EngageMedia Staff Blog
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which has been held annually since 2006, is a big milestone for organisations and individuals working on technical and academic issues surrounding internet governance. In spite of the sanitized theme of “Building Bridges, Enhancing Multi-stakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development”, the forum held in Bali from 22-25 October this year was charged by fears, concerns and outrage following the NSA revelations by Edward Snowden, and fueled further by the declaration of a Miss Internet Bali.
In the midst of discussing human rights in relation to internet governance, including women's rights in the internet, the Indonesian Internet Service Provider's Association fueled protests from women's and human rights groups. Its Miss Internet Bali event, that was reminiscent of beauty pageants that treated women as passive objects was been seen as reducing women's contribution to the development and use of the internet into a simple marketing ploy.
A protest letter was signed and presented to the IGF organisers by various human rights organizations including the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) of which EngageMedia is a member, the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia (KomnasHAM) and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPPA).
As EngageMedia is an organisation focused on video advocacy on social justice and environmental rights, I attended workshops that discussed topics covering threats and opportunities for human rights online, freedom of expression and security on the Internet. Most of the discussants talked about the decline in safety and security on the Internet, specifically regarding the increasing number of Internet activists, bloggers and journalists who are receiving threats, being detained and imprisoned, and in some extreme cases, being killed because of their reports.
Recent research by Freedom House revealed that freedom on the Internet has been on the decline for a couple of years. The research categorized the 76 countries surveyed as 'Free”, “Partly Free” and “Not Free”. Almost all Southeast Asian countries fell into the category of “Partly Free”, except for the Philippines which was categorized as “Free”, and Burma that is “Not Free”. The survey measured control over Internet activities including blocking and filtering, surveillance, paid pro-government commentators manipulating online discussions, new laws and arrests for political, religious or social speech online.
An interesting workshop I attended at IGF was one was chaired by youth talking about online anonymity. Young people, aged between 15 to 17 presented a survey on "Online Anonymity and the Freedom of Expression". The survey that was designed by and for youth stated that one in three people communicated online without revealing their identity in the last year. The most popular reason for being anonymous online was to protect personal information, which 65 percent of respondents selected. The second most popular reason across all ages was “to feel safer”. Most of those surveyed also said that they are more likely to say what they want online if they are anonymous.
Hendriati Trianita is EngageMedia's Program and Operations Manager. Photographs courtesy of IGF 2013.
Inspirasi Muda Kaltim, one of youth organizations from East Kalimantan who worked with us in our Moviemento video workshop, is helping with the roadshow screenings for the Anti Corruption Film Festival 2013 (ACFFEST).
Anti-Corruption Film Festival (ACFFest) is aiming to raise public awareness about anti-corruption, build campaigns, improve the practice of anti-corruption, and encourage communities to participate in the fight against corruption through the medium of film.
Please check http://acffest.org/ for further information. The festival happens from 9 – 12 Desember 2013 and conducted simultaneously in Jakarta, Padang Panjang, Malang, Balikpapan, and Palu. You are also encouraged to submit your videos to the festival.
Last week I attended the energy laden Good Pitch Chicago. Good Pitch connects social justice documentary makers with potential funders, partners and networks as they work to complete their films and build their outreach and engagement plans. Most of the work however takes place in the lead up to get the right people in the room - it was an impressive line up of film makers, activists, NGOs, media organisations and foundations that builds on almost 20 previous such events.
It’s a high energy day of theatrics, with meaningful stories recounted through film and funders and campaigners stepping up to offer support. It’s not uncommon for someone to step up and say “I’ll contribute $25,000 of finishing funds” on the spot, or offer the support of their vast network. It was in many ways like sitting in a TV show, with cameras and lights well placed in a purpose built black box. The attendance of the odd star, in this case Danny Glover, adds to the theatrics and energy. Several previous films at Good Pitch have been nominated for best documentary at the Academy Awards.
