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December 31, 2006

How Africa Changed a Young Man from New Mexico

BY ROBBY BROWN, MESA, USA — For the holidays, I traveled home to New Mexico to be with my family. The town where I live, Farmington, there is a well-known very wealthy man, Mr. Bolack, who is known for the museum he left behind in his house. My friends and I went to this museum to check it out; it’s about eight (8!) enormous rooms filled with taxidermied animals that he hunted and killed, or at least assisted in capturing as he got older. As we entered "The African Room," one of my best friends shouted “Hey! He's been to Africa!” and pointed to me. I was smiling like a fool. The guide didn't care and continued but as my friends and I held back I was pointing out everything that we actually got to see on the trip! (The only thing we missed were the big cats.) I'd whisper stories to them and tell them about things like how close we were to the rhinos, that monkeys ran between us, that elephants were inches from us. I'm incredibly proud of this project and have no doubt it changed my life. I will always be indebted for that.

The day after tomorrow is a brand new year and I feel like it’s going to be beautiful. If you were to ask me a year ago what I wanted to do in ‘06, what I want to accomplish, I'd give you some lame answer because I never really had any goals or figured I would amount to much. But look what happened! I don't know if any of us would have been able to foresee that this group of passionate filmmakers would come together through a community college to shoot and finish two great films! Films in Africa! I mean really, who would have thought?! I think 2006 will be a year that I will remember for the rest of my life. Its significance will remind me of where I was where I am and how I got to be there. I believe the FilmZambia project really set me up for a career and life that I will love in the film industry.

Since we've returned, I've been fortunate to find numerous job opportunities and chances to grow. I've been able to shoot a pilot reality TV show, 20-minute interview pieces and work out videos—AND GETTING PAID!!! I owe everything to this crew and this beautiful experience. I'm able to take the knowledge and passion and confidence that I have gained into the new year and face any challenges knowing that I'll come out okay on the other end. After problem-solving in Africa, I know how to adapt and solve problems as they arise. 2006 has been an amazing life-changing year, thanks to MCC, Cyndi, the crew and the trust and support that we have built.

Who would have thought?

December 28, 2006

Hooked on LOST

BY JENIECE TORANZO MESA, ARIZONA - For Christmas, I thought I would buy Cyndi a set of LOST mugs that change from black to white when the liquid in them gets hot and reveal mysterious symbols. On the NBC site, I also decided to get a t-shirt with the LOST "numbers" since she is a fanatic of the show. You can't blame her for loving the series. I never really watched the show until this season. While we were editing the films at the Inn Suites, everything came to a standstill on Wednesday evenings because Cyndi had to watch the show. As filmmakers, we immediately liked the show because of the production value and the acting. We didn't understand all of the undercurrents but it was fun to watch.

Lately , a few of the crew members have been getting together to watch the series from the beginning. Cyndi has the complete first season and was always going on about how amazing the show really is. Now, that I've been watching from the beginning, I understand why she was so enthusiastic. So far we have watched about 7 or 8 episodes and I have to tell you, it is amazing.

lostCast.jpg I keep wondering how the Director/ Creator Jeffrey Abrams came up with the idea. He has asssembled a good team to help him create a great show. The cinematographer captures each scene beautifully. The scenes are good to look at and they reveal both the plot and character. I am hooked on the show, too. After doing makeup in Zambia, I'm very aware of how all of the characters look. The set design is good. Of course they are shooting in Hawaii so they're starting with some natural beauty but I know it still takes a lot of hard work to accomplish a show with the feel and energy that LOST delivers. It would be an amazing experience to have the opportunity to one day be able to work on a series like this one.

Filming in Zambia was only the beginning. All it takes is a lot of persistence and even more determination. A bit of talent is also helpful. I think the most important thing is to believe in yourself no matter what anyone else tells you because, face it, there will always be who will tell you that you can never do the thing you want to do. In Zambia, more than one person told us about a thing that happens in their country called "PHD" which stands for "Pull Him Down" or "Pull Her Down." They told us that sometimes people would get jealous if you would start to be successful and try to get in the way of your success. I don't think it's unique to Zambia. I see that sort of thing happening in America, too. So, the most important thing you have to do is keeping believing in yourself and find TRUE supporters. True supporters really push you to do your best and be the most you can be. They want you to succeed. I feel that most of the FilmZambia crew is really supportive of one another. We really learned to count on each other when we were "Almost Lost in Zambia."

