Satinder Bindra: It’s the message, stupid (and never mind the UN branding)!

Satinder Bindra (left) and Keya Acharya

Satinder Bindra (left) and Keya Acharya at IFEJ 2009 Congress


Satinder Bindra left active journalism a couple of years ago when he joined the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as its Director of the Division of Communications and Public Information (DCPI) based at UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi. But thank goodness he still thinks and acts like a journalist.

Satinder, whom I first met in Paris in the summer of 2008 soon after he took up the new post, gave a highly inspiring speech to the latest congress of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ), held at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi from 28 to 30 October 2009.

We have gone beyond the cautionary stage of climate change, and are now acting out ‘Part II’ where we have to focus on what people can do, he said. “Climate change is no longer in doubt, and if anything, the IPCC’s scenarios are turning out to be under-estimates.”

He was referring to the IFEJ congress theme, “Bridging North-South Differences in Reporting Climate Change: Journalists’ role in Reaching an Ambitious Agreement at COP15 in Copenhagen”.

Satinder sounded emphatic when he said: “We have a limited time in which to reach as many people as possible. Environment is the single biggest challenge we face in the world today, and we as journalists have a tremendous responsibility in providing the latest, accurate information to our audiences.”

He added: “There is still a debate among journalists on whether or not we should be advocates for the environment. We should not be scared to push the best science, even if we don’t choose to engage in advocacy journalism.”

Satinder mentioned the “Paris Declaration on Broadcast Media and Climate Change,” adopted by delegates at the first UNESCO Broadcast Media and Climate Change conference held in Paris on 4-5 September 2009. It resolved to “strengthen regional and international collaboration, and encourage production and dissemination of audiovisual content to give a voice to marginalized populations affected by climate change”.

Satinder, who was a familiar face on CNN as its South Asia bureau chief until 2007, acknowledged that the media landscape was evolving faster than ever before. “Thanks to the web and mobile media, our distribution modes and business models are changing. YouTube has emerged as a key platform. Viral is the name of the game.”

His message to broadcasters, in particular, was: “You may be rivals in your work, but when it comes to saving the planet, put those differences aside.”

Copy of Seal the Deal

A call to the whole planet...

Satinder is spearheading, on behalf of UNEP, the UN-wide Seal the Deal Campaign which aims to galvanize political will and public support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement in Copenhagen in December.

To me at least, the most important part of Satinder’s speech was when he said that he was not seeking to promote or position the UNEP or United Nations branding. His open offer to all journalists and broadcasters: “If you need to use the hundreds of UNEP films, or make use of our footage in your own work, go right ahead. We want you to make journalistic products. There’s no need or expectation to have the UN branding!”

Wow! This is such a refreshing change — and a significant departure — from most of his counterparts at the other UN agencies, who still think in very narrow, individual agency terms. They just can’t help boxing the lofty ideals of poverty reduction, disaster management, primary health care and everything else within the agenda setting and brand promotion needs of their own agencies.

I have serious concerns about this which I have shared on a number of occasions on this blog. See, for example:
May 2007: Feeding Oliver Twists of the world…and delivering UN logos with it!
August 2007: ‘Cheque-book Development’: Paying public media to deliver development agency logos
October 2007: The many lives of PI: Crisis communication and spin doctors
July 2009: Why can’t researchers just pay the media to cover their work?

In a widely reproduced op ed essay published originally on MediaChannel.org in August 2007, I wrote:

“As development organisations compete more intensely for external funding, they are increasingly adopting desperate strategies to gain higher media visibility for their names, logos and bosses.

“Communication officers in some leading development and humanitarian organisations have been reduced to publicists. When certain UN agency chiefs tour disaster or conflict zones, their spin doctors precede or follow them. Some top honchos now travel with their own ‘embedded journalists’ – all at agency expense.

“In this publicity frenzy, these agencies’ communication products are less and less on the issues they stand for or reforms they passionately advocate. Instead, the printed material, online offerings and video films have become ‘logo delivery mechanisms’.”

Let’s sincerely hope that the pragmatic and passionate Satinder Bindra will be able to shake up the communication chiefs and officers of the UN system, and finally get them to see beyond their noses and inflated egos. It’s about time somebody pointed out that vanity does not serve the best interests of international development.

See also April 2007 blog post: MDG: A message from our spin doctors?

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Calling All Climate Films: Engage the world with EngageMedia!

May a million Al Gores rise to this challenge!