The day is however a serious showcase of purposeful and powerful documentary films with issues ranging from domestic violence, homelessness in Chicago, racism, climate change and more. All have compelling narratives and the pitchers are well practiced (literally for a couple of days before hand) in presenting their work.
A weakness however is the space for feedback. For the most part no one offers constructive criticism of the films as this tends to take the edge off efforts to build support; a bad comment can cost money and support, as was the case with the last film presented, Becoming Bulletproof, which for all it’s good intentions did fall into some cliche’s regarding people with disabilities. Other films could probably have been equally critiqued, however they had much more supportive panels.
For my liking The Message has the most potential. A new film from Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis that attempts to reframe climate change as an opportunity to radically shift our lifestyles and relationships and proceeds to document a range of communities doing just that. For me it’s the film that is most likely to create a ‘moment’ that can shift the debate in a new direction, and get the climate movement out of the rut it seems to be in.
A full list of the films can be seen here.
I’m wondering if Good Pitch would work in Indonesia? Certainly there are enough great film makers. Some small format shifts might be required, it definitely feels American (despite being run by Brits) with people selling their various wares, but it’s also a very social and positive occasion that _I think_ could translate culturally. It would be an interesting experiment.
Good Pitch is headed to Mumbai and Sydney in 2014 so look out for it!
I’ve picked up my things and moved to Boston to be at fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Berkman is a place abuzz with innumerable amazing projects; from being the incubator of Creative Commons and Global Voices to the more recent MediaCloud, as well as a long time defender of privacy online. Given the recent NSA revelations this role has only increased. Berkman Director Yochai Benkler has some particularly incisive insights that are well worth reading.
A full list of Berkman projects can be found here.
I’m also a fellow across at MIT’s Open Documentary Lab, a new space set up just a couple of years ago to ‘advance the new arts of documentary’. ODL is exploring a number of facets of what ‘open’ in documentary means; from participatory practices of production and distribution to interactive narrative to open source technology. Assessing the social impact of documentary films is also strong on the agenda, and a key point of synchronicity with EngageMedia. They’ve assembled a great group of fellows to assist them in this journey.
Whilst here I’ll be doing a number of things.
- Drawing on the plethora of available brains and knowledge to explore new possibilities in the networked media space, most centrally in re-working EngageMedia’s strategy.
- Extending and expanding our existing collaboration with MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and Center for Civic Media to measure the impact of video for change, including building the community of knowledge around this space via the Video4Change Network.
- Expanding EngageMedia’s fundraising: the US tradition of philanthropy makes it the place to find necessary support to grow our work.
- Generally taking time to step back. After 8.5 years deeply immersed in EngageMedia’s day to day activities some digestion and reflection is in order.
Given the role shift we’ve hired the fantastic Indu Nepal as Managing Director to work with the EngageMedia team to continue driving our Southeast Asia programs forward. Many safe hands abound, including those our our board.
I’ll soon start blogging more in an attempt to capture the the myriad of ideas in the mix and the unrelenting march of interesting events and talks.
Most people in Indonesia know the film Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI, especially those who lived through the 80s and 90s. G30S/PKI is a film that tells the ‘HIStory’ of what happened at the night of September 30th and October 1st,1965 directed by Arifin C. Noer commissioned by the regime under Suharto. It depicts the brutality of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) in planning a coup and killing some high-ranking generals. It also shows how Suharto came out as a champion not long after.
This film is the most watched in Indonesia and is considered as one of the most effective propaganda films of all time. All students all over Indonesia were obliged to watch the film on September 30th every year and it was played on the only TV station available at the time, TVRI, since its release in 1984. When private TV stations sprang up in Indonesia in late 80s, the regime also ordered them to play this film every year. Only when Suharto was ousted from power in1998 that this regulation was revoked.
Around 18 video makers and artists got together to revisit the history by watching the film and make video remixes out of the film. They were given the freedom to make their own personal interpretations of the film. Sure enough, imaginations and creativities were in the air. For the whole 2 days, participants were engaged in discussions, ideas sharing, and tried to find ways to put their ideas into works.
