Why diversity?

After ‘Why democracy’ and ‘Why poverty’, I think that it would only be natural for a series titled ‘Why diversity?’ to be made by the EBU, examining diversity in Europe, especially in the Media. I talked about diversity programming with Erik Hogenboom, chief editor at the Diversity Department of the Dutch public broadcaster NTR, who coordinates weekly TV programmes with a focus on diversity. He is also the executive producer of the international coproduction City Folk by the EBU-Intercultural Diversity Group, featuring portraits of ordinary people of different ethnic backgrounds and as such reflecting the intercultural melting pots of the big cities around the world. He was also Coordinator of the Jury Group for the Prix Europa TV IRIS category.

Patience, Patience You’ll Go To Paradise! by Hadja Lahbib (Belgium, 2014, 85 min.)

‘How do European societies cope with growing ethnic and religious diversity?
How will Fortress Europe tackle the increasing flow of desperate refugees? How do we deal with a growing Muslim population in a basically profane society? As a consequence, there is an increasing responsibility of (public) broadcasters, filmmakers and reporters to deal with diversity issues in their stories.’
What are diversity programmes? What does a diversity chief editor do?
Diversity programmes are programmes that somehow tackle issues related to cultural diversity in European societies. Diversity is of course a rather broad definition: it concerns gender, dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. In TV IRIS we focus on the dimension of race and ethnicity. So, diversity programmes in this dimension are about all issues related to the fact that European societies are becoming more and more multicultural/diverse. Concrete issues are:  migration issues; refugees; illegality; fortress Europe; history of migration; position of minorities; ethnic conflicts; racism/anti-racism; position of Roma people; Islam in Europe; second and third generation of migrants; integration of minorities; regional minorities; coexistence and/or clashes of religions, etc. Programmes that mainly focus on such themes can be defined as ‘diversity programmes’.
A ‘diversity chief editor’ task is to commission these kind of programmes and bring them on TV (or radio and Internet of course). To find new, interesting and relevant subjects related to diversity and find programme-makers to make these programmes, judge them and finally schedule them on TV, or any other medium.

Another task can be to try to make the personnel of media institutions more diverse, by hiring and/or employing journalists, technical staff, producers, etc. of a different ethnic/cultural background.

Another task can be to organise special events to stimulate diversity (in programming and personnel) in the media (e.g. the Innoversity Show that we are currently organising for April 2016).

Why do we need diversity programmes in public broadcasters in 2015?
The increasing diversity in Europe creates frictions, tensions, conflicts (racism, discrimination, resistance against mosques, unemployment in young people of a different ethnic background). Diversity programmes can contribute to knowledge and insight about different values and cultures and may encourage tolerance and understanding. So, as long as diversity is not yet an accepted value, special diversity programmes are important to promote the benefits of diversity.

What are the opportunities for diversity programme funding? Are there special budgets for that? Which broadcasters commission diversity programmes?
At NTR we have had (for the past 20 years) a special budget for diversity (and time slots on day time in the weekend). After 1 January 2016, we lose this special budget and will have to fight for money for each new projects. Some broadcasters in Europe have special diversity departments and budgets, e.g. HRT-Croatia, WDR-Germany, the BBC.

Where should producers look for money?
Difficult question. It depends very much on the local/national situation. In the Netherlands, freelance producers can apply for money to special funds, e.g. to produce an expensive documentary or series. But these are mostly general media funds, not special ones for diversity.

How was the experience of this year’s Prix Europa? Can you tell us something about the winning film?
I think we had a great TV IRIS this year. A large Jury group and a mosaic of interesting diversity programmes. In general, it is quite amazing that TV IRIS has been running successfully for so many years, with constant input of entries from all over Europe.
The film “Patience Patience, you’ll go to Paradise” is a really great winner. The situation of older migrant women is an important diversity theme, and this film is great because of its humoristic tone. It shows that people can free themselves of restraints even when they are older. It also provides insight into the world and thoughts of elderly migrant women.

Winner at Prix Europa Iris 2015!