May a million Al Gores rise to this challenge!

Exactly this time last year, in early October 2008, I spoke to a group of Asian broadcasters and film-makers gathered in Tokyo on what it takes to stand on Al Gore’s shoulders.

Whatever we might think about the artistic and technical merits of his climate film An Inconvenient Truth, it has settled with a resounding ‘yes’ one question: can a single film make a difference in tipping public opinion about a matter of global importance?

But the climate crisis that confronts us is so formidable that we need many more Al Gores to come up with as many moving images creations as they can.

EngageMedia, a video sharing site about social justice and environmental issues in the Asia Pacific, has put out a call for video/TV films on climate crisis, climate action, climate justice and climate solutions. They plan to ‘put the best stories on a DVD and in an online package to be screened and distributed before, during and after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Their call out for all climate films says: “This December thousands of delegates, decision makers, stakeholders and activists will converge on Copenhagen. To be part of this EngageMedia is putting together a compilation of Asia-Pacific climate films to be screened and distributed at the event and around the world. Submit your film to EngageMedia and be part of the action. Global action is urgent and essential – the time for debate is over.”

TVE Asia Pacific
, already a partner on EngageMedia platform, is submitting all its recently produced climate change films.

Read the full text of Climate Crisis Video Call-Out: Time for Reel Action!

Nollywood rising: Low cost, high volume film industry entertains Africa

Lights, camera...budget action! Image courtesy 'This Is Nollywood'

Lights, camera...budget action! Image courtesy 'This Is Nollywood'

Here’s a general knowledge question: Everyone knows India’s Bollywood is the world’s largest producer of movies (by number). Which country’s movie industry comes second?

If you said Hollywood, that’s a dated answer. America’s movie industry used to be the second largest in the world — until an unlikely contender turned up from…Nigeria!

India remains the world’s leading film producer but Nigeria is closing the gap after overtaking the United States for second place, according to a global cinema survey conducted by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

Bollywood produced 1,091 feature-length films in 2006 compared to 872 productions (in video format) from Nigeria’s film industry, commonly referred to as Nollywood. In contrast, the United States produced 485 major films.

The three heavyweights were followed by eight countries that produced more than 100 films: Japan (417), China (330), France (203), Germany (174), Spain (150), Italy (116), South Korea (110) and the United Kingdom (104).

Nigerian filmmakers rely on video instead of film to reduce production costs. And as the survey points out, Nigeria has virtually no formal cinemas. About 99% of screenings occur in informal settings, such as “home theatre”.

This is Nollywood

This is Nollywood

The UNESCO survey reveals another key element of the Nigerian success story: multilingualism. About 56% of Nollywood films are produced in Nigeria’s local languages, namely Yoruba (31%), Hausa (24%) and Igbo (1%). English remains a prominent language, accounting for 44%, which may contribute to Nigeria’s success in exporting its films.

Nollywood’s rising has been chronicled in a 2007 documentary by Franco Sacchi and Robert Caputo. Called This is Nollywood, it tells the story of the Nigerian film industry – a revolution enabling Africans with few resources to tell African stories to African audiences. Despite all odds, Nigerian directors produce between 500 and 1,000 movies a year. The disks sell wildly all over the continent – Nollywood actors have become stars from Ghana to Zambia.

Says Zambia-born director Franco Sacchi: “When I first read about Nigerian directors producing hundreds of feature-length films with digital cameras, a week, and a few thousand dollars, I found the subject irresistible. Here was not only a rare positive story about Africa, but one that embodied the egalitarian promise of digital technology—anybody can make a movie. And Nollywood was virtually unknown.”

This is Nollywood takes us behind the sets and scenes in one Nigerian movie being made on the cheap — and fast. Acclaimed director Bond Emeruwa sets out to make a feature-length action film in just nine days. Armed only with a digital camera, two lights, and about $20,000, Bond faces challenges unimaginable in Hollywood and Bollywood.

Emeruwa says: “We are telling our own stories in our own way, our Nigerian way, African way. I cannot tell the white man’s story. I don’t know what his story is all about. He tells me his story in his movies. I want him to see my stories too.”

Watch This is Nollywood: Movie Trailer

I then came across this TED Talk by Franco Sacchi, where he takes us through Nollywood (at the time he gave his talk, the world’s third largest and now second only to Bollywood). He talks about ‘guerrilla film-making’ and brilliance under pressure from crews that can shoot a full-length feature in a week.

