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June 24, 2006

Who We Are

BY THE AFRICAN VOICE DOCUMENTARY FILM CREW, MESA, AZ, USA - The last week, we worked on a short video to give people a sense of who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. Three of the editors put together versions of varying length.

WhoWeAreSm.jpg SHAWN DOWNS put together the Who We Are in Two Minutes movie. Shawn recently graduated from Arcadia High School and will be going to the LA Film School upon his return from Zambia. Shawn is an excellent cinematographer, gaffer and all-round crew member. Shawn had a short film in the PHOENIX FILM FESTIVAL 2006. I'd count on seeing great things from him in the future.

WhoWeAreMed.jpg LINDSEY BLACK crafted the Who We Are in Five Minutes. Lindsey graduated from Mesa Community College. She has made numerous short films and is looking to build a career in the independent film industry. Lindsey enjoys acting, editing and producing. Already a Sundance veteran, Lindsey is looking forward the 2007 festival. She learned a great deal about networking at the last festival from actor, Adam Scarimbolo.

WhoWeAreLong.jpg MICHAEL MONTESA completed the Who We Are in 17 Minutes. Another Sundance veteran with a commitment to work in the independent film world, Mike is a respiratory therapist by vocation and photographer/cinematographer by avocation. Mike has won several awards at the annual Mesa Community College Art Show. In addition to being a great on-set photographer, Mike loves designing movie poster and DVD case covers. His designs are terrific.

May 26, 2006

It's A Small World, After All

BY MARGARET BEHNKE, CHIPPEWA FALLS, USA - I must confess I have been allowing the geographical distance between Arizona and lil’ ol' Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, (population approximately 13,000) to be a barrier for me. All of the whirlwind activity described on the blogs sounds invigorating but I have been feeling somewhat left out, given I am unable to be a more active part of things in Arizona.

While ferreting out the contacts for equipment donations did allow me to contribute, I have been longing for a more significant connection, a more meaningful way to contribute. Well, late last night I had a phone conversation with Cyndi. She told me that two things that changed everything.

First, she said that she wanted to bring Jabbes here to Chippewa Falls for the documentary. She said they were going to the village where he grew up in Zambia to meet his family, to see his roots. She also wanted him to meet her family and friends and see where she came from. She thought this would be good for the documentary. Then, she said that Jabbes hoped to bring his family back with him for a visit. She hoped that Jabbes daughters, Judith (15) and Thoko (5) could visit Chippewa Falls.

As we discussed the many cross-cultural implications of the film projects, I realized I have an opportunity to make a contribution: my husband and I will open our home, our hearts, our family and small town to Jabbes and his daughters when they visit Cyndi's hometown. Once I had this thought, I felt an instant connection, one that goes to the very heart: family-to-family.

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This morning, as I drove my 6-year-old granddaughter, Mykayla (pictured above with Carter, Adrian, Reilly and Jordan) to school, I told her Cyndi, (also called “Grandma” by my grandkids here!) was bringing Jabbes and his daughters to Chippewa Falls, and she immediately said, "Oh good, they can stay at my house! I want to show her my school." What an awesome response: her first reaction was to share her home, and her school, to open her life to the life of another little girl from another continent, just pure and simple caring and sharing. A good lesson for all of us. Aside from all of the details, she went directly to what truly mattered. Human-to-human connection, no barriers of miles, language, custom, color, religion or politics.

So, while I may be across the country from where the action is taking place, I am certainly connected, a part of keeping the initial, personal motivation for these films continuing. Family-to-family, heart-to-heart. This is what matters to me, not the fact that I doggedly remained on the phone this morning bounced from rude person to gatekeeper with a large company. (Although I must admit I am proud that I was not intimidated!) Sometimes ya' gotta really look for that heart connection - but it is always there.

May 24, 2006

Supporting Zambia from Afar

magway.jpgBY MARGARET BEHNKE, CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN, USA - I live in Wisconsin and I have been supporting the Zambian filmmaking effort from afar. I went to high school and college with Cyndi Greening. I have known her for over thirty years. Cyndi has loved filmmaking and teaching for as long as I have known her. When she takes on a new project and commits herself to it, there is a lot of passion and activity that begins to swirl around her.

A few weeks ago, she asked me to join the effort to find filmmaking equipment to leave behind in Zambia. My task was to search the web and ferret out contact points with these manufacturers. It sounded like an easy task. It turned out to be much harder than I imagined. Companies can have a very public face on the web but these faces are more like a kabuki mask; they look friendly but completely obscure what is behind them. Panasonic, Sony, Sennheiser, Canon, Adobe, the Gates Foundation. None had readily accessbile contact information. Fortunately, I can be pretty determined so I was not easily stopped. I was able to find information from nearly every major manufacturer. I've now passed that on to Cyndi so she can send proposals, press kits and all that sort of thing.

Today, I got the party invitation for the Zambian gathering on Saturday. Needless to say, it would be pretty expensive for me to get to Arizona. I also don't eat meat so the menu isn't appealing, either. It's just torture for me to be so far away. I really wanted to go to Zambia and work with the crew. My husband was very supportive of the idea. Like Cyndi, I thought it would be wonderful to assist Jabbes in his effort to get his film made. I was excited to look for equipment for future Zambian filmmakers. It's just agony to stay behind.