We all have learned that the front of your hand always comes along with the back ... there are good days and bad ... good, bad and sometimes the ugly, too. But, as German philsopher Frederich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) said, "What does not kill me, makes me stronger." Like the characters of LOST, we are all struggling through the tough times of our lives to strengthen us for that which we will ultimately accomplish. As long as we keep moving forward, our proper paths will be found.

December 25, 2006

I'll Be Thinking About You

BY PAMELA BOWMAN, MESA, USA — Norah Jones has a new single out. It is called I’ll Be Thinking About You. That pretty much summarizes this year. I will often think about all the people, places and events of this year and I will smile and I believe I will cry.pjcarmel.jpg It is strange how I placed so much emphasis on the concept of a New Year. It isn’t the New Year that alters my life direction. It is me. It is my life and I get to choose. Like wise it is your life and you get to choose too!

Today, Cyndi and I were exchanging Merry Christmas wishes. Our conversations can never be simple. No, we had to get philosophical. We were talking about what people can and do accomplish with their lives. We ended up talking about how there are those in the world who didn’t have encouraging parents or ideal situations, but they had determination and confidence in themselves in spite of their upbringing or life circumstances. Cyndi was raised in a small farming community in Wisconsin yet she just spent a year as the executive producer of a feature and documentary filmed in Africa. Not exactly what one might have expected from that background. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area but lived and raised my family on a farm in northern Mexico for 17 years. Quite unexpected.

Likewise we met many in Africa who are ignoring their disadvantages and challenging circumstances of life to pursue their dreams and goals. All over the world, we see and meet such self-determined souls. I have come to believe we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to … it’s simply a matter of becoming aware of who we see ourselves to be in the world, whether we are inspired by our lives and whether others are inspired by what we’re taking on.

Even though I am no longer using the New Year as a benchmark to have a new beginning, I do feel like I have just finished reading and rereading the chapter of a history book, mine. I now feel that I have reviewed it long enough. I am now ready to take that learning to meet new characters, new challenges and discover new subplots. I find strenth in knowing this chapter will always be there to refer to, but I need to remind myself that the past can become a barrier or a path to the future. I choose the path.

Which segues into another thought I had yesterday. This year, for our annual Christmas Eve party we invited a different group of friends over. During the evening, I thought, “If I had been on the ball this year and actually mailed Christmas cards, how many new addresses would I be adding to my list? How many would I be deleting?”

For me, the thought was, how wonderful! My list has changed! My world is expanding which means that I am expanding. Then the thought came; maybe I am the "someone new" on someone else’s Christmas card list. Maybe there is someone who is glad that I am their new friend this year. Maybe I’m the expansion in their world. It was a fun thought.

As they say, the front of the hand always comes along with the back! In other words, both sides of anything are always present. On one hand, there are some people who may feel their life is so perfect and complete they do not need anything new or anyone else to be happy. Some may feel they are just too busy to have any more interactions with another human being. I, on the other hand, find myself rejuvenated meeting new people and discussing new ideas and declaring my opinions with sincerely interested friends. I have yet to meet a person that I didn’t learn something from. For me that is what I enjoy and value—the learning that comes from human connection and interaction.

So, my plan is to continue to learn and take moments to “think about you” — the people who have enriched and contributed to my life experience. I will not allow myself to lead anything but a full-on, self-fulfilled life. I won’t allow circumstances to limit what I want and am able to do. A self-fulfilled life is the key. A SELF-fulfilled life will be defined differently for each of us because, whether we’re American, Zambian, Iraqi or whatever, we are each a unique contribution to the world. Respecting, appreciating and valuing those differences is what puts us on someone’s “Christmas card list.”

So Happy New Year to friends old and new. I’ll be thinking about you. And guess what! I bought some Christmas cards on Christmas eve ... Do I have your address?

December 14, 2006

Happy 50!

BY KATIE GREISIGER, PHOENIX, USA -Happy birthday, Cyndi! I hope it was a great one...miss you guys and hope all is going great! Good luck with the new year in your life and for grasping new opportunities and beginnings...we know you will!!!

