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Digital Sketches

digital citizen media, ict with a focus on Central Asia and the Middle East.

Category Archives: cooperation in development

My favourites for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) are this year:

Burma VJ; winner of the Joris Ivens Award and the ‘Movies That Matter’ Human Rights Award and also my number one.

Afghan Star; how about the tv programme Idols in Afghanistan? A film  about national roadshow in search of Afghanistan next big star.

When Carmen meets Borat; Carmen is 17 years old and lives in Glod; a small gypsy village somewhere in the Romanian mountains. She works daily in the shop and pub of her father. But Carmen dreams of a future somewhere else; somewhere she can find her ideal husband and lead a fantastic and rich life. She watches Spanish soap operas on TV and learns Spanish. When a man named Borat and his film crew appear; the villagers cooperate on what they believe will be a documentary.

Rough Aunties; “Fearless, feisty and resolute, the ‘Rough Aunties’ are a remarkable group of women unwavering in their stand to protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa.”

The Queen and I;  ‘Whereas during the Iranian Revolution in the late seventies the leftist documentary-maker Nahid Persson helped depose the shah the Iranian king. In reaction to these reprimands, Nahid decides to make a film about the last Iranian queen Farah, who lives abroad, like herself. This leads to a fascinating encounter of two women with clashing political visions, who develop an improbable friendship in the two years of their association’


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‘Journalisten die zich meestal graag als kritische buitenstaanders presenteren, worden bij humanitaire rampen opeens volgelingen van de hulpverleners. Probleemloos gaan ze mee in de claim op neutraliteit van de humanitaire hulpverleningsorganisaties. Betrouwbaarheid en deskundigheid van de hulpverleners zijn boven journalistieke twijfel verheven.’ Onderzoeksjournaliste Linda Polman spaart in haar onlangs verschenen boek De Crisiskaravaan haar eigen beroepsgroep niet.

Donderdag 9 oktober gaf Polman in Felix Meritis een gloedvolle samenvatting van haar boek in de vorm van De Globaliseringslezing. Merkwaardig – maar vooral een beetje saai – was dat het panel bestond uit vier vertegenwoordigers van hulpverleningsorganisaties. Hun reacties op Polmans lezing droegen min of meer hetzelfde karakter (bij ons gaat dat anders). De een verpakte het intelligent, de ander hield een verkooppraatje; toch hoorde ik in essentie vier keer hetzelfde. Jammer dat er niet nog een journalist, bij voorkeur met een andere uitgangspositie, was uitgenodigd. Of dat meer moeite was gedaan om een politicus in het panel te krijgen.

Een meer algemene opmerking: de ondertitel van het boek – dat bestaat uit een spannende, soms provocerende analyse gelardeerd met goed gedocumenteerde praktijkcases – luidt ‘Achter de schermen van de noodhulpindustrie’.  Nu vrees ik dat tegenstanders van ontwikkelingssamenwerking dit boek in debatten over de zin en onzin van ontwikkelingssamenwerking zullen gebruiken om de OS hond te slaan. Dat De crisiskaravaan expliciet verslag doet van de gevoelige en gevaarlijke kanten van noodhulp, is een nuance die in discussies snel verloren zal gaan.

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Metropolis TV is a clear example of citizen journalism combining international current affairs. The television programmes and website are produced by VPRO TV in cooperation with Hivos. The TV broadcasts are aired on Fridays on Dutch public TV channel Nederland 3. They are also available on the website Metropolistv.

Unlike the directors cuts of the videos on this website (which will be subtitled in English) the TV shows are only available in Dutch.

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Walking through Amsterdam gives one time to chew on thoughts and experiences. Wednesday evening I was walking back home from the De Balie, a centre for culture and politics, located at Leidseplein. I had attended the presentation of the book The Engineerable News (Het Maakbare Nieuws)’. The anthology comprises twelve essays written by twelve Dutch correspondents in response to the controversial book Almost Human (Het zijn net mensen) by Joris Luyendijk.

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Choose the work you want, as long as you do not want to become a journalist. In Russia many parents are likely to advise their children likewise. The prospects of the Russian media are gloomy. This becomes clear at the Global Forum for Media Development. The GFMD describes itself as ‘a network of media assistance organizations around the world, promoting a collaborative effort by practitioners and researchers to develop tools to measure the impact of media programs’.

One of the speakers at the GFMD regional meeting on Central Asia (Paris, 17-19 April) is Maria Eismont, an independent media expert from Russia. She begins her talk with stating the rather provocative question: `Why have the millions of dollars spent on Russian media assistance resulted in such disappointing state of the press?’

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The presentation of Petra Stienen’s book was almost finished. I arrived too late and only could enjoy the applause. Luckily the publisher is a rather advanced media user.  An interviewer and cameraman are registering, interviewing and filming the guests until the end of the book party. Have a look here (4 min 40) for the video on the site of Stienen’s publisher Nieuw Amsterdam.

Petra Stienen studied Arabic and worked in the Arabic world for more then ten years. Now she works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. The launch in art gallery Gemak of her book ‘Dromen van een Arabische Lente’ (Dreaming of an Arab Spring) attracted around 60 friends, family and colleagues.

During the drinks I did some crowd surfing which resulted in the following short encounters:

a man was in the midst of organizing an Arabic  Film festival

a couple was planning their holiday to Lattikia, a coastplace in the north of Syria, the end (or the beginning) of the Mediterranean sea

somebody was working on an encyclopedia in Arabic

another was studying Arabic in Leiden

– a guy proudly showing his new I-Touch and considering the production of an Arabic version

also somebody was working on a review of the book

The atmosphere at this presentation was lively, diverse and topped up with a fair amount of humor. I expect to meet the same kind of people in Petra’s book.


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It was really busy at the office warming party of media organisation FreeVoice.

Amongst others I talked with a guy who is building a news site which will make it easy to share news items and interests with friends. For a first impression, have a look at the beta version. I will post a review as soon as this site is launched.

Obviously the party was a good start in a beautiful located office, right in the heart of the Mediapark in Hilversum.