FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Mali (12)

Tuesday
Jul312012

An African Sahel War on the Horizen? (Perspective) 

(Video: Is the Mali conflict a threat to the region? 1 month ago/AJE)

By Dr Julia Leininger

In the Sahel a war is spreading. Within three months it has overtaken the towns in an area of northern Mali larger than France. 365,000 people have taken flight within the country and across its borders into neighboring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. But it is not the only disaster to strike northern Mali. The people are not only fleeing the violence, a reminder of the Tuareg war of 1990 to 1992: they are also trying to escape drought and famine.

Little in the way of facts and developments is leaking out to the world's public. Journalists, foreigners and most western aid organizations have left. The situation is too dangerous. At best, information is being received by telephone from the border towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. Uninhabited desert areas are isolated from modern means of communication. And yet reports on the region paint a clear picture of good and evil. Images of defiled graves in Timbuktu show how Islamist fighters and Tuareg rebels are destroying a world cultural heritage dating back centuries.

(MAP: Mali regions-Azawad consists of Gao, Kidal & Timbuktu, as well as the NE half of Mopti, claimed by & internationally recognised as part of Mali/WIKIPEDIA)The inhabitants of Timbuktu appear to have no choice but to watch helplessly as the armed and masked men go about their heartless business. In Gao, a town on Mali's border with Niger, the 'Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa' (MUJAO) is said to have taken the whole population hostage, a circle of land mines ensuring that no one escapes.

It seems to be a clear-cut case: extremist Islamists and Tuareg rebels versus the Malian state. And yet it is not quite so simple. The threatening Islamist gestures of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), MUJAO and Ansar Dine conceal a mixture of hard economic interests, disputes between old-established clans and struggles for an independent Tuareg state to be known as Azawad.

Independence from the Malian state is demanded by the Tuareg Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which began by allying itself with Ansar Dine to increase its strength. But the groups fell out over the question of religion: while the MNLA advocates a secular state, the other three are officially seeking to establish an Islamist regime in western Africa.

The Tuareg and the Islamists

Yet the lines separating the Tuareg and the Islamists seem clearer than they really are. Ansar Dine is led by the respected Tuareg Iyad Ag Ghali. He had hopes of becoming the leader of the MNLA. When they were dashed, he set up the Islamist Ansar Dine, but retained links with his Tuareg clan. He is alleged to have the backing of AQIM. AQIM emerged from an Algerian Salafist movement, is said to be composed mostly of Algerians and Mauritanians and operates across borders in the western Sahel.

(Video: Tuareg's claim independence, 3 months ago/AJE)

Behind the religiously charged scenes, all the groups that are ready to use violence - whether Tuareg, AQIM, MUJAO or Ansar Dine – have a number of things in common.  

First, they are linked to international smuggling: only in an ungoverned area like the Sahel can the lucrative movement of drugs from Latin America to Europe flourish and other smuggled goods find their way to consumers in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Second, their violence has no support in Mali's tolerant and consensus-oriented society. Nor does the introduction of a Wahabi and Salafist form of Islam find any approval in the Sufi tradition of the Malian faithful.

Third, the groups with a propensity for violence are benefiting from the collapse of the Muammar Gaddafi regime of Libya. Innumerable Tuareg who fought in the ranks of the Libyan army have returned, some of them heavily armed, to their desert homes in Mali, Niger and Chad. Trained as soldiers, they are easily recruited for the struggle in northern Mali. Their combat strength and fire power are alarming, even though the actual numbers involved remain unknown. Finally, the fighters in northern Mali are taking advantage of the power vacuum that has prevailed in the capital of the country since a military coup in March 2012.

(Video: Islamists claim victory over Tuareg's, 1 month ago/AFP)

Beside the pictures of war and famine, the coup that ousted the democratically elected President, Amadou Toumani Touré, fades into insignificance. Yet the absence of a workable government is currently preventing effective action against famine, poverty and war in the North of the country. In this former model democracy, supporters of the old regime face sections of the military and young Malians pressing for radical political change. They recall the demands that the old political elite addressed to representatives of the authoritarian regime in the early stages of Malian democracy in 1991.

The state was to ensure the unity of the nation and put an end to the ominous Tuareg rebellion (1991-1995). The old elite also stood for an end to corrupt politics and the enrichment of individuals at the expense of the Malian people. Now the civil and military opposition are also accusing the government led by Touré, who has fled to Senegal, and the constitutional transitional government of being incapable of restoring peace in the North and ensuring sustainable development for all Malians.

Popular Military Coup

In this respect many observers are surprised to find that the military coup has proved very popular with the urban population. Nor has an agreement mediated by Burkina Faso and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) done much to improve the wrangling over the leadership of the country. ECOWAS, for example, has called on the Malian transitional government to have formed a government of national unity by July 31, 2012 (which hasn't happened) and to take action to end the conflict in the North.

(Video: Meanwhile, hunger prevails/FAO)

International support is needed if a further escalation of violence in the Sahel region is to be prevented. In Africa itself the African Union, ECOWAS and Mali’s neighbors Algeria and Chad are discussing the form that engagement might take. ECOWAS has taken Algeria's place as the main negotiating power in conflicts with the Tuareg and AQIM.

The problem with ECOWAS's new role is, however, that Algeria and Chad, being non-members, are excluded. A split in political positions was also to be seen at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa mid-July. While ECOWAS is preparing to intervene with 3,000 troops, Algeria is pressing for a political dialogue with the warring parties. Chad would take military action, but not under ECOWAS's aegis.

Sustained management of the conflict in northern Mali and of the regular catastrophic droughts in the Sahel is, however, achievable only with Algeria and Chad. The integration of these countries can succeed only if Mali, the African Union and the United Nations Security Council adopt clear positions. In the Security Council France has already declared its support for military intervention, while the USA is exercising restraint in view of the forthcoming presidential election. As the Malian military is also opposed to intervention, Mali's transitional government remains incapable of taking action for the time being.

In the meantime, they expect a government of national unity to be formed in Mali and an ECOWAS mission and the UN Secretary-General to present their reports on the situation in Mali. It is to be hoped that in this way a more accurate picture of the facts and developments in the war and the emergency in northern Mali will emerge. It is only on a sound basis of this kind that the advantages and risks associated with a military intervention can be assessed.

-- Dr Julia Leininger works at German Development Institute (DIE) Department 'Governance, Statehood, Security'. She is the regional coordinator for Sub-Sahara Africa. This analysis appeared on July 16 as OpEd in DIE. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Wednesday
May162012

Despite Progress, Millions at Risk as UN Releases Africa Human Development Report (NEWS) 


(Video UNDP)

By Shout Africa

Aid provided to Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger is insufficient, the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today. Since late January, nearly 160,000 Malians have fled their country for camps in neighboring nations. Instability persists in Mali, leaving little hope that the refugees will be able to return soon. On top of that, another imminent threat looms: the rainy season, which will further complicate the deployment of aid.

MSF is working in camps in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, and is concerned that the impending rainy season and the current shortage of aid will worsen the problem significantly. “MSF calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Program (WFP) to increase and speed up the distribution of aid in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger before the rainy season makes aid distribution even more difficult,” says Malik Allaouna, MSF director of operations.

In the makeshift Mauritanian camp of Mbéra, located in the middle of the desert, residents share one latrine for 220 people. They receive only 11 liters of water per person per day and the food distributed by the WFP does not meet the specific nutritional needs of children.

“We received four kilograms of rice – the quality is mediocre and it’s full of pebbles – two cups of oil and two cups of sugar for 10 days,” says one person in Mbéra camp. “They’ve given us just a single ration since we arrived.”

(MAP: LongWarjournal) In Burkina Faso, where MSF is working in four camps, the organization notes that food supplies are distributed inappropriately. “The same quantity is distributed without regard for the number of people in a family,” says Mohamed El Moktar, a refugee at the Gandafabou camp. “We are seven people. After two days, we have nothing left.”

Living conditions are significantly below international aid standards and render people who are already weakened by a very long journey even more vulnerable to illness. Most of the diseases treated during MSF’s medical consultations in the camps are directly related to poor living conditions.

At MSF’s treatment centre in Mbéra, four out of every 10 patients are suffering from respiratory infections and two out of 10 for diarrhea. The next most common ailments are skin infections and malnutrition. Since the organization started working in Mbéra, more than 500 children have been treated for malnutrition.

“Food insecurity is a threat both for the Malian refugees and for the host communities, which are already suffering from poor harvests,” adds Mr. Allaouna. “Only food distribution, in sufficient quantity and quality, will prevent children’s nutritional condition from further deteriorating.”

In Burkina Faso, MSF is working in the Ferrerio, Gandafabou, Dibissi and Ngatourou-Niénié camps. In Mauritania, in Mbéra, Fassala and Bassikounou; and in Niger, it is active in the communities of Mangaïzé, Abala, Chinagodrarand Yassan.

