Archive for April, 2011

Riots in Kampala

Just as we headed out of Kampala yesterday morning, riots broke out across the capitol city. We got bits and piece of news throughout the day: AK-47 fire forced a shut down of all businesses, the U.S. Embassy was on lock-down, and traffic between Kampala and Jinja (the road we were driving) was interrupted. “Oh Uganda!” – the headline we woke up to in the independent Daily Monitor – is right. Outrage with President Yoweri Museveni over skyrocketing inflation (200-percent in the past two months for fuel and food) reached a tipping point this week when a popular opposition leader was violently arrested. Dr. Kizza Besigye had started a “walk to work” campaign to protest the soaring inflation, and the people we’ve met are grateful to Besigye for doing something. “The government just doesn’t care that we’re suffering – that we can’t afford to drive places or feed our families… LEARN MORE

Millions for Mortenson

When Emmanuel College asked me to be the keynote speaker for their convocation ceremony last September, I just had to accept that I was their back up plan. “We tried to get Greg Mortenson,” they told me with voices trailing off. It wasn’t that Mortenson was particularly hard to get – he just came with a price. A big, big price. He commanded $25k an appearance minimum. He demanded first class airfare. And the limo better be waiting outside baggage claim. So much for Pennies for Peace. More like Millions for Mortenson. Even though my image of Mortenson waned at that time, I still enjoyed reading “Listen to the Wind,” to my 3.5 year old daughter, Isabelle, and marveled at all that he accomplished. Now, the 60 Minutes report that charges “Three Cups of Tea” is a “beautiful lie” and Mortenson’s charity is taking credit for building schools that don’t… LEARN MORE

So, this is what film directors are supposed to do…

We just visited the Taj Mahal! Sort of… Bengali film director Ahsanullah Moni made this decision: spending $58 million is worth it to give those who can’t afford a trip to India the chance to see “the” Taj Mahal. He spent five years building a replica of the 17th century monument in Sonargaon, a small town that will be an hour’s drive from Dhaka when the new highway system around the capitol city is finished in a couple years. But today it took us almost 3 hours. Open for just a short time now, the Banglar Taj Mahal is already considered one of the best spots in the country for couples to get engaged, giving it the Indian reputation of the Temple of Eternal Love even though Moni didn’t build it as a memorial to his wife as Emperor Shajahan did. No doubt there’s something enchanting about this pink-trimmed place–and… LEARN MORE

Return to Dhaka

Written on Qatar Air Flight#344 from Doha Dennis and I had been married for just a few weeks when we landed in Dhaka with our film crew in November 1998. Like I am now, we were working on a global health story, and we planned to spend a couple weeks in Bangladesh and then travel to South Africa for more filming and our honeymoon. As we made our way to rural villages and documented women walking for days to reach health clinics, our driver played a constant high-speed game of chicken with the brightly decorated buses and trucks that filled the narrow streets. The sense of doom was so great, that every day we were still alive, I began to feel more invincible than ever—-refusing at times to even wear a seat-belt. While we focused on filming, everyone else was paying attention to the nation’s favorite pastime: cricket. A big… LEARN MORE

Principle Voices: Beth Balaban on Bangladesh

Associate producer and asst. editor Beth Balaban is heading to Dhaka I’m really excited for my upcoming trip to Bangladesh. It will be my first trip abroad with Principle Pictures, and the first big shoot I’m a part of. It’s also my first time shooting one of our branded films (for Novartis), and I’ll be using our brand new camera, the Panasonic AF 100. I love this camera! The shallow depth of field, precision focus, and accuracy and saturation of the colors make the pictures gorgeous! When I started at Principle Pictures I had a strong background in theory from Emerson University where I’m wrapping up my MFA, but very little practical knowledge. Over the past year, I’ve progressively learned more and more about each phase of the production process, starting with grant writing and pre-production and eventually moving on to shooting and producing. Now, I primarily edit our branded… LEARN MORE

Where Monsters Can Grow

To help start a conversation about the connection between ignorance and hatred, “Teaching BEYOND BELIEF” (written by Columbia University Teachers College) includes this poem: WHERE MONSTERS CAN GROW Beware of the monstersWho dwell in the mind,Who grow in the shelterOf shadows they find. Beware of the demonsWho hide from the light,Who only surviveWhen our spirits lose sight. Those creatures can thriveWhere our knowledge is low;They fill in the spacesOf what we don’t know. Beware of the monstersThat cause us to hate,To strike out in angerWhen we can’t relate. For ignorance darkensThe mind and the heart,And helps all our monstersTo tear us apart. But learning and thinkingWill strengthen us soWe won’t be the placesWhere monsters can grow.

A site update

We’re going through a design overhaul. Please excuse the mess while we set up…

Principle Voices: Sean on his upcoming Fulbright scholarship

Our producer Sean Flynn received a Fulbright scholarship last month, which he will use to travel to India and produce a documentary about life in Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in Asia.The reason that I chose to apply to the Indian program specifically is that, prior to joining Principle Pictures, I’d spent two months backpacking around India with a friend of mine. I was totally enchanted and mesmerized by the country. It was a life changing experience on a lot of levels – one of those things that really made me start opening my eyes to the world. Even though I had already been thinking about getting into documentary film before that, traveling through India really cemented that decision for me. I wanted to bring stories from other cultures and other parts of the world to American audiences.Looking back on that two-month trip, I feel like I was just… LEARN MORE