1.2 Producer’s Statement By Ted Folke:
In 2007, I received an offer from the United Nations Mission to the Democratic Republic in the Congo (MONUC) to become Chief of their Video Unit. I immediately accepted, and found a very talented international staff of 10, equipped with the latest Sony HD cameras and several state-of-art editing suites. The job was a dream come true, and I found the Congo a fascinating and very complex subject.
Over the next 5 years, we produced over 200 weekly video magazines with a Congolese cast shown on all major domestic television networks, with Congolese television journalist Horeb Bulambo as our main attraction. It seems only natural now that we should be working together again with members of the MONUC Video Unit team, with Horeb as the director of CONGO: A MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?
One of the buzzwords in developmental planning circles in the past decade has been capacity building; this means passing on technological skills to developing countries so they can become self-reliant and independent. In the world of communications media, as noted previously, the cost of using analog film, audio and television technology has been a major stumbling block. Now, thanks to digital technology, this stumbling block has disappeared – a development I witnessed first hand in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where I saw the phenomenon of Radio Okapi, which is easily the most successful example of developmental communications capacity building in the world.
The result of a joint effort by the United Nations and the Swiss foundation Fondation Hirondelle, Radio Okapi was created in 2002 to provide a reliable source of national information in a country devastated by war. Today, with a staff of C. 200 reporting from around the DRC, Radio Okapi reaches over 50% of the population, and is the most popular and trusted radio station in the country; personally, I would have liked to emulate the Okapi capacity building model in digital video production, but this activity lay outside our mission mandate, and probably would have been blocked by our partners in the Congolese government, who already had periodic conflicts with Radio Okapi reporting on sensitive issues. Freedom of expression comes at a price in the DRC; three different Radio Okapi journalists have been murdered under very suspicious circumstances.
During my five years as Chief of the Video Unit, I was blessed with a superb team, and the star performers are my current partners – Director Horeb Bulambo, Cinematographer Albert Liesegang, Cinematographer/Editor Alan Brain and Editor/Graphic Designer Meriton Ahmeti. Together, we made a decision to look for good stories and to produce them in our own cinema verite style; we hated standard UN “ Voice of God” narration, and wanted to let our subjects tell their own stories whenever possible.
While we come from different backgrounds, the five of us share a dedication to the art and craft of cinema, and we are forever seeking to push the creative envelope to find new horizons to explore. Unfortunately, with its obsession with the printed word, the UN has never been able to understand visual media, with sadly predictable results.
Indeed, since 1976, I have had something of a love-hate relationship with the organization, and have left several times after creative disputes, vowing to never return. In 2000, for example, fed up with what I considered a cover up of massive Indonesian human rights violations in Timor Leste, I left UNTAET to make my own independent documentary feature about East Timor. The result, produced on a shoestring budget, EAST TIMOR: BETRAYAL AND RESURRECTION, was technically rough, but it won the prestigious UN Correspondents’ Association’s Ricardo Ortega Award for Excellence in Electronic Journalism in 2004. This film also was extremely popular with the East Timorese, who are now producing a Portuguese version for distribution to the Lusaphonic countries of the world. ( For this film, please see: https://youtu.be/j_s46-5R4OE )
In Congo, my dream has been to pick up where that documentary left off, and to produce a feature documentary showing both the existential challenges confronting UN Peacekeepers in the field, and the hopes and dreams of the people of the host nation from their perspective. CONGO:A MISSION IMPOSSIBLE? is the realization of that dream.
Our Sample Demo on Human Rights, which is Part 4 in CONGO: THE AFRICAN SPRING offers a good illustration of our cinematic style and approach. While we are telling the story of the late Fernando Castanon on one level, we have several narrative threads unfolding simultaneously to give a feeling of the unending wave of human rights violations that required investigation – with most of these cases never being brought to a satisfactory conclusion. ( For the link to our Human Rights Sample Demo, please click here: https://vimeo.com/154673345
Our talented Director Horeb Bulambo, now on location in Congo, will deliver a personal and poetic introduction to each chapter from Congo. Our editor Meriton Ahmeti is a highly skilled graphic designer with a full arsenal of fonts and animated techniques, as well as a talented composer. Along with using original Congolese music, Meriton will be creating a score for CONGO: A MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?
We are looking forward to producing a feature documentary that will be aesthetically bold, dynamic and as emotionally gripping and powerful as Congo itself. We were there four years longer than Josef Conrad, so we have a creative obligation to provide a contemporary update on his century-old vision.
For The Samba Project, LLC demo reel, please click on this link:
https://vimeo.com/140320502 (no password needed!)