- This article originally appeared on Shout Africa

Tuesday
Apr102012

Sahel NOW: Decisive action is needed to avoid another famine crisis (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video UN)

By Rebecca Barber

This time last year, the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) warned that the food security situation in the Horn of Africa was 'alarming', and that poor rains could lead to famine conditions in parts of Somalia.

As an international community, we failed to respond.  Four months later the worst was realised and the UN declared a famine in six regions in Southern Somalia. By November, 750,000 people were at risk of starvation.

It's now acknowledged that last year's food crisis in the Horn of Africa took no-one by surprise, and that we had the information needed to take cost-effective, preventive action to save lives.  An evaluation conducted late last year by the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee found that there was a 'failure of preventive action from late 2010', and a 'failure to respond with adequate relief from the time it was needed in early to mid-2011'.

We don't know exactly how many people died in the Horn of Africa, although one estimate suggests a figure of between 50,000 and 100,000. What we do know is that an earlier response which supported livelihoods, preserved household income and supported markets would have reduced rates of malnutrition, and that more substantial provision of food, nutrition, clean water and health services would have reduced the number of deaths. If an earlier response had saved even a small percentage of the lives lost, thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.

(MAP: The Sahel region in West Africa/Wikipedia)In the aftermath of the crisis, Australia has strengthened its commitment to tackling food insecurity in Africa, as well as its commitment to ensuring timely response to crises when they occur.  At the conclusion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth last year, the Australian government together with other Commonwealth member states recognised food insecurity as 'one of the most pressing and difficult global challenges of our time', and called for 'decisive and timely measures to prevent crises occurring' and to 'mitigate their impact when they do'.

This commitment is timely, because now another food crisis is unfolding in the Sahel – a belt of arid land that stretches from Senegal in the west through Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad to Sudan. This time, albeit far from the media spotlight, Australia together with the rest of the world has an opportunity to demonstrate lessons learned from the Horn.

More than 13 million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel – a result of poor rains, a 25 per cent decline in food production across the region, a reduction in remittances from neighbouring countries, and skyrocketing food prices.  Recent assessments by Save the Children show that in some parts of Niger, communities lack nearly two-thirds of the food and cash they need to survive the year. 

In some parts of Mali, families are struggling to cope as the price of millet has risen by more than 80 per cent, while at the same time remittances have fallen by as much as 70 percent as workers return from Libya and Algeria.

One million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition – in plain language this means severely wasted. Malnutrition levels in some areas now exceed the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.  Families have already begun to adopt 'harmful coping mechanisms' such as reducing the number of daily meals, selling livestock which is usually relied on for food and income, going into debt, and taking children out of school. In the long-term this reduces resilience and food security.

In a promising demonstration of lessons learned from the Horn, a number of donors have recognised the scale of the impending crisis and made early and generous commitments to the Sahel. 

The US has pledged $75 million, Canada $41 million, France $22 million, and Germany $19 million.  Australia has pledged $10 million – an amount that pales in comparison to the $128 million contributed to the Horn of Africa last year.  It's not enough.

(PHOTO: Nomads in the Sahel/DailyMaverick) The UN estimates that it will need $725 million to tackle food security and nutrition in the Sahel, but so far just over half of this has been pledged – and even less actually committed.  The lean season (the time between harvests when household food stocks dwindle) is approaching, and the next harvest is not until October. 

The head of the Food and Agricultural Organisation warned last month that there were only two or three months to act to avoid a crisis on a scale similar to that seen in the Horn of Africa last year.  That window of opportunity will soon close.

With the indicators of crisis becoming stronger, the Australian government has an opportunity now to take decisive action and demonstrate lessons learnt from the Horn of Africa.  The consequences of failing to do so will be millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance, and thousands of lives lost.

- Rebecca Barber is Save the Children's humanitarian policy and advocacy advisor. This editorial originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wednesday
Mar212012

International Organization for Migration and Partners Relocate Displaced Malians from Niger's South-western Border (Report) 

(PHOTO: The ICRC registers Mali refugees returning from Niger/ICRC)IOM, in partnership with the Government of Niger and UNHCR, has relocated more than 500 vulnerable Malian families from insanitary and overcrowded makeshift settlements in and around the south-western border village of Sinegodar to a safe site away from the volatile border region.  

The operation, which was launched on March 17, has so far succeeded in relocating 2,114 individuals from Sinegodar to Abala, some 80 kilometres to the south.     

"Some of the Malians in Sinegodar have told IOM they are reluctant to be relocated further south since they hope to return home to Mali as soon as security conditions permit," says Abibatou Wane, IOM's Chief of Mission in Niger.

"Apart from security considerations, this relocation is essential to alleviate the pressure on local populations living in food insecure areas and villages such as Sinegodar, which simply cannot meet the needs of so many newly arrived people," she adds.  

Prior to departure, IOM staff registered the departing families and ensured that everyone was fit to travel. It also provided water and high energy biscuits. IOM medics were on hand to assist vulnerable people with special needs.

Some 28,000 people, including at least 4,500 Niger nationals, have crossed the border into Niger to escape fighting in northern Mali between government forces and fighters from the Mouvement National de Libération de l'Azawad (MNLA.)  

IOM is now working with international and local partners to continue the registration of Malians who are scattered across inhospitable desert border areas and to organize their relocation further south.

Despite the assistance provided by humanitarian agencies, living conditions in the border area continue to be difficult for Malians and the local population alike. According to Niger's Early Warning System (SAP), more than six million Nigeriens are in need of food aid.

"A combination of drought, insecurity and population inflows from neighbouring Mali and Libya has further aggravated the situation in a region which is already facing severe food shortages and malnutrition. To cope with increased food prices and shortages, families are now having one meal a day. Others have sold whatever they had and migrated to urban areas in search of jobs," says Wane.

--- Find more of IOM's work at www.iom.int

Tuesday
Feb212012

10 million Africans face starvation (REPORT) 

 By Mel Frykberg

(GRAPHIC: FEWS Net)The UN warned on Saturday that 10 million people in Africa’s Sahel region faced starvation and called for a greater humanitarian response to the crisis, which is threatening eight countries, particularly Niger, where at least half of those at risk are situated. The Sahel countries include parts of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, northern Cameroon and Eritrea.

Helen Clark, the UN development programme’s administrator, and the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, made the appeal during a visit to Niger’s Tillabery region.

Their visit entailed an inspection of an agricultural project supported by the UN, which grows vegetables in a sustainable way, while simultaneously improving the nutrition of the villagers and providing them with a source of income.

“This project shows how a tiny initial investment can make a major difference,” Amos said.

“Just a few kilometres from here, there is a village which has not had this investment, where people are leaving their homes and have taken their children out of school so that they can look for food,” she said.

(PHOTO: Aliyin Would Eleiat, the chief of a village in the Gorgol region of Mauritania shows 1 of few wells that still has water. It serves as the lifeline for 75 families/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)Clark stated that the wider crisis in the Sahel, where poor harvests following repeated droughts had caused severe shortages, threatened 10 million people in desperate need of assistance.

Furthermore, international non-governmental organisations warned that the Sahel could be crippled by this year.

Oxfam has announced that harvests plummeted 25% in the region compared to 2010 because of lack of rains. This will leave more than one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.

---This piece originally appeared in South Africa's New Age

RELATED:

(PHOTO: Baaba Maal with Oxfam in Mauritania/OXFAM)Senegal's Baaba Maal visits Mauritania with Oxfam: "The scale of this crisis is so great that I have to speak out so that the world reacts"

During a 48 hour visit to the Gorgol region of Mauritania, the musician Baaba Maal discovered the harsh reality for communities affected by a food crisis that now touches one in four people across the country. Today 700,000 people are food insecure in Mauritania.

"What is happening in this part of Africa is so close to my heart. People are suffering, especially children. I cannot watch and do nothing,” declared Senegalese singer Baaba Maal after visiting Mauritanian communities at the center of the current food crisis in the Sahel. Low rainfall, poor harvests, a lack of pasture and rising food prices are among the key factors driving this crisis.

Baaba Maal, who met populations in the south of the country, not far from his home village in Senegal, noted: “Some families have almost nothing to eat, and I worry about how they will feed themselves until the next harvest.”

(PHOTO: The Senegal River, which forms the natural border between Mauritania & Senegal, is too low for the crop season/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)The Senegalese singer, internationally renowned and recognized for his commitment to development in Africa, launched an appeal to the international community for urgent action: “We cannot watch and do nothing while our brothers and sisters in Mauritania are victims of such a crisis. I have been able to see the solutions that are being put in place. We have to support and strengthen them."

"I met Hamila, a mother of five children, who had just bought a bag of rice thanks to money provided by Oxfam. This money will allow her to feed her family over the coming weeks. Hamila is among the most vulnerable people in her community but there are many other people who need our help,” explained Baaba Maal.

Last December, Oxfam and its partners launched a humanitarian response in the south of Mauritania in order to provide assistance to 30,000 people, and are planning to scale up operations to avoid a major crisis. In coordination with the emergency plan developed by the Government, the organisation has put in place cash transfers to allow populations to protect their livelihoods. Other actions to improve access to clean drinking water are also underway in order to prevent water-borne diseases that lead to malnutrition, especially in children.