Better late than never

BY JENIECE TORANZO "GIDGET", MESA, ARIZONA, USA-Better late than never right? I just wanted to wish you a happy Happy Birthday! I hope it was an awesome and memorable one. Thank you for everything that you have done for me. I am truly grateful for the experience that you gave me in Africa. One that I will never forget. You truly are the angel and Pam is the wings! I am grateful for time that I have gotten to know you. You are truly young at heart and I only hope the best for you in everything you do because you deserve it baby! Remember... tippy toe tippy toe!

December 13, 2006

Older and (Hopefully) Wiser

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA -- Yesterday was my birthday ... a milestone birthday ... the big 5 dot 0. When I was younger, I never thought I'd make it through five decades and I sure as heck didn't think it would happen so quickly! I can't believe I moved to Phoenix 23 years ago. I can't believe I was teaching at the community college for 16 years. I can't believe Alec is 19 already. I can't believe we went to Zambia to make a documentary and feature film. As I reflect on my life thus far, the word that comes to mind is UNBELIEVABLE. It's been unbelievable.

In many ways, I think I am one of the luckiest people on Earth. The Zambia project is proof of how unbelievably lucky I am!! In addition to getting the funding to take 14 students and four (4) faculty to make the feature film and documentary, we had the good fortune to finish shooting both films. On top of that, I was super lucky and had the most amazing crew! Their professionalism and diligence in making the films was extraordinary. Their kind and generous posts wishing me a happy day show how supportive, gracious and thougtful they are as human beings.

We've been back in the U.S. for three months now. Most everyone has returned to work and/or school. Some of the crew have made large geographic changes (Shawn, Alec, Jacob), some have made major life changes (I fall into this category), while the remainder have incorporated their experience more gracefully into their daily existence. Time stops for no one and each of the FilmZambia crew march on his or her appointed path toward whatever it is that life has in store. As the elder participant, I am blessed to have had such an opportunity and I know just how special it is. Some of the younger participants may not realize (until they've passed five decades) what a unique and wonderful opportunity this was. As is evidenced by the posts, these extraordinary people definitely deserved this experience ... and I was fortunate to have them with me. I love them dearly and cannot begin to express my gratitude for all they did and have done!

This year, I've come to believe that the best gifts are often the grace and generosity of another's presence in one's life. The FilmZambia crew has been one of the greatest gifts of my life ... if not THE greatest. I love you guys ...

December 12, 2006

Happy Birthday, Cyndi!! We love you!

Cyndi and younger sister Sandy in the driveway on Grandma Greening's farm in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Sandy found the haircuts quite alarming ... Prince Valiant, anyone? The shoes are something else, too! Mine look a little large while Sandy's look a little on the tight side. Notice how her feet are punching up like bread rising in a pan. Sandy was one of my best buddies in my youth and continues to be one of my closest allies. Seeing the photo of the two of us is a terrific birthday gift!

Pamela, "BA" Bowman
Happy 50th birthday!
There are so many things I could tell the world about you. Nervous? You should be! Let’s see…

You are who you are and “you are quite clear” on what you want. What is unique about you is your ability to help others gain clarity on what they want. I have benefited from your constant teaching this year. You have given those you know such a profound gift of self. As you have given us a sense of who we are I have watched you discover more of who you are. It is true we call you the GT (giant toddler), but in truth we all need to be more childlike. We all need to accept and love people as they are. This empowers all to become more of who they are intended to be.

Thank you for all you have done this year. I am quite confident that your next half century’s contribution to the world will be very significant, valuable and LARGE! Your brilliance is shining brighter all the time. We are not blinded by the light, but guided by it.

Thank you Cyndi. I celebrate your life.
Always, Pamela

M.K. "Gypsy Punk" Racine
Joyeux Anniversaire, Cyndi!

This is the second year I have been able to be part of your birthday and I hope to continue this well into the future. You have come to be a major part of my life, Cyndi. Academically you enabled me to flourish in the creative and supportive environment you so patiently and consistently provided. And eventually, the technical expertise you supplied me with, met the creativity I had within. Thank you!

Professionally, you entrusted me in roles and responsibilities far beyond that of which I thought I was capable. Again, I learned from you not in a classroom, but in the openness of a country primed for growth and opportunity, a reflection of me. How can I possibly thank you enough?

