Tag Archives: Documentary

Chile’s people, 40 years after Pinochet: Jon Lowenstein captures a society in recovery and transformation

Patio 29 is a section of  Santiago's General Cemetery where political dissidents and supporters of Salvador Allende were buried anonymously in mass graves. To this day not all of the peole have been identified correctly; many families are still not sure what happened to their loved ones during that era.  Forty years after the coup headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present.  The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship.  History is alive in the homes of people like Ana Gonzalez, a woman whose husband, two of her sons and pregnant daughter-in-law were disappeared during the dictatorship.   And it’s a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei.  The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup.    Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life.   Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past.  Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.

Patio 29 is a section of Santiago’s General Cemetery where political dissidents and supporters of Salvador Allende were buried anonymously in mass graves. To this day, not all of the people have been identified correctly; many families are still not sure what happened to their loved ones during that era.

Documentary photographer Jon Lowenstein and his brother Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Diego Portales, are currently in Chile in the run-up to the country’s 2013 presidential election. Together they are documenting how the nation’s people are faring during this historic period 40 years after the coup overthrowing President Salvador Allende by General Augusto Pinochet. Jon’s images are currently being streamed on the New Yorker magazine’s Instagram feed, and the brothers have just posted the first in a series of three articles on the New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog. Below, find an introduction to the work by the Lowensteins, and more sample images from this powerful body of work in progress.

“Forty years after the coup headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present. The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship.

History is alive in the homes of people like Ana Gonzalez, a woman whose husband, two of her sons and pregnant daughter-in-law were disappeared during the dictatorship.

And it’s a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei. The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup. Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life.

Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past. Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.”

Located in Santiago, Villa Grimaldi is considered the most important and infamous of DINA’s (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, the Chilean secret police) many places that were used for the detention, interrogation and torture of political prisoners during Gen. Augusto’s Pinochet’s dictatorship. The former social club was open from 1974 to 1978. About 4,500 detainees were brought to Villa Grimaldi during these years, at least 240 of whom were “disappeared” or killed by DINA. Rebuilt from survivors’ memories, the site is dedicated to preserving the memory of those tortured, interrogated and killed by Pinochet’s henchmen.

AFEP (Agrupacion de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos - Group of Family Members of the Politically Executed) is a support group for family members of people who were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. Group members call for truth and justice for the perpetrators and help each other to deal with the effects of the trauma.  Forty years after the coup headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present.  The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship.  History is alive in the homes of people like Ana Gonzalez, a woman whose husband, two sons and daughter-in-law were disappeared during the dictatorship.   And it’s a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei.  The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup.    Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life.   Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past.  Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.

AFEP (Agrupacion de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos – Group of Family Members of the Politically Executed) is a support group for family members of people who were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. Group members call for truth and justice for the perpetrators and help each other to deal with the effects of the trauma.

The Muslims Are Coming!: Fellows Friday with Negin Farsad

The Muslims Are Coming!:: Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad bowling down the alley.

The Muslims Are Coming!:: Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad bowling down the alley.

Ever bowled with a Muslim? Why not? Negin Farsad wants to know. The comedian and filmmaker’s new documentary The Muslims Are Coming! follows a group of Muslim-American comedians as they travel through Middle America setting up street actions — Hug a Muslim, Bowl with a Muslim, Ask a Muslim — skewering stereotypes and turning Islamophobia into Muslim love. Now on the last leg of her tour promoting the US theatrical launch of the film, Farsad tells the TED Blog how her lifelong passion for social justice led her from working as an intern for Hillary Clinton to a job as a policy advisor for the city of New York — to creating shows for Comedy Central, filming rapping nerds and making sure everyone has hugged a Muslim.

After your first TED conference in 2013, you wrote a hilarious piece about the experience, how you felt alienated from it. Why?

It’s so big, so lofty, and there’s so much innovation — and I am a comedian. Someone else’s “innovations in mummification processes” is my fart jokes. I mean, social justice comedy is my main thing. So, I guess I understand why I was selected for a TED Fellowship. Being the only stand-up comedian in the TED Fellows among so many other fields is one of the most interesting things about the process so far.

Above: Negin Farsad performs at Standup NY.