"When I was young, this region was totally green but every year I see it becoming more and more dry. Yet water is there, in the river and in the ground. We have to work together and join forces to solve the problem, so that we never see this situation repeated again,” added Baaba Maal.

Oxfam is calling for urgent interventions to avoid the worst over the coming months, as well as long-term investments to strengthen the resilience of populations, allow communities to cope with bad years, and prevent crises of the future. As well as Mauritania, Oxfam is actively supporting communities affected by this crisis in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

--- This piece originally appeared on OXFAM

Thursday
Feb162012

Warnings of Second African Drought in Sahel (NEWS BRIEF)

As many as 10 million people are threatened by drought in the Sahel. CREDIT: Shannon Howard/WFP

(HN, February 16, 2012) -- A persistent drought in the Sahel region of Africa could turn into a famine and threaten up to 10-million people.

This was the main conclusion of an emergency meeting of UN agencies, NGOs, governments and donors hosted Wednesday in Rome by the World Food Programme (WFP).

"We have a short time to act. We have two to three months, no more than that," the head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, José Graziano da Silva, said in no uncertain terms at a press conference after the meeting.

Also attending were representatives of the African Union and the Economic Community Of West African States - as well as the executive director of WFP, Josette Sheeran, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, the administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, the assistant administrator of USAID, Nancy Lindborg and the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid, Kristalina Georgieva.

Said Sheeran: "We are having an emergency meeting to avoid a full blown emergency, before we see the effects which are long lasting and devastating. We know what needs to be done. We have learned some lessons from the Horn of Africa. While we can't prevent drought, we can prevent famine. "

More than 10 million people in the Sahel are threatened because late and erratic rains have ruined harvests in parts of Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Senegal, Gambia, Burkina Faso and northern Nigeria.

Food shortages have pounded the region at least five times in the past 10 years. Farmers in the region have seen harvests fall by 14 percent in Burkina Faso and 46 percent in Mauritania, says WFP.

The government of Niger says that over 5.5 million people in the country are at risk of going hungry and that a rapid response will be needed to avert a full scale food crisis.  In Chad, 6 out of 11 regions in the Sahelian parts of the country are reporting “critical” levels of malnutrition, with the other 5 at levels described as “serious”.

However the crisis cannot only be blamed on Mother Nature - fighting in Mali has resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing into neighbouring states, including Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

- HUMNEWS staff

Tuesday
Feb072012

Mali refugees in Niger fleeing Tuareg uprising await food and water aid (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Mali refugees arriving in Niger, February 4, 2012/Radio Netherlands)The thousands who fled the ongoing Tuareg rebellion in Mali to seek refuge in western Niger are suffering from a severe food-and-water shortage, local officials and aid providers say.

"We must fear a humanitarian catastrophe, if nothing is done," Boureima Issaka of the Niger-based aid group Timidria said in Chinegodar, a small village that has seen an influx of some 6,000 refugees in less than a month.

They have sought shelter from a conflict in Mali between government troops and armed rebels that has caused dozens of casualties on either side.

The combat began on January 17, when the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) launched an attack in northern Mali -- the largest offensive by Tuareg rebels since 2009 -- sparking clashes with the army.

Malian civilians have since fled to neighbouring West African countries Mauritania and Burkina Faso, as well as Niger, which has struggled with its own Tuareg rebellions in the past.

Western Niger's small village of Chinegodar, 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border, has grappled with a food crisis following a country-wide drought and the influx of refugees has further stretched resources.

The village, which normally numbers 1,600 residents, has also seen its only well dry up, prompting a severe water shortage, according to the village chief.

Children are among those suffering from malnutrition and dehydration in the refugee camp.

"These children are terribly hungry; we can hear their crying every night," said Balki, a Chinegodar resident who is sheltering 10 of the refugees in her modest home.

According to officials and aid groups, about 10,000 people fleeing the Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali and reprisal attacks in Bamako have crossed into Niger, more than 4,500 into Mauritania and 1,500 into Burkina Faso.

General conditions in the Niger refugee camp are also poor, according to Boureima Issaka, the aid worker.

"The majority of people no longer bathe; they sleep under the stars at the mercy of wind, cold nights, scorpions and snakes," Issaka said.

(PHOTO: Newly arrived Mali refugees in Mauritania/Int'l World Service)Shelters made of blankets and cloth protect the refugees from the hot sun and cold nights, but the situation remains bleak.

A United Nations mission visited the village last week and found conditions to be extremely difficult and the hygiene deplorable, prompting fear of a cholera epidemic.

The crisis is compounded by the fact that the Malian region of Menaka -- one of the main flashpoints in the latest fighting -- was the principal source of essential commodities for Chinegodar.

For now, the Chinegodar mayor's office has offered the refugee camp half a tonne of cereal, Doctors Without Borders provided a few boxes of medicine and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working on the water supply.

The refugees themselves leave early in the morning to pick berries or pods of "Dani," a thorny plant sought out in times of scarcity.

Still, some refugees have not eaten in days and wait anxiously for aid.  "Give us something to eat, I suffer from dizziness," Nako, a Malian woman in the refugee camp, told a Doctors Without Borders team tallying the number of malnourished children.

--- This article originally appeared on Africasia.

Sunday
Dec252011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/25/2011

Angola 

(PHOTO: In Botswana, taking an exhilarating ride among zebra in the Okavango Delta - Mail Online) Angola's energy sector to gain wind power station

Angola to have new digital television system by 2012

Media Watchdog Slams State-Run Radio and Television

Botswana 

Hard up Botswana consumers brace for thrift holidays

Safari in the saddle: Riding with giraffes and chasing zebra in buzzing Botswana

Brazil 

(PHOTO: The Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon is the site of the world's third largest hydroelectric dam, Belo Monte. FORBES)Over A Million People Sign Petition Against Brazil's 'Pandora Dam'

Brazil Outshines Other BRIC Economies

Burkina Faso 

Cotton picked by children found in 'fair trade' garments, reporter finds

Burundi 

Burundian child kidnappers jailed 

Cameroon 

African Swine Fever poses wider food security risk

Cameroon Doubles Down on Gays

Canada 

Canada to Begin Testing HIV Vaccine

Cape Verde

The season of good cheer overcast by economic gloom (Perspective)

Central African Republic 

(PHOTO: Collecting blood samples of swine flu from a warthog. STOCK JOURNAL) Is this a bad dream? (Perspective)

China 

Chinese Embassy Donates to Orphanage, Disabled Homes in Liberia

Congo (DRC)

Kabila rival takes presidential oath

UN Troops to Launch Operation against Militia in DR Congo's Ituri District

Congo’s Deaf Community Struggling in Wake of Government SMS Ban

Djibouti

First Djibouti troops join AU Somalia force

Ecuador 

Ecuador for Membership in MERCOSUR 

Equatorial Guinea 

Dictator Obiang collects an award once given to Clinton, Bush

Ethiopia

An embarrassing meeting in Addis Ababa (Perspective)

Analysis: 'Commission must stand up for human rights in Ethiopia'

Gabon 

Gabon coalition takes 95% of election seats

Gambia 

Country Water Partnership Launched

Ghana 

(PHOTO: Clarissa Child Laborer. NY Amsterdam News)Poverty Reduction and Oil Revenue: The Case of Ghana

Greece 

Asylum-Seekers Can't Be Forced Back to Greece

Guinea-Bissau 

It’s all-round festivity at CARNIRIV

Haiti 

$1.5 million to aid Haiti's post-quake business recovery

EU commission awards Haiti extra aid, warns of "significant" needs

Haiti Constitution to be Officially Published by Year's End, says Interior Minister

Haiti: Sporting Complex Opens in Gressier

India 

Floating hotel service on Ganga in Bihar

Iran

Iran denies trade finance ban for UAE imports 

Ireland 

Ireland among top ‘luxury tourism’ locations

Italy 

Algeria-Italy natural gas pipeline Galsi not expected online before 2015

Ivory Coast 

Gbagbo supporters stage Hague protest

Ivory Coast to prepare Cup of Nations in Abu Dhabi

Kool & the Gang celebrate peace in Ivory Coast

Jordan 

(PHOTO: The Taj mall in Amman, Jordan. GREEN PROPHET)Amman’s New Mega-Mall is Antithesis of Sustainable Development (Perspective)

Kenya

Ministry allays fears of Ebola outbreak

IBM Helps Sweeten Earnings for Kenyan Sugar Cane Cutters

Lebanon

UN calls on Israel to compensate Lebanon for 2006 oil spill

Lesotho

Unearth the hidden gems of ‘soul country’

Liberia

Liberia: Giving Back, Health Worker Cares for Displaced Ivorians

Libya

Opec agrees to accommodate Libya oil production

Malawi

Malawi MPs to inspect grain reserves

Malawi court convicts 90 Ethiopians

Mali

A Photographer Documents Life In A Country Where 75% Of People Can't Read Or Write