On the last evening, we had the honour to have a video call with three political exiles who live in Sweden, where participants asked questions about the 1965 event and the impacts afterwards. They also posted questions to us. The call that was planned for only half an hour went on to more than an hour.
At the end, 14 video remixes were created. Some took on a more serious note, some chose to be funny. Whatever it is, the remixes reflect our way to break the taboo and end the silence of talking about the history of 1965. And we hope that an activity like this can serve as an entrance for everyone especially those involved in it to seek more information and understanding of the dark history of 1965 and be critical of it.
So, check out the videos here and have your say about them!
After the completion of our Crossroads workshops in Kuala Lumpur, we started the same initiative in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, to complete our series of training sessions in Malaysia. Even though both cities are located in Malaysia, the situation regarding migrants, refugees and stateless people issues are vastly different.
In Kuala Lumpur, the perspective is more straight forward and we were able to collaborate with many more organizations that are working within the issue. In Kota Kinabalu, however, due to a long history of migration of Filipinos to Sabah and the recent Lahad Datu incident, the issue is much more sensitive and we had to deal it with delicately so as not to cause any uneasiness among the communities there.
The workshop design for KK was also different from KL. Instead of a session every weekend for four to five weeks, we had a workshop stretch of four days. As we were working mostly with citizen journalists and one other resource person from a Filipino migrant’s organization, this design worked better for everyone.
On day one, after an introduction about EngageMedia and our Crossroads project in Malaysia, we started with a session on story ideas and video advocacy. We went through a presentation to understand how videos can be used for advocacy. We also screened a few samples of advocacy videos so that the participants could get some ideas on how they could do theirs.
Following that, we brainstormed on ideas of issues surrounding the theme and listed down details on each issue through discussion. We then selected the best three out of five ideas and thought together about how they can be turned into a story for their videos. We also had a discussion on who would be their target audience and what the messages and goals for their videos would be.
Day two was a session on storyboarding. Here, the participants refined their story ideas by turning them into storyboards. After presentations of all the storyboards, we then went through the six basic camera shots. Samples of videos were shown with explanations on the purpose of each shot.
The next day, we conducted a session on shooting which consists of basic camera handling skills and general camera functions such as the auto and manual focus, pan/tilt guidelines, white balance, backlight, and tripod handling. We went through what needed to be prepared before shooting and guidelines for the actual shooting day and the processes that come after the shooting.
On the fourth (and final) day, we focused on video editing and on compression and video distribution. In this session, the participants learned about various editing techniques, frame adjustments, encoding, and uploading/downloading techniques. We also covered video distribution techniques and introduced the theory, concepts and term on video compression.
After this four-day workshop, the participants went to do their shooting in one week, followed by editing sessions for another week. The three videos from Kota Kinabalu will be compiled together with over nine other videos from Kuala Lumpur for the upcoming Crossroads video advocacy toolkit.
In July 2013, two members of the EngageMedia staff went on a scoping visit to Yangon (Myanmar) and Chiang Mai (Thailand) to see how video is being used by Burmese filmmakers and video-producing organisations to support democracy. Through interviews, we explored the following topics:
- topics and themes being covered in their videos;
- film and video capacity building;
- distribution practices;
- archiving practices
We also looked at the political situation, internet access, technical capacities and other social issues in Myanmar that may affect video production, distribution and archiving practices and needs of filmmakers and video-producing organisations.
The organisations we interviewed included the Democratic Voice of Burma, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB, Myanmar ICT Development Organisation (MIDO), Yangon Film School, Kamayut Media and Burma News International. We also interviewed filmmakers in Yangon.
Some Highlights from the Report
On Film and Video Capacity Building
There are organisations like the Yangon Film School, and the House of Media Entertainment (HOME) that offer video production training (both for beginners and advanced video makers). There are also opportunities provided for Burmese filmmakers to study abroad. Groups like Kamayut Media offer intensive video journalism training as well.