Tell me about yourself. Did you wake up one morning when you were a kid, and say, “I want to be a comedian”?

No, I woke up one day as a kid and I was like, “I’m going to be President of the United States! I’m going to end the racial divide, and I’m going to make healthcare available for everybody.” That’s what I said, when I was eleven. I’m an Iranian-American Muslim lady, and I grew up in Palm Springs, in the desert of Southern California. My parents emigrated from Iran before I was born, and severe allergies on my part as a baby are what enabled them to stay in the United States. Just a random side note. They have one of those classic immigration stories: they came with nothing, blah blah blah, learned the language, built a life, etcetera. You know, just really traumatic stuff. Stuff I don’t have to do because they did it. So identity became a really large part of my life.

In high school I was a drama geek, but also president of the debate club. I went to Cornell for undergrad, and I was a double major in government and theater. Then I joined a campus sketch comedy troupe. I really started to identify with the black struggle, the Latino struggle, with race politics and policy in general. So my commitment to public policy and public services has been around forever. I moved to New York, and I started another sketch comedy troupe, and I began excelling in comedy. Even still, I thought this was just a hobby I’d outgrow. “You must outgrow it, because you have to be a public servant.” So I went to grad school for African American studies and public policy as a dual degree at Columbia.

I ended up interning for Charles Rangel and Hillary Clinton. I really believed in, and still do believe in, that kind of work. It was valuable seeing people firsthand who are doing really good work, and I became even more emotionally committed to it. Once I graduated from grad school, I got a job with the New York City Campaign Finance Board and I would run numbers and talk about leveling the playing field for candidates and so on. It’s a really great program, and an example for what campaign finance can really be nationally.

But I had this nagging, horrible feeling like I just didn’t want to do it. Meanwhile, I was performing stand-up every night. By day, I’d go to city council meetings, dealing with really serious public servants. At a certain point, it just felt inappropriate, you know what I mean?

The Muslims Are Coming!: Hug a Muslim

The Muslims Are Coming!: Hug a Muslim

Is the passion for policy still there?

The passion’s still there, but I couldn’t be a part of the execution from a policy end. And I thought that’s what I always wanted to do — that I wanted to run for office. Then I realized, I think my skills are better used in a different way, which is to fold those things into my comedy.

And so began the Era of Parental Disappointment — my comedy career, a field that is horribly unstable and that half the time people don’t even view as a real art. It’s just one of these things where people are like, “Well you just go up there and wing it, right? It’s no big deal.” No, this takes years and years and years of boot-camp style, in-the-field training. And you’re never done training, because you always have to develop new material, you always have to test it and you always have to put yourself through the wringer. It can be seriously demoralizing. And then half the time you don’t get paid.

To read the full interview, visit the TED Blog >>>

Join Oliver Stone, Danny Glover and Stephen Fry In Supporting Global Protest Film “We Are Many”

 

 

10 DAY COUNTDOWN CALL TO ACTION

Many TED Fellows and subscribers to this blog and their Facebook friends and Twitter followers have backed this important documentary by either pledging and/or helping spread the word. The production team of We Are Many are grateful for your generosity and support. Together we have raised $20,000 which is fantastic. But we still have a long way to go and need your help in reaching new donors.

We now have 10 days to raise the remaining $50,000 to reach the set target of $70,000. What you can do here and now in less than a minute:

1.     Tweet the Kickstarter link to your followers with the hashtag #wearemany

2.     Post the Kickstarter link on your Facebook wall.

3.     Or if you happen to have a personal blog or a newsletter please consider including a post about the film. You can use this Press Release.

Raising $5000 per day from today! It is a huge ask but not impossible. Our network of friends and followers, our circles of influence, can do it. This is a true test of the power of social media to do good. Let’s stretch it to its limits in a truly deserving case study: a documentary about people power crowd-funded by people.

A final thought from the  Olivier, Tony and BAFTA winning actor Mark Rylance currently in Jerusalem in London’s West End

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

“We Are Many” on Kickstarter kicks off with fantastic momentum!

Our documentary project We Are Many launched less than a week ago on Kickstarter has got off to a great start thanks to the TED Fellows spreading the word. Thank you!