Mali, Algeria boost efforts to contain Qaeda spread

Marshall Islands

WHO calls for increased surveillance of dengue fever in Pacific

Mauritania

Mauritanian public employees deep in debt, study shows

Morocco

Morocco shaping up as an oil producer

Mozambique

Work On Maputo Domestic Terminal Ahead of Schedule

Government Praises Community Radios

Mozambique negotiates funding from Chinese bank for Maputo-Katembe bridge

Namibia

‘Mysterious’ space ball drops on Namibia — nothing mysterious about it

More Crop Farmers to Use Govt Tractors

Telecom Namibia deploying first DWDM network

Nepal

Nepal’s Migrants Lured By Empty Promises, Trapped by Bosses Abroad

Nigeria

Video: Nigeria hit by wave of Christmas day church bombings

Nigeria clashes kill at least 68, say officials

Nigerian Oil Spill Stretches 900 Square Kilometers, says Environmental Group

North Korea

North Korea’s Hunger

North Korea's country risk score falls after leader's death

Pakistan

Pakistan can play vital role in promoting regional trade (Perspective)

Peru

(PHOTO: Air traffic controller at Jorge Chavez International Airport Photo Andina Archive PERUTHISWEEK)Peru declares air traffic state of emergency

UN: Peru’s Economy to Have Grown by 7 Percent in 2011

Philippines

Philippines slips in 2011 global democracy index rankings

A new ethic on climate change (Perspective)

Portugal

Portugal won't extradite fugitive killer George Wright to U.S.

Rwanda

Rwandan rebel leader held in Paris after release

Rwanda: More Refugees Flock in

Sao Tome and Principe

Energy Group Holds Third GMD Conference in Sao Tome

Senegal

Senegal president to run for 3rd term

Music-Piracy: Top Senegalese musician advises colleagues on piracy

Restive Senegal region seeks Catholic group's mediation

Singapore

World's orchid growers gather in Singapore

South Africa

New African Elephant Fund Approves First Set of Projects

Sudan

(PHOTO: New Port Sudan Terminal Able to House Up to 800,000 Containers - Sudan Vision)New Port Sudan Terminal Able to House Up to 800,000 Containers

Africa Should Adopt an Idea of not Handing over Any Citizen to the ICC (Interview)

Thailand

Thailand sets Committees to restore Foreign Investor confidence

The Netherlands

The Netherlands: Court Upholds Fine for Dumping Waste in Africa

Togo

Ghana Seizes  Smuggled Goods From Togo

Tunisia

Tunisian Fashion Designers Shine Abroad

Turkey

Turkey Blocks Web Pages Touting Darwin's Evolution Theory

Uganda

No Sex For Soldiers

United Arab Emirates

Awafi Festival revs up the excitement in RAK

Students delve into UAE's past to make sense of present

Nuclear regulator wins accolades from review team

United Kingdom

Gifts: 12 British Books for the Holidays

United States

Lori Berenson returns to the US

Uruguay

Malvinas: (Falkland Islands) UK requests access to Uruguay's ports

Vanuatu

Vanuatu signs development cooperation agreement with Indonesia

Venezuela

We will Turn Venezuelan into a Gas Exporter, Ramirez Says

Vietnam

Vietnam Top Choice For Nike Footwear

Vietnam metro seeks to improve its image

Zuckerberg's Vietnam holiday is chance to get Facebook unblocked there (Perspective)

Western Sahara

UN Envoy Christopher Ross to visit Western Sahara and Morocco before April 2012

Yemen

Yemen interim government priorities are electricity and oil derivatives

Yemen ruling party threatens to change mind about GCC deal

Zambia

Cops manning Zambia-DRC border in allowances arrears

Zimbabwe

New Zimbabwe Constitution: problems mount

Thursday
Sep082011

Will Gadaffi's Overseas Land Grabs Hold? (NEWS BRIEF)

A man in Bujumbura holds up a map of Africa. Several African countries have been victimized by lopsided land grabs by countries such as Libya. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, September 8, 2011) - Millions of dollars worth of Libyan land purchases from Ukraine to Mali are up in the air now that the Government of Colonel Gadaffi has crumbled.

Importing food is essential for Libya - almost all its food needs, including wheat and flour, is brought in to feed its 5.3 million people.

In May 2008, during a state visit to Kyiv, Gadaffi gave Ukraine an oil and gas contract in exchange for 247.000 ha of Ukrainian land to produce its own food.

A few years ago, according to Michael Muleba, Executive Director, Farmer Organisation Support Programme, Libya acquired control of 100.000 ha in the office du Niger, Mali’s main rice producing area. As part of the deal, Libya agreed to improve local infrastructure including enlarging canal and improving a road. But when it came to awarding these contracts and to finding a supplier of rice seeds, local firms were snubbed in favor of Chinese and Libyan ones.

Aside from Libya, Saudi Arabia, China and South Korea that have sought farmland abroad to guarantee food supplies and cut dependence on imports.

Africa is a prime target for foreign land grabs. Muleda describes various ways including: land purchases, long term leases, and large investments in existing farms as well as barter-type principles. The collective GRAIN argues that while African governments proclaim their commitments to food self-sufficiency, behind the backs of their people they are signing an alarming number of deals with foreign investors that give these investors control over their countries’ most important agricultural lands, including rice lands.

However, now that Gadaffi is gone, there is speculation that some of the deals may not stand up.

Even the Ukraine deal ran into trouble shortly after it was negotiated by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is now being prosecuted for alleged corruption. After a visit to Tripoli in 2009 she defended the deal, saying "Libya is a bridge to African countries. Africa can be a great consumer of Ukrainian grain and food. We worked out a draft agreement which is to be signed."

- HUMNEWS staff

Thursday
Apr282011

Meddling Media: How media plays a role in shaping Sub-Saharan Africa (REPORT)

By Vanessa Yurkevich in New York

(HN, April 28, 2011) - Ndimyake Mwakalyelye was a reporter working for Voice of America (VOA) during the presidential elections in Zimbabwe two years ago.Sanjukta Roy and Michael Behrman at the Columbia panel. CREDIT: Vanessa Yurkevich

The government quickly realized people were turning to VOA for their election information and that’s when the government blocked the station’s air waves. “Someone had found a way to penetrate the system,” Mwakalyelye said, referring to the media’s role in the election. After spending what she calls “a small fortune” on the right equipment to override the block, VOA’s listenership went from hundreds of thousands of people to millions. “The jamming” by the government, she said, was “creating a need to broadcast more.”

Zimbabwe is one of nearly a dozen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is no freedom of press. At a conference at Columbia University in New York Wednesday, journalists working in Africa, policy makers and researchers discussed the power and restriction of media in the region.

Mwakalyelye, who sat on a panel, said the landscape of journalism is evolving, and bloggers, citizen journalism and social media are playing larger roles in inciting change. “Its power is unbelievable but it needs to be in good hands” Mwakalyelye says. “Uganda tried to block Twitter and Facebook during the elections” she recalls. “People saw the revolution it caused in Egypt and Tunisia.”

“Freedom of the press is necessary, but not sufficient to ensure a healthy and effective media sector,” said economist Sanjukta Roy, who is currently working on the Media Map Project with Internews, which helps to support independent media and access to information.

In partnership with the World Bank Institute, the project will provide guidance to NGO’s and donors on how investments in local media might serve to advance a country’s governmental and developmental objectives.

Roy explained that in order for press freedom to thrive, the country must also be financially viable and establish an educational system with developmental goals and basic access to food. She said professional journalists and a plurality of sources are essential to a successful media.

Michael Behrman studies quantitative methods in media at Columbia University and said, “Press freedom is an important component in maintaining a long term democracy.” For example, he said. the democratic nation of Mali has one of the freest media in Africa and the government protects freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, Behrman, citing a country like Niger, which never fully capitalized on its a freedom of press during a democratic period in the 1990s, said the country has seen its press freedom deteriorate significantly.

Behrman points out that Africa has the least amount of data regarding the media, and panelists agreed there is currently no means to measure the quality of the content being produced, in part because it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, propaganda from truth.

Behrman said while the lack of data is troubling, it is exactly the reason it’s not easy to predict whether the uprisings in the Middle East could be paralleled in Sub-Saharan Africa. The best way to determine what can cause such a social media and political revolution is to study what happened in the Middle East and use it as an indicator for other regions.

“It would be good if there were such data so that you can get a glimpse and a better understanding” Behrman said. “It would be a natural experiment.”

Thursday
Dec232010

New Convention Imposes Penalties for 'Enforced Disappearance' (Report)

(HN, December 23, 2010) - The entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is being hailed as a milestone event in the fight to prevent and eradicate disappearances.

The new convention may help prevent enforced disappearance

"It is an important achievement in the struggle against a cause of indescribable fear and sorrow for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide," said Olivier Dubois, deputy head of the Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "This convention will certainly contribute to greater protection against enforced disappearance. States that are party to it must implement it into national law. They must put it into practice and make enforced disappearance an offence under their national criminal law."