Personally, Cyndi, you have become a dear friend, one who provides humor, words of wisdom, comfort, compassion, knowledge, a positive perspective, and timely wit, among so many other gifts.

I don’t believe there is a birthday gift ample enough to show my appreciation for you and the various ways in which you have enriched and impacted my life. This birthday I wish you all the happiness you can handle through the gifts of love, friendship, good fortune, success, prosperity, good health and all other gifts important to you. Thank you and Happy Birthday, Makumba!

Je t’aime! –MK

Carlos "Shake Shake" Espinosa
Feliz cumpleanos…

Cyndi, well what can I say, even though I have known you for quite a few years already, I have not formally said happy birthday to you, You always hide it so well.

The big Five-0; well you are young at heart. It has been a privilege to be one of your students, to learn from you, to be motivated by you, to get pushed like nobody has pushed me before and more importantly to have your friendship. You have given me many wonderful gifts in life and this I cannot repay you...thanks for everything you have done for me.

So far, you have accomplished great things in life, and it seems that you are just getting started, I hope to be part of many more birthdays and experiences.

Te deseo felicidad, prosperidad, salud, amor y dinero……Cheers!

Nick "Tick-Tock" Marshall


Well wishes for all birthday celebrations! Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge and honesty with me. You've been a patient teacher and a caring friend. I hope your birthday is joyful and fun.


Jared "Grace" Moschau
I wish you a happy birthday and the best big 5-0. You have been a great influence on me and have pushed me to do things that I wouldn’t make myself do and I am not the only one. You are a role model to everyone that is part of the crew and also like a mother. I appreciate everything you have done for me and the opportunities that you have given to me. I hope you have another 50 great years.
Happy B-day Cyndi,

Robby "NPB" Brown
Hey Cyndi, Happy Birthday…The way I see it, the glass is half full…love you, Robby!

Michael Montesa

Happy Birthday Cyndi. Thank you so much for everything. Thank you for being my awesome mentor and for letting me work with you through all these years. Thanks for all the advice and thanks for being sweet and caring friend.




More birthday wishes to come throughout the WEEK!!!!
Alec "Sleeping Beauty" Hart
Jacob "Jacobo" Felix
Shawn "Nikolai" Downs
Edgar "Billie Jean" Rider
Heath "Karaoke King" McKinney

December 09, 2006

Mike and Jeniece in the Big Apple


Mike Montesa and Jeniece Toranzo's Photo Gallery is up for viewing. You can check out all of the wonderful things they are doing and seeing while they are visiting New York City. They met up with FilmZambia crew members Alec Hart and Jacob Felix and headed over to Rockefeller Center. Jacob, Mike and Jeniece also went down to Ground Zero. When they return to Arizona, they promise to put together the NYC vcast. So, stay tuned!

December 07, 2006

Sending Cyberhugs

Mesa, Arizona, USA

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

In the United States, the lights are up on our houses and the malls are crowded with shoppers, some happy and some humbuggers. Some are experiencing a white Christmas while we Arizonans experience a nice Christmas.

Those of us who traveled in the world this year are experiencing a different Christmas. I thought I would feel calmer. I thought I would be repulsed by the buying frenzy. I know in past years I always was. This year is different for me. I want to embrace every tradition and savor every ritual. I like going to the mall and seeing both the joyful shoppers and the grumpy ones. I think it is because we have the freedom to be either.

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

We still have the freedoms but lack of fear has diminished for all of us. I believe in Zambia there is a fear of hunger and an unknown future. I think that Zambia is on the brink of change. I believe it is an African nation that has the chance to prosper. Like all opportunities it will not be a highway, but a rocky way. It will be up to its own citizens to stand up and unite together to create a nation of possibilities. This year, I have learned that if you want something bad enough and you work to make it happen, then something does happen.

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The road is so long
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

And so this is Christmas this year. How human to look back and remember last Christmas. How very busy I was. I was working for someone else. I was trying to make everyone else’s Christmas enjoyable and I forgot about my own. Next year will come and I want to remember this Christmas as joyful and warm and fun. It is fortunate that I have the ability to choose that. It is wonderful that I have the right to have that.

ZambianTree.jpgAnd so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

To my friends in Zambia I wish you a joyful Christmas. To my friends here … make it a joyful Christmas. I wish I could hug you all! I guess a cyber hug will have to do!