Welcome to Nollywood is another 2007 documentary film, directed by Jamie Meltzer, that looked at the Nigerian film industry. Its findings were similar to those of This is Nollywood. Traveling to the country’s chaotic capitol, Lagos, Meltzer spent ten weeks following three of Nigeria’s hottest directors, each different in personality and style, as they shot their films about love, betrayal, war, and the supernatural.

At around US$250 million per year (and rising), Nollywood’s capital outlay is far below that of Hollywood and Bollywood. For perspective, that’s a bit less than what it cost to make Spiderman 3 in 2007 (budget: US$ 258 million) — the second most expensive film made. See list of most expensive Hollywood films.

Telling their own stories....

Telling their own stories....

But what it lacks in capital, Nollywood more than makes up in numbers and mass appeal. As the Wikipedia notes, Nigerian directors adopt new technologies as soon as they become affordable. Bulky videotape cameras gave way to their digital descendents, which are now being replaced by HD cameras. Editing, music, and other post-production work is done with common computer-based systems.

As Colin Freeman wrote in the Daily Telegraph, UK: “While the likes of Serpent in Paradise and Evil Finger may not be as slick as their Hollywood counterparts, they offer one thing that the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt can never provide: characters and stories with which an African audience can identify.”

And according to The Economist, it all started in 1992, when Kenneth Nnebue, a Nigerian trader based in Onitsha, was trying to sell a large stock of blank videocassettes he had bought from Taiwan. He decided that they would sell better with something recorded on them, so he shot a film called “Living in Bondage” about a man who achieves power and wealth by killing his wife in a ritualistic murder, only to repent later when she haunts him. The film sold more than 750,000 copies, and prompted legions of imitators.

The rest, as they say, is now Nollywood history.

Read my August 2007 blog post: “If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will”

Communicating disasters on film: Experts, please don’t cross this line!

Global Platform bannerExperts should let film-makers produce professional films in simple terms that are more appropriate for public audiences, instead of trying to produce films that have little chance of being broadcast or distributed in other ways. There is a role for technical experts – but that’s not in the crafting and directing of films, but in providing the knowledge, clarifications and guidance to film-makers and journalists who are professionals in communicating complex issues to non-specialist publics.

Self-evident as it may be, these home truths are well worth reiterating every now and then — especially to experts and officials who keep forgetting them (sometimes with disastrous and expensive results!). So I was very glad to read that these points were emphatically made at a ‘film debate’ held in Geneva last week.

The occasion was a panel discussion, ambitiously titled ‘The role of film-makers in promoting climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction stories’. It was held on 17 June 2009 as part of the Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva.

Moderated by the well known journalist, writer and producer Edward Girardet, from Media21, Geneva, it involved five panelists drawn from media/communication sector and the disaster/humanitarian sectors. Among the panelists was my colleague Robert Lamb, director of One Planet Pictures, UK, and consultant producer with dev.tv, Switzerland.

The debate’s premise was simple: So far much of the thrust of the film industry, NGOs, UN organizations and media in portraying disasters and climate change has focused on outcome – which is more visually stimulating – rather than showcasing vital prevention and adaptation solutions. This is necessary, but not sufficient. What can be done to improve the interaction between the film/news industry and leading organizations dealing with disaster risk management and climate change adaptation on a daily basis?

Interviewing tsunami survivor in Tamil Nadu, India - image from TVEAP

Interviewing tsunami survivor in Tamil Nadu, India - image from TVEAP

This was similar to the approach we had in TVE Asia Pacific’s Communicating Disasters project in Asia (2006-2007). We too explored the common ground for these two sectors, with their distinctive needs, and asked how the two can support each other without stepping on each others’ toes.

The same discussion continued in Geneva. I’ve limited information on what actually transpired during the debate, and am hoping someone will soon write it up. For now, here’s a summary adapted from UN-ISDR daily coverage (the official language is theirs, not mine):

“More than 150 participants attended a thought-provoking film debate. The five panelists discussed how to enhance the interaction between the film/news industry and leading organizations dealing with climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster management to increase CCA visibility which is very limited today in film productions.

“Eight short films were presented during the session, among them a short trailer of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and a CCA film shot in Burkina Faso produced by Christian Aid. After identifying a number of challenges due to their formats and audiences, film-makers and experts agreed it was important to work more closely to make more films on the solutions offered by CCA.