Here’s another mention for those who may have missed the post. Please take 6 mins to take a look at the trailer and help put it out there in your social media.

To capture the spirit and energy of the spectacular global Occupy movement Amirani Films has just launched a Kickstarter campaign for a major new documentary called We Are Many.

This is the trailer for the film

And this is the Kickstarter page

Like the film on Facebook

Follow the film on Twitter

And visit the film’s website

 

Directed by Amir Amirani and Executive Produced by TED Senior Fellow Taghi Amirani, the film tells the remarkable story of the biggest protest in history which took place on February 15, 2003. The unprecdented  worldwide march againts the impedning invasion of Iraq failed to stop an illegal war based on mass deception. But it drew a new map for protests to come. What happened in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring, and the subsequent global Occupy Movement, have a direct link to what happened on February 15, 2003. A seismic shift took place, and we are only now beginning to understand its impact. 

If this movie project strikes a chord with you in any way please give it your support. Of course Kickstarter is all about crowdfunding and you can help in that way if you wish. But we need something more valuable than money; we need your help in reaching your communities. Your Twitter followers, Facebook friends, blog subscribers, website visitors, your mailing list, your real life friends and fanily..Please take a few minutes to share this post and the links below with your network. Share the TED Fellow love and see it reciprocated in ways you can’t yet imagine!


TED Fellow and Kickstarter Co-Founder Perry Chen has started the ball rolling:

Special thanks to Perry, Elisabeth Holm and their brilliant team at Kickstarter.
Now it’s over to you.
 
 

Many thanks.

 

Taghi Amirani

TED Senior Fellow 2010

Amirani Films

@tagz23

 

 

 

 

Seven Years Later, The Reunion

The shoot in Avignon is over. From my desk in London, I remember one thing overall. Salah’s dedication, his singular obsession with the Sahrawis, remaining within their orbit, trying to stay as close to their centre as possible. He is constantly connected to the news from the camps and Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. He falls asleep listening to Sahrawi radio, people from around the world calling in to share their thoughts on the latest news, events, rumours. This is his universe, and he can’t stand to be too far from it.

This film is not a traditional portrait, with archive pictures, histories, and disembodied narratives. This is not a historical reportage. This is a zoetrope. The perception of a full story is achieved only by peeking through thin slits as they spin quickly by. You see blinking movement, only brief glimpses. The images themselves are still but the cylinder, spinning around, gives the impression of motion.

Last night, I watched with Salah a video of him returning to Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara for the first time in 7 years. He hadn’t seen his family for seven years. His mother, father, his brothers and sisters, his cousins, aunts and uncles. When he left seven years ago he was just a good athlete. When he returned he was a symbol of everything that gave the people hope. In the video, he is surrounded by cheering friends and family. Outside the tent, visible on the edges of the video, are rows of Moroccan police watching, taking pictures of everyone who attends.

You can see the joy on the faces of the crowds, clamouring to hug Salah and welcome him back. You can hear the excitement in their cheers. Salah, all the while, is overwhelmed. He occasionally spots a familiar face and breaks into a smile, but otherwise his eyes look around, searching for something familiar. He is not expecting this. There is very little familiar about it. There is a mixture of joy – the reunion – and loss. This would, after all, have to end.

On the train back to London, I can see the snow is thick on the ground. This is far from where I last saw Salah, in the Algerian Sahara. On Sunday, I’ll fly to Athens to pitch the film for the last time this year.

 

The Only Thing Certain Is That Nothing Is Certain

Paris is freezing. My hands are in pain, trying to hold the metal of the camera. The sting of the cold is almost too much. I think of the men and women I saw last night sleeping in the waiting room of Gare de Lyon.

There’s a mist of frost over the city. Mostapha is here for his asylum application interview. Last night, the friend we were staying with in Paris asked Mostapha “do you want to know the history of Western Sahara?” as preparation for his interview. They’ve been going through significant dates together, to make sure the timeline is accurate. They watch an online video of an interview with an Egyptian Sheikh explaining the history of Western Sahara, but Mostapha doesn’t like some of his conclusions. He shakes his head and tuts when the Sheikh says Western Sahara was part of the Moroccan Kingdom. “He’s lying.”