Enforced disappearance is a crime under international human rights law and – when it occurs in war – under international humanitarian law. The convention contains a series of measures to prevent forced disappearances.

For example, it requires that any person deprived of liberty must be registered by the detaining authority. It also enshrines the right of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of an enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person. The convention also requires suitable criminal sanctions to be taken against persons who commit enforced disappearances. As of today, the provisions of the treaty are legally binding on the first 20 States that have ratified or acceded to it.

Iraq, which acceded to the treaty 30 days ago, triggered the entry into force. Tens of thousands of people in Iraq are still hoping to receive news of their relatives who have gone missing in the country since the 1980s.

The other signatories as of now are: Albania, Argentina, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mali, Mexico, Nigeria, Paraguay, Senegal, Spain and Uruguay. It will also be binding on Brazil as of 29 December 2010.

In every situation of armed conflict or internal violence, people disappear. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, to mention just one other example, the fate of more than 10,000 people who went missing during the conflict in the early 1990s remains unknown.

Despite its illegality in international law, Human Rights Watch said world governments "routinely" fail to investigate accounts of disappearances.

"Putting this landmark treaty into effect is immensely important, but to end this practice, every country is going to have to recognize that it may never abduct people and hide them away," Aisling Reidy, a legal adviser for the rights group, said in a statement.

The ICRC works around the world to prevent people from going missing, to help clarify what happened to those who do disappear and to support the families of missing persons. The ICRC has also actively supported the process of drafting the convention and is committed to achieving its widespread ratification and implementation.

- HUMNEWS staff, ICRC, UN

Wednesday
Dec012010

The 7th Annual `ARTIVIST' Film Festival Begins Tonight in LA: Meaningful Media at its Best

(HN, December 1, 2010) -- Artivist means ARTIST+ACTIVIST = ARTIVISTS.  Founded in 2003 as a non-profit charitable organization by Diaky Diaz, Dr. Bettina Wolff, Psy.D., and Christopher Riedesel, the Artivist Film Festival is the only festival dedicated to raising awareness for International Human Rights, Children's Advocacy, Environmental Preservation, and Animal Advocacy through Film.  (SEE TRAILERS FROM MANY OF THE FILMS BELOW)

This is the 7th year, with events taking place in LA (beginning today through 12/4/10), NY (at Tribeca Cinemas from 12/9-12/12/11) and in Rio de Janeiro (March 2011); screening 45 films from around the globe including independent, narratives, documentaries, shorts, and experimental films. Artivist’s mission is to strengthen the voice of socially conscious artists - "Artivists" - while raising public awareness for social global causes.  The Festival has showcased 400+ films representing more than 60 countries around the world over the past 7 years and has reached millions of people with its film festivals in Hollywood, London, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Lisbon and the main annual event is held in Los Angeles every year.   And tickets to all of the screenings are FREE!

In recognition of the socially conscious platform it provides, Artivist has been endorsed by Claes Nobel of the Nobel Prize family; by Senator Barbara Boxer, by the United Nations Department of Public Information; and this year is being sponsored by Petrobras.

Films Premiered at the Artivist Film Festival have received international acclaim such as ACADEMY AWARD winner "Born Into Brothels", ACADEMY AWARD Nominees "Super-Size Me" and “God Sleeps in Rwanda”, “Fast Food Nation",  “Emmanuelle's Gift", “Zeitgeist”, "Trudell“, “Stolen Childhoods”, and more.

Artivist Founder-President, Diaky Diaz, states: "Raising awareness for the interdependence between Humanity, Animals, and the Environment is the true mission of Artivist. Filmmakers, celebrities and NGOs from around the world gather at the Artivist Awards to celebrate advocate artists that inspire positive actions in our global community.”

As they do each year, Artivist honors artists whose exemplary work in their community stands out as a shining example of one’s ability to change the world for the better. This year Artivist will honor Actor Peter Fonda with the Artivist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Advocacy; Barbara Pyle will receive the award for Environmental Humanitarianism, and Avis Richards will receive the award for Community Advocates.

About the Honorees:

►        Peter Fonda:  With an acting career that spans over fifty years in theater and films, Peter Fonda is a celebrated artist, counter-culture icon and a noted member of family of celebrated actors including his father legendary thespian Henry Fonda, his sister actress and fitness icon Jane Fonda, and his daughter actress Bridget Fonda.  Over the years, Fonda has supported numerous motorcycle-related fund raising programs such as Easy Ride for Autism, and the Love Ride, which supports of people with muscular dystrophy. His current film Smitty emphasizes pet adoption and is part of the Adopt-A-Dog Month campaign; his environmental efforts to encourage alternative energy through supporting the film Fuel and his recent clean-up work in the Gulf of Mexico with the Gulf Coast Fund; as well as his work on human rights with Doctors Without Borders, and his work with Best Buddies whom he recently received the award for Legacy Leadership, make Fonda a perfect honoree for Artivist’s issues.

►        Barbara Pyle:  For 20 years Barbara Pyle served as Corporate VP of Environmental Policy at the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), setting the company's environmental broadcast agenda and branding TBS as the environmental network. As CNN’s Environment Editor, Barbara introduced and oversaw environmental coverage, including the original Earth Matters, which premiered on CNN in 1981 and she championed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policies and initiatives company-wide; setting the standards for energy efficiency, recycling and carpooling with her department's award-winning Clean Air Commute program. With Ted Turner, Barbara created the animated action adventure series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, overseeing production of 113 episodes as Executive Producer. Broadcast in over 100 countries to popular and critical acclaim, this classic eco-toon has won dozens of awards and today still has a very dedicated international fan base. To reach the next generation of Planeteers, it is now streaming online at the Mother Nature Network (MNN).

►        Avis Gold Richards: is the Founder and CEO of Birds Nest Foundation™, a 501(c)3 non-profit  creative group that produces high-quality documentaries, short videos and  public service announcements (PSAs) for charitable organizations. She is an award-winning executive producer and director who has produced and directed over 50 films, multiple websites and events in support of NGO’s winning more than a dozen Stevie Awards, Telly Awards, Davey Awards, and Aurora Awards for producing non-profit films and videos on the issues of healthcare and education, serving inner-city youth, protecting against domestic violence, promoting human rights, and defending the environment. The goal of Birds Nest Foundation is to provide the media to educate and promote important causes and issues that enable non-profits and other foundations to communicate their messages through "moving pictures."   Avis is currently producing a public television series entitled "Lunch NYC" for NYC Media, part of the City of New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, after the successful launch of her short documentary, LUNCH, which was sponsored in part by Earth Day Network. The series exposes unhealthy foods being served in the public school system across the US and highlights the efforts of individuals actively seeking alternatives to promote nutrition and health.

Past Artivist Award recipients include: Olivia Wilde, Hank Azaria, Ted Danson, Alyssa Milano, Joaquin Phoenix, Matthew McConaughey, Mira Sorvino, James Cromwell, Ed Begley Jr, Tippi Hedren, Mike Farrell, Claes Nobel of the NOBEL Prize Family and noted producer Stephen Nemeth.

This year’s awards will take place December 4 at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood at 8pm and will be hosted by Actors’ Boris Kodjoe and Vanessa Williams; featuring celebrity presenters and guests such as Nicole Ari Parker, Ryan Gosling and many more, followed by a vegan, organic reception.

FOR FREE TICKETS visit: http://artivistff-la.eventbrite.com/

*NOTE ALL OF THE FILM SCREENINGS IN LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK ARE FREE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

Schedule of film screenings & selected film trailers - Los Angeles Dec 1-4, 2010 

Location: Egyptian Theatre 6712 Hollywood BLVD. Los Angeles, CA 90028

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8:00PM - "ReGeneration" / Director: Phillip Montgomery 

 

Artivist Opening Night Event Screening – Los Angeles Premiere

Synopsis:  Philip Montgomery’s feature documentary film ReGeneration takes an uncompromising look at the issues facing today’s youth and young adults, and the influences that perpetuate our culture’s apathetic approach to social and political causes. Focused on how today’s education, parenting, and media can shape us, the film follows three stories each with a unique perspective – from an inspired collective of musicians working outside the corporate system, to a twenty-something conservative family about to welcome the birth of their second child, and a group of five high-school students from the suburbs looking for their place in society.  Their stories are interspersed with the knowledge, wisdom, and personal reflections of some of the country’s leading scholars, social activists, and media personalities, including Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, Talib Kweli, and the late Howard Zinn, among others.

8:00PM - Journey from Zanskar / Director:  Frederick Marx

Synopsis:  Two Buddhist monks promise the Dalai Lama they'll do everything in their power to help save Tibetan culture from destruction. Working in one of the most remote and desolate places on Earth - Zanskar, in northwest India - the monks build a school in their 1,000 year old monastery combining the best of modern and traditional education. Not content to wait for completion, they take 17 of the poorest children from nearby villages and walk over the mountains to get them into schools and monasteries. This is the story of their incredible journey.