“Film-makers suggested that experts should let them produce professional films in simple terms that are more appropriate to their audiences and focus on bringing expert knowledge to enrich the content of their current productions instead of producing films that have little chance to be broadcast or distributed.”

All this reminds me of a discussion we had around an earlier blog post where I asked: Anyone can make video film, right? So why do we need professionals?

‘The Final Inch’: Real ‘Oscar’ would be polio’s global eradication!

Not longer just a drop in the ocean...

No longer just a drop in the ocean..?

The Final Inch didn’t win the Oscar for the best short documentary film made in 2008. But the nomination has given a boost to the film and its cause: even before its official release in April 2009, it is already raising global awareness on the major public health challenge of banishing polio from the planet.

The Final Inch is a testament of the health workers around the world laboring to make polio the second globally eliminated disease behind small pox, says director Irene Taylor Brodsky.

The 37-minute film, due to air on HBO on 1 April 2009, looks at the “the final stages of a 20 year initiative” to eradicate polio. It focuses the polio vaccine efforts in India and Pakistan, which are among the last four countries where polio is still endemic (the other two being Afghanistan and Nigeria).

Watch the trailer for The Final Inch:

The campaign to eradicate polio is now 21 years old. World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and Rotary Foundation embarked on this campaign in earnest in 1988, and as a young (and equally earnest) science journalist, I remember writing about its early strategies, goals and targets. But the virus has proven to be a lot more stubborn than originally expected.

Well, the campaign has scored remarkable victories, and a little over 1,600 people in the world were stricken by polio in 2008. (AIDS and malaria, in contrast, killed more than three million people.) Compare that with 350,000 cases per year when the global onslaught started, and we see there has indeed been progress.

But the virus – and the crippling disease it causes – persists in several poor, densely populated countries in Asia and Africa. Updates are available from Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Thus it’s the ‘last inch’ – or last mile, if you like – that’s proving the hardest to traverse. In a perceptive essay published in Newsweek in January 2009, Fred Guterl noted: “It’s not easy to wipe a disease off the face of the planet—especially one like polio, which spreads easily and quickly through contact and occasionally through contaminated food and water. Only one in 200 children who contract the virus shows symptoms (usually paralysis), which makes the other 199 silent carriers.”

It’s not just biology that polio eradicators are up against. Indeed, human superstition and religious dogma have made the final inch particularly contentious and treacherous for public health workers.

In 2005, TVE Asia Pacific started distributing a global documentary on immunisation called Fragile Lives: Immunization at Risk. It showed how at least 2 million children die every year from diseases that that vaccination could easily prevent.

Foot soldiers of the largest non-military army in history engaged in its final battle

Foot soldiers of the largest non-military army in history engaged in its final battle

At one point, the film takes us to Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, to show how polio, eradicated in most of the world, stubbornly persists in a few countries. This very poor state with its 272 million inhabitants had two thirds of the world’s polio. We talk to the glamorous young cricketer, Mohamed Kaif, who helps publicise a massive campaign to get every single child to the vaccination booths. The film discovers the strange reason behind why so many Muslim parents refuse to have their children vaccinated.

The Final Inch features the heroic efforts of Munzareen Fatima, a field worker in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, who is a part of UNICEF’s Social Mobilisation Network for ensuring vaccination coverage. She reaches out to her target group through personal and public intervention programmes.

As she told IANS: “It has been a tough journey for me over the last five years to convince 470 families at Dufferin block in Khairnagar to administer polio drops to their children. I met with resistance from the families, who initially refused to immunise their children. The conservative community also belittled me for stepping out of home to campaign against polio.”

India is not alone. If anything, misplaced resistance to polio vaccination has been stronger in Pakistan. As IPS reported in August 2006, the country’s drive against polio was hit by both rumours and litigation.

The news story, filed by Ashfaq Yusufzai in Peshawar, noted: “The reliability and safety of oral polio vaccine (OPV) has been put under scrutiny in Pakistan after wild rumours that it causes impotency snowballed into a writ petition in a high court.”

Bill Gates: geek power and bucks to battle polio...

Bill Gates: geek power and bucks to battle polio...

Religion-inspired superstitions have often stood in the way of achieving sufficient vaccination coverage, leaving room for viruses to spread again. Religious leaders sometimes strengthen the hand of those making pseudoscientific claims, says South African science writer George Claassen. Writing in SciDev.Net in April 2008, he noted: “Attempts to eliminate polio in Nigeria, for example, ran into problems when Datti Ahmed, the chair of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Kano state, referred to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as ‘modern-day Hitlers… who have deliberately adulterated the oral polio vaccines with antifertility drugs and contaminated them with certain viruses which are known to cause HIV and AIDS.'”