The next morning, in a cafe near the ministry of refugee affairs, we sit waiting for the offices to open, trying to stay warm. Mostapha is still running through the details of his journey to France, and his reasons for applying for asylum, to get everything straight and clear in his head. He disappears for a few minutes, and we smile when he emerges from the bathroom wearing his Dra’a, long blue robe, with the folds of cloth wrapped around his arm. We’re used to seeing him in jeans and a t-shirt, but he says it’s important to wear the Dra’a for his interview. He takes pride in it, even though it means he’ll suffer from the cold on the walk to his interview. We wish him luck and he leaves a little early to make his 9am appointment.

An hour later, he returns to the cafe, a smile on his face. “It was fine,” he says, calmly. “Their questions were simple. They asked how I got here to France and about my background and my family. I think it was fine. They say I’ll get a decision in one month.” We sit down for another coffee.

Later, back in Avignon, Hossam asks “what if they don’t accept his application?” But I don’t know the answer.

I’m reminded of certain arguments. They’re not far from the arguments we always have about Palestine. There are differences of opinion about how to approach the Sahrawi cause – differences that are becoming clearer to me now. The recent protest camp, and all the violence that followed, has split the opinions of the Sahrawi down the middle. “We have the right to defend ourselves” one said. “No, those camps were a shame on us and all Sahrawi” another told me, “violence only breeds violence.”

Some say Moroccan policemen were slaughtered like sheep. Others say it’s not true, those videos were fake. We don’t now the real number of dead and injured. We don’t know the real timeline of events. Was anyone else there to witness? The only thing certain is that nothing is certain.

 

“We Are Many” Picks Up Three PUMA Creative Awards at The Good Pitch

We are delighted to share the good news that our feature documentary We Are Many presented at The Good Pitch in London on 10thSeptember 2010 had an overwhelming response and picked up three PUMA Creative Awards. PUMA, through its PUMA.Creative initiative, launched a unique long-term partnership with Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation on September 10. The new PUMA.Creative Documentary Awards will provide financial support, creative counsel and industry recognition to documentary filmmakers whose work address creative, social justice, peace or environmental issues globally. 

Directed by Amir Amirani, We Are Many will tell the story of the biggest peace march in human history. On 15 February 2003, in over 800 cities around the world, 30 million people protested against the planned invasion of Iraq. In telling this remarkable story, the film will harness the passion and political energy of this phenomenal movement as a force for good in giving people a voice.

See the 4-min trailer here


The Good Pitch brings together inspiring social-purpose film projects and a group of expert participants from charities, foundations, brands and media to form powerful alliances around groundbreaking films. In the new partnership between BritDoc and PUMA, We Are Many received a PUMA Creative Catalyst Award and two PUMA Creative Mobility Awards.

 

 

Maxyne Franklin, Jerry Rothwell (Director, Town of Runners), Amir Amirani (Director,We Are Many), PUMA Chairman & CEO Jochen Zeitz, Taghi Amirani (Producer, We Are Many), Jen Arnold (Director, Writer, Producer, A Small Act), and PUMA.Creative Director Mark Coetzee at the PUMA.Creative and Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation Gala Awards Ceremony

 

Together with pledges of support and collaboration from Saatchi & SaatchiAvaaz (6 million members), CND, The Elders and Greenpeace We Are Many has received a great boost on what will be an extraordinary global journey.

To join in or simply keep up with the latest developments on this project become a fan of our FB page and follow us on Twitter@15Feb2003. There will also be news on the Amirani Films FB page.  If the film strikes a chord please spread the word.

Taghi Amirani  TED Senior Fellow  @tagz23   Amirani Films

 

 

I Feel That Moment, A Rush In My Veins

I felt – for the first time – the exact moment when the endorphins kicked in. The rush through my veins when suddenly my pace, my breathing, my psychology changed. It was 2.5km into a run, off-road, 10pm, heavy rain. It was as I turned into the south-west corner of Hackney downs, where the road disappears behind rows of trees and the trail becomes a thin scratch of dirt. There was a wave of calm, a ripple that suddenly but carefully relaxed my legs and my rapidly beating heart. My feet suddenly felt lighter. My stride suddenly felt like it could go on forever. It was as if a giant hand was lifting me gently from the back of my shirt, saying, “take some of that weight off your feet.”