Song lyrics: "The War is Over" by John Lennon

December 03, 2006

Sacrifices for the Film Deities

leafcuisine.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA -- I'm in Los Angeles for the weekend, talking with editor Jason Behnke about the documentary he is working on and the FilmZambia projects. An editor for eight years, Jason offered some very encouraging words about the projects and made suggestions on getting them out there.

For excitement, he took me to a health food restaurant, LEAF CUISINE. On the way over, he told me that everything they made was raw. Nothing cooked. And, it was vegan and organic. Very healthy, he tells me. Good for my body. So, off we go for dinner. When we get there, I am a little chilly so I order the bowl of Apple Spice Oatmeal and a side of Hummus with Flax Seed Crackers. Imagine my shock after my first bite of oatmeal ... it was cold. Uncooked. Raw. The flavor was good but I couldn't get over the temperature. We won't even talk about the hummus and crackers. He ate the curried wrap. The "wrap" is a big lettuce leaf. I told Jason that I had been planning on ordering the Miso Soup because I was chilly . I asked him if the soups were cold, too. Yep, he says.

So, we went back to his condo to work a while longer. (On the way home, I was able to stop for Diet Pepsi, so I was at least moderately appeased. I tried to buy ice cream but he wouldn't let me. He agreed to take me for frozen yogurt later.) So, later, we went to PINKBERRY for a frozen treat. It's real unsweeted frozen yogurt with fruit. Tangy. So, I'm freezing my fanny off and eating totally healthy in L.A. The sacrifices we make for our films!

December 01, 2006

Another Film Set for Zambia

BY JABBES MVULA, USA - Yezi-Arts Promotions and Productions, a Zambian independent production house is set to produce a ninety minutes film with a working title, “Nkhondo Ya Mkwezalamba, (War of Sacrifice). This is a feature film based on the documentation of human experiences dramatically presented on Zambia’s contribution to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa.

Zambia’s involvements in the wars of southern Africa have had serious political, social and economic implications even today. It was home to many liberation movements, who later formed new governments in the sub-region after dismantling the colonial masters in their respective nations. Self rule dawned in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, with the assistance of this country. In the words of Winnie Mandela: "Zambia was the midwife of the struggle in the region, and South Africa was the last child it assisted in freeing from colonialism and imperialism but this was with a great human, economic and social costs”.

The story is revealed in a dramatic way in contemporary Zambia: ‘Musada a former soldier, now a mental patient, was part of the defense forces during the liberation struggles. He suffered torture and witnessed the waste atrocities inflicted on the innocent villagers during the incursions by rebel soldiers. His mind is lost when he sees crater where his parent’s house once stood, and he ends up on the streets as a vagabond. Picked for a psychoanalysis treatment at one of the mental hospitals, reveals a lot what Zambia had to pass through during the war, highlighting frontline reconstructions with enemy forces; reflecting the answered questions on whether the war was justified or not and ultimately post-war seeking answers on whether Zambia paid the price in vain. Kondwa, his doctor, the psychiatrist, occurs to be one of the internally displaced persons who was served by Musada at one of the villages during a rebel incursion’.

Besides the theatrical movie, Yezi Arts will also produce a documentary which will be more than factual with interesting information that has come their way in this project. There is a lot that happened during this important era in our history, which many of our people are not aware of. Even the basics around who was Maina Soko – what role did she play? And, how did we lose her innocent life? In short, it is shocking that this important era, sometimes less than the cost of the fight for independence, is not part of our political history being taught in schools. In fact, research establishes that most of our citizens below the ages of 35 least know anything about our involvement in the struggle. And, this is not only limited to Zambia, it transcends even in the same countries that have since been liberated.

According to the producers, the film is expected to be produced within a period of six months commencing this coming year. Auditions for the film are expected in early December, followed by training of the different artists who will take up respective roles in the enactment.

“All logistics in place, this film should be available to the public within an optimistic period of six months. It has a budget of close to K270million, and we can safely say we have commitments of approximately K100million. So far we have spent over K40million in the research and part of the pre-production phase. Now we have decided to go public also with the hope that interested individuals, business houses and government may find a way of partnering with us. We hope Zambians can rise to the challenge and assist us in telling this story for posterity’s sake. We are a country and we have a history, and this history needs to be documented and disseminated to the current and future generations."