8:00PM - The Last of the Black Tents


Synopsis: Focusing on the Khampa Tibetan nomads whose ancestral lifestyle is threatened by China's forced modernization, 'The Last of the Black Tents' explores an eye-opening subject in one of the world's most remote regions. In this short documentary, the expedition team captures the lives of these nomadic people who live close to the source of the Mekong River in China's Qinghai province. Stewards of the land for millennia, their unique culture, lives and livelihoods face an uncertain future. The film is part of a series produced by Radio Free Asia Note: the expedition team's identities are protected to ensure they can return to these regions, which are in countries that prohibit outside journalists and documentarians to wander freely. The identities of subjects in the film are also concealed for their protection.

9:00PM - "Fish: A Boy in a Man's Prison" / Director: T.J. Parsell  


Synopsis:  A 17 year old boy is sent to an adult prison for robbing a Fotomat with a toy gun. He thinks he's going to a minimum security prison camp where they send non-violent, first-time offenders, but the prison psychologist in charge of inmate classification tells him that he's going inside the walls of a maximum security prison. Shot entirely in the Hampton's, (at the Sag Harbor historic jail) this film is an adaptation from the book, Fish: A Memoir of A Boy in a Man's Prison.

9:00PM - "Will” / Director:  Hannah Robbins


Synopsis: Meet William, a twenty-year-old broken soul who has been homelessness, and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today he has found solace through a youth shelter.  Sol House is a transitional living program for homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 21.  It provides shelter, life skills, counseling, and social and mental health services.  Will is an experimental documentary showing the past, present and expected future of William, a victim of child abuse and neglect.   I hope to express his life through the use of archive footage, black and white photography and verite footage.  As a resident of Sol House, his life is starting to improve, but for how long, who can say?  I met William in October when he had been at Sol House only a few weeks.  Prior to this, he had been in jail and on the street, a common story of so many homeless youth. According to the National Coalition of Homelessness, the 'Causes of homelessness among youth fall into three inter-related categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability.'  William plans to finish high school and get a job.  Sol House offers hope and opportunity to young people such as William.   I believe this film will offer a realistic and representative portrait of the lives and experiences of millions of homeless youth in the United States. 1 in 6 children live below the poverty line in America.

9:00P - "Kids of the Majestic / Director:  Dylan Verrechia 


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: Every day, a sea of passengers floods the Majestic Railway Station of Bangalore City, India. Beneath the commotion of commuters, a group of orphans live beneath the station, collecting the trash that the passengers have left behind. 'Kids of the Majestic' is a documentary by filmmaker Dylan Verrechia and Dr. Suhas Radhakrishna that follows a group of such orphans: Rafik, a smiling young drug addict; Mental Manja, nicknamed 'mental' because he didn't speak until he was 10; Arun-Badur, the artist and the writer; Baba, who at 8 has travelled throughout India alone; and Joti, mother-to-be at 16, who was abused at 9. The filmmakers befriended these children who, uneasily and slowly, opened up to them,  sharing  their life stories as no one before has ever heard. This documentary upholds a strong moral content by not only depicting the reality and hardship of these children, but also the positive aspect of this social group that works within its community.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tainted Wolves / Director: Amitabh Avasthi 


Synopsis: Each year, nearly 70 percent of gray wolf pups in Minnesota die from a virus common in domestic dogs. Scientists believe that a series of rare mutations and increased air travel helped a feline virus jump from cats to dogs, and then to gray wolves. This short documentary explores the threat to gray wolf populations from canine parvovirus, the factors helping its spread, and the lessons we can draw from viruses -- HIV1, SARS Coronavirus, HINI swine flu -- that jump from one species to another.

6:30PM - “The Hybrid Union” / Director: Serguei Kouchnerov 


Synopsis: Somewhere in the imaginary land of cyberdesert, unaware of each other’s presence, two abstract characters, Plus and Minus, coexist. Plus struggles with a dependency on an obsolete source of energy while the light-powered system of Minus is threatened by an ominous dark cloud. The unexpected meeting between Plus and Minus leads to a competitive race until they are interrupted by the surprising appearance of another stranger. This new character, Smart, moves fast on demand and seems unaffected by an external circumstances. In order to challenge Smart, Plus and Minus are compelled to combine their unique individual capabilities. Will this hybrid union win the race against the newcomer?

6:30PM - H2Oil / Directors: Dale Hayward & Sylvia Trouve

Synopsis: The H2oil animated segments are 3 short films completed for the feature length documentary 'H2oil' which is about the Alberta tar sands & its war with water. These animations explain the tar sands process, it's relationship with water, and how NAFTA is involved. They were animated with a mixture of 2D and after effects, using illustrations and elaborate photo textures to emphasize the harsh reality of this catastrophic operation. It goes without saying that water -- its depletion, exploitation, privatization and contamination -- has become the most important issue to face humanity in this century. Water security will soon define­ the boundaries between people and countries. The war for oil is well underway across the globe. However, a struggle is increasingly being fought between water and oil, not only over them. Alberta's oil sands are at the tension center. The province is rushing towards large-scale oil extraction, which will have far reaching impacts on water, health, animals and the environment in the region.

6:30PM - Water On The Table / Director: Liz Marshall


Synopsis:  Water On The Table is a character-driven, social-issue documentary that explores Canada's relationship to its freshwater, arguably its most precious natural resource. The film asks the question: is water a commercial good like running shoes or Coca-Cola, or is water a human right like air? Water On The Table features Maude Barlow who is considered an 'international water-warrior' for her crusade to have water declared a human right.  'Water must be declared a public trust that belongs to the people, the ecosystem and the future and preserved for all time and practice in law.' The film intimately captures the public face of Maude Barlow as well as the unscripted woman behind the scenes. The camera shadows her life on the road in Canada and the United States over the course of a year as she leads an unrelenting schedule. From 2008 - 2009 Barlow served as the U.N. Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations. But more than a portrait of an activist, Water On The Table is a poetic-essay that presents several dramatic and artfully crafted debates. Barlow's opponents; policy and economic experts in Canada and the U.S., argue that water is no different than any other resource and that the best way to protect freshwater is to privatize it. It is proposed that Canada bulk-export its water to the United States in the face of an imminent water crisis.

7:00pm - “How Weed Won the West” / Director: Kevin Booth


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: While California is going bankrupt, one business is booming. 'How Weed Won the West' is the story of the growing medical cannabis / marijuana industry in the greater Los Angeles area, with over 700 dispensaries doling out the buds. As a treatment for conditions ranging from cancer and AIDS, to anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia, cannabis is quickly proving itself as a healthier natural alternative to many prescription drugs. Following the story of Organica, a collective owned by Jeff Joseph that was raided by the DEA in August of '09, the film shows that although some things have changed with Obama in office, the War on Drugs is nowhere near over. From Kevin Booth, the producer/director of Showtime's 'American Drug War', 'How Weed Won the West' puts California forward as an example to the rest of the country by documenting how legalizing marijuana can help save the economy.

8:30PM - "Shadows in the Forest" / Directors: Carly Pandza, Jacob Tyler, Matthew Prouty, Roxanna Amini

 

Synopsis: The indigenous communities of Cameroon are losing the very essence of their culture and are powerless to prevent it. These communities, commonly known as Pygmies, have lived in the forests of the Congo Basin for thousands of years and are now being removed from their land. Their own government does not acknowledge their existence and as their protests go unheard their land is destroyed and replaced by uninhabitable palm oil plantations. There are those who have come to aid the Pygmies in their plight, but they are desperately in need of funding and support.

8:30PM - "Africa's Lost Eden" / Director: James Byrne

Synopsis: It was once known as 'the place where Noah left his Ark' - 4,000 square kilometers of lush floodplains in central Mozambique, packed with wild animals.  But 15 years of civil war has taken a heavy toll- and many species have been almost completely wiped out. Journey with National Geographic to Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park and discover what is being done to bring this Africa oasis back to its former glory- including perhaps the most ambitious restoration effort ever attempted, with elephants, hippos and scores of zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo being relocated into the park.

9:30PM - "War Don Don" (War is Over) / Director - Rebecca Richman Cohen


LA Premiere at the 7th Artivist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: "War Don Don" (War is Over) is a Rashomon-esque legal documentary, with global importance, a thought provoking film that engages the heart, mind and conscience. In Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, United Nations soldiers guard a heavily fortified building known as the 'special court.' Inside, Issa Sesay awaits his trial. Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace. Directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen, "War Don Don" tells the story of a sensational trial with unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and from behind bars, Sesay himself. In Krio, war don don means 'the war is over,' as today, thankfully, Sierra Leone is at peace. Can the trial of one man uncover the truth of a traumatic past?

10:00PM - Gorillas 98% Human / Director: Charles Annenberg Weingarten


Synopsis:  On a trip to Rwanda, NatGEO explorer had the opportunity to visit four families of wild mountain gorillas, a species with only 720 remaining members. Their guide is Craig Sholley, who has been intimately involved in the preservation of African wildlife for more than 30 years. The team's thrilling interaction with these peaceful creatures who share 98.6% of their genetic makeup with humans is a startling reminder of their own humanity.

