewhat normal lives. But, each does of “Factor Concentrate” was made by pooling several thousand samples of individual blood donations, exposing the hemophiliac patient to the risk of receiving contaminated blood. At that time, pharmaceuticals, companies, government regulators and even doctors considered the risk of infections such as hepatitis was acceptable given the worse prognosis someone with Hemophilia had. The  patients and families were rarely warned about this risk!

In the early 1980s, almost 30 years ago, HIV virus was noticed initially among gay men and ignored largely as a homosexual disease. Later it was noticed among people with hemophilia . The prevalence of HIV among hemophiliacs is what raised concerns that the virus could possibly be in the nation’s blood supply. It was too late for many hemophiliacs, as by the time , ‘FACTOR CONCENTRATE” the medication was pulled from the market in 1985, 10,000 hemophiliacs ( nearly 90% of Americans with severe hemophilia) had been infected with HIV, and 15,000 with hepatitis C.

HIV still continues to plague and stigmatizes thousands of peoples around the world.  Every day thousands of innocent lives get infected with this virus all over the world mainly because of poor (false) knowledge about the disease, its transmission and cure (or lack of). Women and children continue to feel the brunt of the disease in several African nations. “Bad Blood” is a story of a small community of people who in the worst of situations, launched a powerful and inspiring fight to right the system that failed them. Patients and families of people with hemophilia demanded more stringent regulation of the countries blood supply and it is this small community that continues to  stand as the guardians of the nations blood supply. From that perspective, “Bad blood” is a tale of hope.

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