This brings up an interesting scenario of virus vs. virus. Richard Dawkins, the well known British evolutionary biologist and writer, has called religion the most malevolent form of a ‘mind virus’. According to Dawkins, faith − belief that is not based on evidence − is one of the world’s great evils. He claims it to be analogous to the smallpox virus, though more difficult to eradicate.

Of course, the mistrust of vaccines is not just limited to the developing world, nor is it always inspired by religion or superstition. Sometimes over-protective moms can be just as irrational. Fragile Lives, for example, took us to Dublin, Ireland, where there have been two serious outbreaks of measles – largely due to mothers rejecting vaccination because of the MMR controversy. In some parts of Ireland only 60% instead of the necessary 95%, have been vaccinated.

Sharing archives: Will broadcasters (finally) put planet before profit?

I have long wondered if both radio and TV broadcasters store their archival material in black holes – into which everything disappears and nothing ever comes out. And certainly, nothing is shared with anyone else.

In a widely reproduced and commented op ed essay written for SciDev.Net in November 2008, titled Planet before profit for climate change films, I noted:
“It isn’t just climate-related films that are locked up with copyright restrictions. Every year, hundreds of television programmes or video films — many supported by public, corporate or philanthropic funds — are made on a variety of development and conservation topics.

“These are typically aired once, twice or at best a few times and then relegated to a shelf somewhere. A few may be released on DVD or adapted for online use. But the majority goes into archival ‘black holes’, from where they might never emerge again. Yet most of these films have a long shelf life and could serve multiple secondary uses outside the broadcast industry.”

Escape from the Southern 'black hole'?

Escape from the Southern 'black hole'?

Well, it seems things are changing, albeit very slowly. Last month, we welcomed the announcement from Al Jazeera sharing their news footage online through a Creative Commons license — the first time that video footage produced by a news broadcaster is released for commercial and non-commercial use.

Now comes the news that Australia’s public broadcaster ABC is releasing selected content from its vast archives for non-commercial use by others. And we must thank Charles Darwin for that.

On 12 February 2009, to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, ABC started releasing some archival materials, all based loosely around the theme of evolution and mutation. This Australian first was achieved through ABC’s collaborative media site, Pool.

In an imaginatively named effort called Gene Pool, ABC started off with a recording from its archives of genetics professor Steve Jones talking about Darwin’s life and work.

The next offering to Gene Pool would be a clip from ABC’s Monday Conference in 1971 featuring Stanford entomologist Paul Ehrlich talking about climate change (yes, it’s from 38 years ago!).

These materials are being released under the Creative Commons 3.0 licence allowing people to reuse or remix them in any way they like — as long as it’s for non-commercial use.

On Gene Pool website, ABC said: “You can also create your own work exploring the themes of evolution and mutation in lateral ways, and share them back into the Gene Pool.”

A framework for sharing...

A framework for sharing...

As Creative Commons Australia explained: “This means that people can tweak, twist and remix the files to create their own creative interpretation of the themes of evolution and mutation, and share these results with the rest of the world. The idea is to build a whole community up around the project, remixing and reusing the ABC archival material in new and previously unthought of ways. This all culminates in a public exhibition of Gene Pool pieces at Melbourne’s RMIT on November 24th – the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s book The Origin of Species.”

They added: “Just imagine what gems might be hidden away in ABC filing cabinets, waiting to be discovered and put to good use by the population that payed for them in the first place.”

That’s precisely what I’ve been saying for a long time – the taxpayer-funded broadcasters like BBC, NHK or ABC (and their equivalents in other countries) have no moral right to lock away their archives on legal or technical grounds. And to think that some of the content thus held up could actually help us in winning history’s eternal race between education and catastrophe!

Nothing escapes this one...for now

Nothing escapes from this one...for now

The BBC – hailed as a model public broadcaster worldwide – is among the worst offenders on this count. It holds one of the largest archives on environment, natural history and wildlife filmed all over the planet for several decades, yet it stubbornly refuses to share this material with anyone, even when it’s only for strict non-commercial, educational use. Read one example in my July 2007 blog post, The Lawyers who locked up the Butterfly Tree.