10:00PM - Wild Horses in Winds of Change / Director: Mara La Grande 

Synopsis:  In a desperate run for their lives, America’s wild horses are being rounded up by helicopter from their free roaming lives on the range, with nearly forty thousand languishing in long term “warehousing”, the time for solutions is critical. As tensions escalate for their future, this film takes us on a journey into the vital importance of the wild horse to humanity while offering a thoughtful portrayal into their ability to adapt to an ever changing landscape, thus surviving the great odds of time and the human as conqueror. Unraveling outdated myths and prejudices, this documentary exposes the politics and mis-management that have led to the crisis.  In the midst of conflict, solutions are presented to help the wild horses and burros continue to thrive sustainably on the land simultaneously requiring all of us to develop resource conservation methods and an ability to work together for the common good.

10:00P - Albatrocity / Directors: J. Ollie Lucks, Iain Frengley, Edward Saltau

Synopsis:  'Albatrocity' was made on a very limited budget of only $2000 NZD. We spent this entire amount on a trip to film Southern Royal Albatross in their natural environment on Campbell Island, a remote New Zealand territory in the southern ocean. This trip not only allowed us to film the birds in their untouched yet fragile habitat, but it also helped us appreciate how at ease and graceful Albatross are in the violent storms of the southern ocean. Consequently, our film portrays these almost fantastical animals in a suitably creative way. We use Samuel Colleridge's atmospheric and metaphoric poem, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' as a modern day metaphor for the detrimental relationship between seabirds and commercial fishing.In an attempt to help the interview and informative sections of the film gel with the creative parts, we used innovative graphics and visual effects techniques. This is the first film that we've made and above all we wanted to challenge ourselves and the rules you are taught at film school. We hope that viewers find it both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally evocative. We are proud of the way 'Albatrocity' combines educational information about an environmental issue, whilst maintaining creative integrity.

Friday, December 3, 2010

10:00AM - Lunch / Director: Avis Richards


Synopsis: As nation-wide funding for school cafeterias rapidly decreases and high-calorie, low-nutrient meals have become order of the day, our nations children are being afflicted by a slew of diet-based diseases from high-blood pressure and cholesterol to diabetes and obesity. In Lunch, a revealing documentary short, director Avis Richards investigates the causes and the consequences of growing up in a junk-food culture.

10:00AM - Climate Refugees /Director: Michael Nash


Synopsis:  The Human Face of Climate Change. There is a new phenomenon in the global arena called “Climate Refugees”. A climate refugee is a person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. Such disasters result from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes. All this is causing mass global migration and border conflicts. For the first time, the Pentagon now considers climate change a national security risk and the term climate wars is being talked about in war-room like environments in Washington D.C.

4:30PM - Last Chance / Director: Sami Nikki


Synopsis:  Last Chance is a timeless piece about the importance of hope in our current environment. Through a tale of evolving consciousness it shows the viewer a simple beacon of happier times. The story is told through a series of paintings, computer animation that is softer than other contemporary styles. Instead of aiming for a more realistic look, a subtler but more vivid style has been chosen.

4:30PM - Beating the Bomb / Directors: Wolfgang Matt, Meera Patel

Synopsis: 'Beating the Bomb' covers 50 years of the Peace movement in Britain against the historical and political backdrop of the atomic age. The narrative follows the now called 'nuclear deterrent', starting at the dawn of the nuclear age in WWII to present day.  Nuclear weapons shaped the power structures that rose out of the rubble of WWII and underpin them to this day.  It is widely argued that the pressing issues of the day, from poverty to climate change cannot be tackled without addressing the underlying economic system. Our film evidences the claim that the foundations of our economic system are 'straight power concepts'.  The most straightforward of these concepts being the bomb, both in its physical manifestation and also in the mindset it engenders and stems from. The film charts the efforts of individuals and organizations to rid Britain of its nuclear weapons system from past to present.  It also frames the nuclear weapons issue within the wider context of global justice. The film is a tribute to peace campaigners and accordingly features interviews with Tony Benn, Mark Thomas, Walter Wolfgang, Helen John and Vivienne Westwood, bringing into special focus the UK based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). It is an attempt to mediate their spirit & commitment and to thus empower & inspire the viewer.

6:30PM - Arena / Director: Jota Aronack 

Synopsis: Jonash does not know what sunlight is. He has never seen a tree or the sky. He has never left his room. He does not need to. But that note makes him think, and the simple idea of having an option, becomes powerful. Arena, biography of a revolution.

6:30PM - Desert of Forbidden Art / Directors: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev


Synopsis: How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule artists who stay true to their vision are executed, sent to mental hospitals or Gulags. Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist's works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions. Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as 'one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art' and located in one of the world's poorest regions, today these paintings are worth millions, a lucrative target for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats and art profiteers. The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure.

7:00PM - “Complexo – Universo Paralelo” / Director: Miro Patrocono


LA Premiere at the 7th Artivist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: At the peak of tensions in Rio, Brazil, two Portuguese brothers ventured into the most feared slum and lived there during the largest police operation ever launched in that state. They experienced a life where most people awaken to the sound of gunfire and sleep accompanied by shots. The heads of the largest criminal faction in Rio speak intimately and plainly of the life in the world of trafficking. They are the power that exists after a decades-long absence of government power. But the film also offers a slice of life with inspirational characters - a mother shows how her faith in Jesus makes her believe all is possible; the president of the dwellers' association shows that despite the frightening expansion of the complex, the arrival of crime, drugs and guns, he is able to make life better for his favela neighbors; a rapper - MC Playboy - a funk artist who realized that his path was not trafficking, while he saw many of his friends murdered, he conquered his space within the community and fights to destroy prejudice and bring all of society together. The people in the favela live under constant tension in the midst of a power game where both everything and nothing is possible. Through action and word, each character adds a piece to a gigantic puzzle that reveals to us the daily life of the favela as a whole. Director Mirio Patroconio’s film asks and answers “How is it to survive in this reality?” 

8:30PM - Trees / Director: Randy Wakerlin

Synopsis: Voiced by the incomparable Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob) with Jill Talley, “Trees” serves as a comic warning about the devastating effects of deforestation of our rainforests. As the story unfolds, we move through a lush deep green pastoral jungle inhabited with exotic creatures. “Welcome to the oxygen factory! We breathe in the old CO2 and breathe out the O2. I tell you, though, a lot more CO2 these days,” barks a tall, skinny character who calls himself the “green collar guy.” “Yeah, lotta CO2,” confirms his leafy companion, Donny. Suddenly, a chain saw starts up, followed by the sound of another tree crashing to the ground. “The rain! Tell them about the rain!” our fallen friend gasps. Green collar guy happily demonstrates what he calls “transpiration – how the trees water each other downwind with their “breath.” As the situation spirals downward it seems clear: our long-limbed neighbors are not the only ones fated for the endangered list.

8:30PM - The Krill is Gone / Director: Jeffrey Bost

Synopsis: Voiced by the incomparable Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob) with Jill Talley, “The Krill is Gone” brings comic awareness to the looming danger of man-made global warming on the fragile ecosystems deep within our oceans. As this ominous tale begins, our host – the Robin Leach-like Plankton Emiliania Huxleyi — introduces us to his undersea world just seconds before he is devoured by a ditzy Krill, who quickly sheds her shell in a successful maneuver to outwit a predator only to have trouble sprouting another. As the tour continues, we spot a celebrity tuna who looks and talks suspiciously like Al Gore, dodge a swarm of deadly jellyfish, and watch in horror when the dastardly source of the problem is finally revealed.

8:30PM - Deep Green / Director: Matt Briggs


Synopsis: Almost every time we use energy, we burn carbon. Every time we burn carbon, we heat up the atmosphere.  It's a dirty fact that Global Warming cannot be stopped as long as fossil fuels run our planet. We can fix this. Over three years in the making, 'Deep Green' is the first documentary devoted exclusively to showing us how. Accompanied by an international team of award-winning cinematographers, filmmaker Matt Briggs takes us on a compelling journey to nine countries, including China, to uncover the best people with the best ideas, strategies and cutting-edge technologies that can get the job done... if we start now.This inspiring feature presentation includes two electrifying animated shorts on the devastating effects of clear-cutting our rainforests and burning carbon for energy on the fragile ecosystems within our oceans.

9:30PM - Hempsters / Director: Michael Henning


Synopsis: HEMPSTERS: PLANT THE SEED follows seven activists as they fight to legalize industrial hemp in the United States, which is used in over 30 countries and is widely known to have numerous environmental benefits such as:  less reliance on oil, more efficient use of energy, forest conservation, soil redemption and landfill use reduction, just to name a few. Featured in the film are Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Ralph Nader and Merle Haggard.  HEMPSTERS is a thought-provoking and compelling documentary that will not only encourage all of us to take action, but love us one step closer towards a more sustainable planet.