Strong women and humour is the recipe for the winner in the 2015 IRIS Doc category (intercultural docs)


And the winner is Patience, Patience You’ll Go To Paradise! by
Hadja Lahbib (Belgium, 2014, 85 min.)
After watching the film we had a group discussion (as we always do every day after screenings at Prix Europa)
Here is an interesting insight about reactions to the film.
First of all, the women in the group reacted and said:

I loved it – I wanted to shout/clap my hands while watching it, a lot of humor, it’s the first time I saw this kind of story.
The whole day I am about to cry, but this film! I enjoyed the power and the humour!
Women empowerment, multi-culture, diversity, all in! Bravo!
Everybody was laughing, it was a good-mood film!
Thank you for all the mothers, a film with a lot of love!
This film was a brilliant film about diversity.
At first I will say something very unusual – it was not too long! (87 min.)
It showed us that nothing is impossible.
I hope the Swedish television shows it.
It was such a relief – that these women dare to open the door and go!
The story is universal; my mum could also identify, and she is Swedish.
These women do something for the youngsters.
This film made my day!
It’s challenging to treat serious films with humour!
We loved it!
This film was so rich – had so many layers, it was light but talked about heavy things (topics). There are scenes you carry for a long time.
You took us to a place (these women’s world) where we would never be able to go!
Great humour and power in the film.
I wanted to go deeper into the individual life of them and we stayed most of the time in their group.
That’s what I liked: that everything came out of a group discussion. The scene with the scarf was very strong!
This programme speaks to all the audiences. It was so authentic. And even disability was a part of the normal life. This is an extra point for the film.

And then Hadja Lahbib from Belgium (journalist, director, author, producer) responded to the comments. It was a very difficult film. It took three years of her life. In the beginning she produced it alone. She had a bigger group of women of different nationalities, and a lot of them stepped out, and then she made the film we saw.

“I had no support from the commissioners (they said the script is not good, they wanted women with veil etc.); only RTBF, the broadcaster where I work, was positive from the beginning.”

Hadja Lahbib, not only a good documentary director but also a very successful journalist and anchorwoman in Belgium

About the film:
In the 1960s, thousands of North Africans came to work in Belgium. Among them were women who had left everything behind to follow their men to an unknown country. “Patience, patience—you’ll get to heaven” was what these women were repeatedly told to encourage them to put up with their lives without complaining. Fifty years on, some of them are savouring emancipation. They turn out to be incredibly fun, loving, and capable of uninhibited self-mockery. This film follows them as they make new discoveries, through the simplicity of their excursions, their warm femininity, and sense of humour.

Watch the trailer (in French)

Production / Diffusion : Les Passeurs de Lumière, Clair-Obscur Productions, RTBF Bruxelles, ARTE France

Nobody can hide anymore!

Last day at Prix Europa, with the On Line category. Projects are getting better and better every year!

Do not Track is a seven-episode cross-media project, an international, personalised web doc series about privacy and the web economy. It explores how information is collected and used, and how data broking works. The project is a co-production between Upian BR ARTE and ONF NFB (Canada).

You will be surprised to find out how much information you give up for free, while others earn a lot of money out of it! The impact of the project on the viewers since they used it:

  • 27% are more aware of privacy
  • 21% changed their behaviour online

The topic is the worldwide trade of personal data. People think that its very abstract but it is happening. Companies track your data and then sell it to other companies which create personalised ads.


Where do you get your news from?

Everything you do on the web provides clues as to your needs. It is customised based on your habits. What does it mean that they “know” where I am, what I like, where I spend my time?

It’s scary to see how much of your personal info you give up by just liking a page on Facebook. Your likes give away more about you than your husband or wife knows!

This info can be used to produce a character analysis for you, or to assess your bank credit!

The episode about mobile phones talks about the spy in your pocket and about the terms on tracking that you agree to when you download an app. It had  860,000 visits, 4,700,000 page views, most of them in Germany, and it attracted a 25-34-year-old audience.


The project will continue, working with schools.

Check it out: https://donottrack-doc.com/de/intro/

Prix Europa 2015

Prix Europa’s Online award screenings start today. The category is coordinated by Kare Vedding Poulsen from Denmark, cross-media manager at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation for the last ten years, and BBC’s Silvia Costeloe from the UK. Silvia spoke to me about the Online category at Prix Europa 2014. She also shared insights from her extensive experience in using new technologies efficiently to tell stories, which has always been at the heart of her job at BBC World News. Her main task is to harness Social media to improve journalism on Social platforms during news-gathering and on air.

Listen to the interview:

It’s quite common to visit a festival and nevertheless manage to watch one or two films only. A paradox? All those appointments and work don’t leave us much time for what is most fulfilling in our line of work: watching well-made documentary films.

That’s what’s so good about Prix Europa, which started yesterday at the Radio building in Berlin. During the course of one week, you can not only watch documentaries but also participate in the discussion at the end of each day of screening.