And my psychology changed, my mood was lighter, my brain reacting to the sudden intake. There was a rush of excitement. I saw someone walking their dog on the path. The owner ignored me, but the dog looked up and followed me as I floated past. I waved at the dog, smiling.

I was able to forget, momentarily. The rain was warm.

I was thinking of the conversation I had had the day before with Abdelfattah, the man I followed for several weeks for my first documentary I See The Stars At Noon. I’ve stayed in touch with him since those days in 2004 when I filmed him as he tried to cross into Spain from Morocco’s northern coast. I recently sent him a copy of the film, after six years. I wasn’t ready to hear his opinion until then. Finally I gave in and sent it. He watched it almost immediately, and told me later, on the phone, “Saeed, this is a real documentary.”  I took it as a compliment.

“But why is it so sad?” he asked “You made everything look worse than it was.”
“There are some good moments,” I replied, perhaps slightly defensive. “The conversations we had, the time we sang together. But honestly,” I explained, “the film reflects the way I was feeling when I made it. It was very difficult spending so much time with you, it was depressing. Don’t you remember?” Yes, he said, he remembered.

Yesterday, he asked why I made films. “There are so many problems in the world, and you want to solve them all. You can’t solve them all.” He didn’t believe that films could change things. I said I didn’t want to change things, I just wanted to make good films, tell good stories. If one person came out of a film of mine with a better understanding, that was an added extra, but that wasn’t my goal. If one person watched his film and said “now I understand something more about what life is like in Morocco,” I would be satisfied.

“I think you need to sit down, quietly on your own, and consider what you’re doing. I think there’s something else you could be doing.”
“But this is the conclusion I’ve come to after years of trying to decide what to do. This is what I believe in.”

He didn’t seem entirely convinced.

 

 

Good News, Good Film, Good Pitch, Good People

Good News

Our feature documentary We Are Many has just been selected as one of eight projects to be presented at The Good Pitch in London on 10th September 2010. The Good Pitch brings together inspiring social-purpose film projects and a group of expert participants from charities, foundations, brands and media to form powerful alliances around groundbreaking films.

Directed by Amir Amirani, We Are Many will tell the story of the biggest peace march in human history. On 15 February 2003, in over 800 cities around the world, 30 million people protested against the planned invasion of Iraq. In telling this remarkable story, the film will harness the passion and political energy of this phenomenal movement as a force for good in giving people a voice.

 

Good Film

You can see a 4-minute trailer for the film below

 

And a longer 8-minute version here. 

 

Good Pitch

The Good Pitch is just one of many fantastic initiatives run by the Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation, a new social entrepreneurship organisation bringing new thinking to public service delivery. This is what the good people of BRITDOC say: Films are the best medium for changing hearts and minds and lives, by bringing stories and issues to the widest possible audiences. Films inspire people to engage and act. That’s why we broker relationships between Foundations, Charities, NGOs and Filmmakers.” Over the past three years BRITDOC have supported two projects at Amirani Films, and we love them for that. So a big shout out to Jess Search, Beadi Finzi, Maxyne Franklin, Elise McCave, Sarah Ross, Katie Bradford, Matt Jones and Sarah Mosses.

 

Good People

That’s you and your friends. Please help spread the word about We Are Many to as many people as you can. Come on board early and be part of the movement that gets the ball rolling on this important social action project. With your help we can make this film a catalyst for a global dialogue about the fundamental right of citizens to have their democratic voice heard when it comes to governments’ decision to go to war. Let’s put peace firmly on the agenda and ask: is a referendum before declaring war the only answer? Transparency and accountability must become the watchwords.

You can become a fan of the Facebook page, follow the film on Twitter, contribute to the content of the film’s website, blog and tweet about it. Even share your own story and perhaps take part in the documentary. If you have ideas for making this work we would love to hear from you. Whatever you do, however small, will make a difference. 

 

Wish Amir and his film luck on September 10th!

 

Thank you.

 

 

Taghi Amirani

TED Senior Fellow

@tagz23

@amiranifilms

Amirani Films