This myopic selfishness is contrasted (and put to shame) by exceptional film-makers like Richard Brock (who worked with BBC Natural History Unit for 35 years before leaving it unhappy over its rights management) who have decided to open up their personal video archives for non-commercial use especially in the majority world where such material is in short supply.

We can only hope that ABC’s move would build up pressure on the stubborn old Auntie BBC to finally relent. In fact, this might be a chance for all those public broadcasters – many of them now ‘Aunties without eyeballs’ – to redeem themselves at last, ending decades of copyrights tyranny. (And if that puts their inhouse lawyers out of a job, they can join greedy bankers now lining up for public forgiveness!)

ABC says about its tentative steps to the world of open archives: “It’s a small offering to start but there’ll be a lot more to come. We’re working madly behind the scenes getting clearance to release more more more.”

Watch this space…and keep an eye on that Gene Pool!

Shooting wildlife or wild-life: Environmental film-makers’ dilemma

Speaking of wild-life to a mild audience....

Speaking of wild-life to a mild audience....Photo by Niroshan Fernando, TVEAP

The Wildscreen film festival got underway at the British Council Colombo this morning.

The keynote address was delivered by Sri Lankan minister of environment and natural resources. The British Council asked me to speak a few words at the opening as TVE Asia Pacific is a local partner for this event.

Here’s what I said, which sums up why we are in this business:

We are delighted to be partners in hosting Wildscreen film festival in Sri Lanka. We thank our friends at the British Council and Wildscreen festival for this opportunity to join hands.

May I say a brief word about ourselves. We’re Television for Education Asia Pacific — trading as TVE Asia Pacific. We’re a regionally operating media foundation anchored in Colombo and engaging developing countries of Asia. We were set up in 1996 by a group of Asian and European filmmakers and TV professionals to cover the full range of development issues using broadcast television, narrowcast video and now, the web.

We are driven by a belief that what is happening in the world’s largest and most populous region has far-reaching implications not just for our region — but also for the entire planet.

When introducing our work, I like to recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi. Once, when asked by a visiting foreign journalist for his views on wildlife in India, he said: “Sadly, wildlife is declining in our jungles, but wild – life is increasing in our cities.”

It is precisely this wild–life that interests us more. In our work we keep asking: when life itself is going wild, what hope and prospects are there for wildlife, Nature and environment?

For example, we’ve literally just finished a short film looking at environmental restoration of Afghanistan. This will be screened to the environmental minister from around the world who will gather shortly for the UN Environment Programme’s Governing Council meeting in Nairobi.

We can't just walk into a glorious sunset and forget real world challenges - Photo by Niroshan Fernando, TVEAP

We can't just walk into a glorious sunset and forget real world challenges - Photo by Niroshan Fernando, TVEAP

Capturing wild-life is now the focus and concern of wildlife and environmental film makers everywhere. There was a time, not too long ago, when films used to simply capture the beauty of Nature and the diversity or behaviour of plants and animals. Such documentation is still very necessary and useful — but it’s no longer sufficient.

In the past couple of decades, all film makers have been challenged to look at how our own ‘wild’ ways of living affects:
– each other in our own human species;
– the rest of Nature and other species; and
– also, the future of life on Earth.

We see this transformation reflected in the content of films entering Wildscreen and other film festivals. I saw early signs of this when I served as a juror at Wildscreen 2000 festival. This process has gathered momentum since.

To remain relevant and topical, films can no longer just cover ‘green’ subjects — they have to acknowledge the ‘brown’ issues as well as the harsh black-and-white, life-or-death concerns such as climate change.

At the same time, we have seen a rapid diversification of formats or genres — especially with the emergence of online and mobile platforms. These now compete with broadcast television to engage audiences. This is both good news and bad news for us engaged in film making and film outreach. Yes, we now have more ways of reaching people than ever before. But engaging audiences is harder: people have more choice — and more distractions!

Of course, we can’t just give up the good struggle and walk away into those beautiful sunsets. At TVE Asia Pacific, we believe that making good films is only half the job done. Distributing them far and wide is just as important. This is why the slogan of our own organisation is: Moving images, moving people!

In that process, film festivals such as this one play a key role. We’re very happy to add an extra day of screenings to this event. On Saturday in this auditorium, we’ll be showing a number of films on climate change and sustainable development drawn from our own catalogue of films we distribute to broadcast, civil society and educational users across Asia.

These are small efforts in a big world. I can only hope all these help us in winning history’s greatest race – which, according to H G Wells, is one between education and catastrophe!