There are 23 entries in the TV Doc category, for instance. They were selected out of the 200 submitted from all over Europe. The jury are the filmmakers themselves, who must watch each day’s films and vote after a discussion at the end of the day and grade each film from 1 to 10, based on five criteria. The highest-rated film will earn the title of the Best Documentary of the Year at the end of the week and will receive 6,000 euro. And what’s most important – the judges are the strictest ones possible: fellow producers and channel CEs.

Everyone can attend as an observer, even if you don’t have a film of your own, and participate in the interesting debate every evening.

I am Cuba is being screened today.  Current Affairs Documentary category starts tomorrow (Tuesday), as well as the cross-media projects competing for the Online award. On Wednesday, it’s time for Iris, with films of intercultural interest. The Queen of Silence features among the competing films: Ten-year-old Denisa is an outcast in more ways than one. She is an illegal citizen, living in a gypsy camp in Poland, but most of all she does not speak, as no one has ever diagnosed her severe hearing disabilities. She lives in a world of her own, full of rhythm and dance, imitating the glamorous women from Bollywood DVDs she found in a nearby garbage bin. Dancing, she can be anyone she wants, even a queen; she can escape the harsh reality and express all that she cannot speak in words – joy, sadness and fear.

EXOTICA, EROTICA, Etc. on DocStories

The film by Evangelia Kranioti was selected at the 56th Berlinale Forum, and Evangelia won  the Best Emerging International Filmmaker award at Hot Docs.  Next week Evangelia’s film will be the opening film at the Syros International Film Festival (Greece) and will then travel to Karlovy Vary. The director was my guest at Hellenic Radio 3 (ERA 3)’s show DocStories on documentaries and storytelling.  

It took Evangelia Kranioti nine years to complete the film research and shooting. She became a sailor herself,  travelling to 20 countries, from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, venturing into the Atlantic, the Magellan Straight and the Pacific, from Panama to the Baltic, all the way to the North Pole. The material – 450 hours of video footage! – was edited by Giorgos Lambrinos.

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“Exotica, Erotica, Etc. navigates centuries-old trade routes and speaks to the universal orientation towards exploration, expression and affection. But above all, it is a love note to the forgotten, hidden and ignored men and women whose long sojourns, dangerous travels and bouts of loneliness are paradoxically essential for societies to function. Exotica, Erotica, Etc. is a documentary conceived as an endless journey, an ongoing dialogue between man and woman, nature and the world. The film’s non-linear narrative embraces the rhythm of merchant ships in perpetual motion and unfolds like a landscape, an archipelago : a retired woman of the night reflects on encounters with past lovers long gone, perhaps lost at sea. We listen to her as she longs for one to return and fulfill the final romantic chapter of her life. The voice of an old captain coming from faraway –the solitude of the ocean or the hotel room of an unknown port– becomes an echo to her monologue. Both characters are real and their personal narratives, kept intact, eventually weave a dense discussion on longing, memory and loss.”

Watch the trailer.

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Evangelia Kranioti with Dimitra Kouzi at ERT 3rd Radio Programme’s show DocStories on documentaries and storytelling

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The Longest Run in Leipzig in Competition 2015!

The Longest Run is one of those films that can’t wait until funding is found before shooting. You either do it now or not at all. And Marianna Oikonomou (Food for Love) did. It is an important story unfolding in a juvenile prison in the city of Volos, in Greece, where the director enjoyed access – which is not a common occurrence at all. The film was already presented at the 10th International Dok Leipzig Co-Production Meeting in October 2014.

Here is an interview that the director, Marianna Oikonomou, gave me at the 17th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival in the aftermath of receiving the award for best Doc in Progress in March 2015.

The story follows two teenagers, a Syrian from Kobani and a Yazidi from Northern Iraq, who spend their long days in a juvenile prison in Greece, accused of smuggling illegal immigrants, while their parents experience  the war in their home countries. The Longest Run  follows their lives  before, during,  and after their court case and exposes the  tragic  phenomenon of professional smugglers forcing  underage illegal immigrants to transport  people across the border from Turkey to Greece,  thus making them smugglers themselves. This means that innocent young boys can serve sentences up to 25 years in a foreign country while their parents are equally ‘confined’ in their war-stricken countries.

The Longest Run documentary photo
Jasim in his cell in the Greek prison

The project garnered the top prize in Docs in Progress, receiving 17.000 euro in editing and post-production funding, but still needs a distributor, pre-sales, and more funding.

Here is a 7-minute demo of this interesting film:

https://vimeo.com/121977493  (password:32015)

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Alsaleh & Jasim in Prison

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