On Video Distribution Practices
Given the limitations of internet access in Myanmar, online video distribution has been limited. Although many of the filmmakers and video-producing organisations have their channels on Youtube, they really have not thought about online video distribution strategically.
For offline distribution, there is a lot more creativity and strategic-thinking. HOME produces a monthly DVD magazine, Motion Magazine, of short videos and films on human rights, democracy and other social issues. The distribution of this DVD magazine is nationwide through the different National League of Democracy offices and chapters across Myanmar.
Film festivals are also another space where filmmakers are distributing their films locally. There are three annual film festivals in Myanmar:
- The Art of Freedom Film Festival
- Human Rights and Dignity Film Festival
- Watthan Film Festival
These festivals provide an impetus for filmmakers to produce films as well.
For most video-producing organisations, the Democratic Voice of Burma still remains the main distribution channel for broadcasting films and videos.
There is an strong, vibrant and growing video field and community in Myanmar. There are opportunities for capacity building and there are examples of creative offline distribution practices. But there is room for growth:
- connecting Burmese filmmakers to international, Southeast Asian audiences and filmmakers
- connecting Burmese filmmakers and video-producing organisations to social movements locally and internationally, ensuring that the content being produced by filmmakers can support these movements
The full report is available for download here: Using Video to Support Democracy in Myanmar
We are delighted to announce that the Moviemento DVD package which features short videos on corruption made by Indonesian youth is now available for distribution.
Several months ago in Balikpapan, Indonesia, we conducted a series of video workshops with the aim to train youth communities who were already campaigning on issues such as gender, the environment, social development, and culture, to produce their own videos that have anti-corruption messages with youth perspectives.
Some came up videos on an anti-mall development campaign, an effort to protect the city's last forest, an interview with local elders and dancers and many other topics.
The release Plumi 4.5.1 came after a mini sprint between Unweb and Engagemedia. This release includes updates to the Plone content management system, upon which Plumi is based, bringing in a number of speed and stability enhancements. It also updates the full suite of core back-end software that Plumi relies upon.
We also updated the user interface, making many minor fixes and enhancements, including improvements to social media integration with the video player, the front page and user options.
On June 15-16, EngageMedia teamed up with a group of educators from the Jakarta State University to have a working holiday in Bandung. The cool and fresh air was the holiday, while the working part was doing a video training with a group called Circa HandMade in the village of Cihanjuang, Bandung (West Java).
Circa was founded by long time creative campaigner named Ukke Kosasih. Several years ago, Ukke, a former staff at The Body Shop, came up with an idea to empower marginalised women by offering them sewing machines.
So, after crossing the Jakarta traffic and into the Bandung traffic, the team of trainers arrived in Cihanjuang on Friday, June 14 evening. A nice cool sleep before the two full training days.
The next morning, we were awoken by a loud blast of dangdut music from a nearby mosque. They were having an event. First challenge of the day - how to record scenes without too much of those dancing noises!
The workshop students arrived around 8am. There were 10 of them. All women but one guy (well, two guys including myself). The students were all doll makers. The oldest student was Teh Ita, the older sister of Mbak Ukke, and also the co-founder of Circa. The youngest was Iim, 15 years old. The only guy in the team, Aep, was Circa's doll clothes designer.
For the next two days, the workshop went on to share stories, practice operating cameras, write scripts and eat a lot of Sundanese food. In the end, the workshop finished with six videos with stories around the students' work in Circa. I offered to call the video series 'If the Dolls Could Talk', but they thought it was too scary (read: Chucky in Child's Play) and came out with 'Cerita Di Balik Boneka Circa' (Stories Behind the Circa Dolls).
Before we went home, each trainer was given a doll. I was also given a boy doll. I forgot its name but I called him 'Poa' now. Poa now guards my books.
A day after we left Bandung, all the workshop students shared their experience with other workers who were not able to participate since they had to take care of their children (and husbands, apparently) over the weekend. They said they want to make more and better videos.