11:00PM - USS Din / Director: Vikram Gupta


Synopsis: Kabir and Ram were two kids who just wanted to play bat-and ball. One day, there was a big fight amongst the elders, which left the family divided into two. Kabir and Ram now found themselves on opposite sides trying to reach each other. The bat was smashed, the ball was broken, and the kids were locked up in their houses. And then one house got the news....the others had got a gun. So began a mad race of collecting weapons, that reached ridiculous extents. When fear drives people to surrounding themselves with guns, one day, One of those guns is bound to go off. USS Din is the story of what happens that day.

11:00PM - Call me Salma / Director: Sebastien Rist


Synopsis:  The premiere of "Call Me Salma", a documentary on a transgender teenager, was held on February 4 at the auditorium of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). ULAB and Bandhu Social Welfare Society organised the premiere.  Directed by Canadian filmmakers Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque, the film is a story about "love and loss."  The film follows Salma, a 16-year-old transgender individual, who leaves her family and village, and moves into the hustle and bustle of city life in search of an identity, a new family and above all, a sense of acceptance.  Emotionally torn between her youth and her desire to be a woman, Salma decides to return to her village and face events that force her to question the preconceived notions of gender. The documentary is nearly 54-minute long.  ULAB Vice Chancellor Professor Rafiqul Islam formally inaugurated the premiere show. Anisul Islam Hero, director, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, also spoke on the occasion. The directors and Salma, protagonist of the film, were present and answered questions from the audience.  The filmmakers Sébastien and Aude have been in Dhaka for the past few months and followed the lives of local transgender communities as part of their research for the film. The film will be aired on a French TV channel later this year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

12:00PM - How I Became an Elephant / Directors:  Synthian Sharp, Tim Gorski


Synopsis:  Watch as a 14 year-old girl from Los Angeles commits to the face-to-face rescue of a single female elephant living in a forced elephant breeding camp in Thailand. Tour the living conditions and tribulations of these captive giants as they’re “broken” to perform for humans… and stay with them in their final sanctuary until they accept their liberators into the herd, and finally see themselves, not as objects, but as elephants. 

12:00PM - “Play Again” / Director: Tonje Schel


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis:  What are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature? One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii. But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how does this impact our children's well being, our society and the very future of our planet? At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole? This documentary follows six teenagers who, like the 'average American child,' spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. PLAY AGAIN unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure - no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality. Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, neuroscientist Gary Small, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, parks advocate Charles Jordan, psychiatrist Susan Linn, and Canadian scientist David Suzuki, PLAY AGAIN introduces new perspectives and encourages action for a sustainable future. The soundtrack includes music from well-known Icelandic band Sigur Ros and singer Kimya Dawson (JUNO soundtrack). Music Director is Andreas Hessen-Schei, of the Norwegian bands Jaga Jazzist and Shining.

2:00PM - “Maasai at the Crossroads” / Directors: Joe Dietsch, Kristin Jordan


Synopsis:  In MAASAI AT CROSSROADS, we chronicle the struggles of the Maasai tribe as they attempt to modernize while maintaining their traditional culture. Since the most direct route, of such a society towards modernization, is Education, the framework of the film is structured around the non-profit organization, Africa Schools of Kenya (ASK). A Speaker Program was conducted over March and April 2009. ASK is an educational curriculum that introduced experts in their area of expertise and their outside influences to the tribe - deeply influencing the worldview of the students, as will as the adults/elders. The external factors forcing the Maasai to modernize are the current drought and the encroaching influence of civilization. The questions asked are: What elements of any culture are important? / What should be preserved and what can be left behind? / Will the children return to the traditional Maasai way of life after being exposed to the modern world? If so, why? / What elements of the Maasai culture define them as a people? / How are the Maasai integrating modernization to aid themselves in becoming stewards of their land? / And why is this so important? 

2:00PM - The Story of Bottled Water / Director: Louis Fox


Synopsis:   The Story of Bottled Water employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufacturing demand, using the example of how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. The film explores the bottled water industry's attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to 'take back the tap,' not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

2:00PM - My Pantanal /Director: Andrea Heydlauff

Synopsis:  ‘My Pantanal’ is a film about a boy named Aerenilso, who lives on a ranch in the Pantanal, the world’s largest and wildest wetland, in Brazil. Aerenilso shows us what it is like to be a Pantanero (a cowboy), riding his horse, doing his chores, and exploring this incredible landscape that is teeming with wildlife, including the jaguar. Sadly, jaguars have been hunted by people but Aerenilso’s ranch is different; he lives on a conservation ranch where the cowboys and biologists are working together to show that ranching and jaguars can coexist in this magical place.

2:00PM - Campesinos / Director: Adam Pajot Gendron

Synopsis:     Three children live and work in agricultural communities in Central America: Duli harvests macadamia nuts in the mountains of Guatemala, Jenier coffee on an Island in Nicaragua, and Paul Cacao in the jungles of Costa Rica. Despite the distance that separates them, they share a common bond: they each belong to a cooperative of which their family is a member, and through which they work to create sustainable choices and improve their quality of life. These three children do not know each other, but share the collective experience of growing up in a community that has sought improvement. Where many have tried, they have succeeded. Where many have let go, they have not given up, and now their courage and determination is reflected in these children, the mirrors of their community. Through their day to day experiences, these children share their story and make us a part of their concerns in the face of an uncertain future. What they do, above all, is allow us to put a face on the people who harvest so that we can eat.

4:00PM - Hove (The Wind) / Director: Alex Webb

Synopsis:   Two Armenian women's friendship is deeply affected by a chance encounter with the past and the powerful, unresolved legacy of the Armenian Genocide. Zara (played by Olympia Dukakis) is visited by her friend Nina (played by Shirleyann Kaladjian) at her Armenian cultural bookstore.  Zara is reading a mysterious book that has deeply disturbed her.  Nina finally rouses Zara from the book and asks Zara what it is that had her so absorbed.  Zara mysteriously dismisses the question. Nina reveals a personal tragedy over coffee with Zara.  Zara goes to her desk to retrieve a treasured family heirloom to comfort Nina.  When she returns Nina is now engrossed in the mysterious book. They argue over the implications and Nina leaves.  The mystery of the book and Nina's tragedy is revealed along with a surprise about Zara's past at the end of the story.

4:00PM - Mine: Story of a Sacred Mountain / Director: Survival International


Synopsis:  The Dongria Kondh are one of India’s most remote tribes. In a stunning real-life version of ‘Avatar’, the metals giant Vedanta Resources is intent on mining the tribe’s sacred Niyamgiri mountain for bauxite, the raw material for aluminum. But the Dongria Kondh don’t simply accept their fate, but decide to fight. ‘Mine’ has been watched over 600,000 times online, and in a truly David v Goliath victory for the Dongria Kondh, the Indian government blocked Vedanta’s mine in August 2010.

4:00PM - The Last Cut / Director: Damian Rafferty

 

Synopsis:   We hear from mothers who have suffered because of Female Genital Cutting, a former cutter, villagers, medical experts, campaigners and Kadija who leads her team into remote villages and sets up a mobile cinema in places where they don't even have electricity. Over the course of five visits, she attempts to convert the mothers of the village to collectively abandon a harmful but almost ubiquitous practice. Villagers are drawn in by the entertainment, stimulated by the educational films thrown into the mix and engaged in a community wide discussion held under the African night. The mix of stories and discussion is what the griots (conveyors of oral culture) have been doing in these parts for hundreds of years. It turns out this is still the right approach if you want to affect change. Ultimately, this is a film about hope for the children of Mali and how it comes down to African people using African ways (even if the money comes from outside) to update rather than destroy traditional culture.

4:00PM - Water / Director: Corrie Jones


Synopsis: Toby yearns for a life like any other eight-year-old kid. But his mentally disabled father is a constant reminder that life for Toby, will never be normal. WATER is a film about a young boy's struggle to accept his fears, his mentally disabled father and his possible future duty.

4:00PM - Rapping in Iran / Director: Hassan Khademi

Synopsis:   If there is any music style in the world to which the term 'underground' can be justifiably applied, it is rap in puritanical Iran. Since the beginning of the 1990s, practically every kind of pop music has been forbidden in the Islamic Republic, but the state security forces crack down particularly hard on rappers. Their outfits, modelled on Western idols, their lyrics about identity conflicts and sexual deprivation or the fact that young women sing about themselves and their problems are reason enough to keep raiding the few studios in town and closing down the websites of the most famous singers and bands. The only consequence is that every closed down site spawns four new ones, the studios that are closed in one place re-open somewhere else and become more attractive to the scene. 'Rapping in Tehran' is about young people's tough struggle against the rigid rules of a government of old men whose resistance in the long run will be in vain. For the music keeps spreading: via the Internet, through exiled rappers who broadcast their lyrics into the country from Dubai, via mobile phones or secret parties. In any case, the courage with which they insist on the right to lead their own lives is cause for admiration.

--- HUMNEWS' Staff