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Mediavision

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This past September and early October we partnered with Mediavision Academy in Kampala, Uganda to offer one of our most successful workshop series to date. Mediavision Academy is a tertiary training institute that offers professional courses and diplomas in television, film, and radio production. It is also impressively the fastest growing film school in Uganda.

Mediavision Director, Robert Nkambo, addresses the audience at our graduation event.
Mediavision Director, Robert Nkambo, addresses the audience at our graduation event.

I had actually met Mediavision’s Director, Robert Nkambo, last year while visiting the set of a public service announcement being shot in Kampala. We immediately hit it off, and Robert showed strong interest in bringing Bent Marble’s workshops to his institution in the future. And thanks largely to his vision and persistence, a year later we have completed an amazing documentary filmmaking training program at his school.

One of the things that stood out most about Bent Marble to Mr. Nkambo, and indeed to many of the workshop participants, was how our teaching methods are highly hands-on and practical, allowing students of various experience levels to both learn faster and also share what they know. Perhaps no one has ever made this point as eloquently as Robert, himself. So let’s have a listen now to his wise words:


And perhaps no one could put a more highly-energized “exclamation point” on this theme, of the benefits of hands-on education, than workshop participant, and actor, Mulangira Chapman:

As alluded to earlier, the experience levels of the participants ranged from total novice to professional filmmaker. We even had an international award-winning journalist in our roster! But across the board, the more experienced did a highly commendable job helping their less-experienced classmates, both in explaining theories and techniques, as well as in teaming up together to make the actual films. In particular, Ugandan filmmaker and workshop co-facilitator, Raymond Kaddu, made strong teaching contributions during our unit on editing with Adobe Premiere. While most of the class was discovering the magic and potential of video editing, Raymond was more discovering the magic and potential of teaching! Let’s hear from him now as he discusses what it was like to be thrown “in the thick” of teaching this rather complex skill, to a group with vastly varying experience levels:

Now the documentaries produced by these diverse individuals were on an equally diverse array of topics, including entrepreneurship, youth mentorship through the creative arts, environmentalism, and even motor sports! In the end this cohort produced more films in a single workshop than any group to date. And their works are among the highest in caliber as well. So let’s have a look now at the fine films they produced:


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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)


Due to Mediavision having its own staff of talented photographers, we also have a real wealth of photos to share with you this time, that truly capture the energy, focus, teamwork, and joy that characterized our workshop series and graduation ceremony:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



In conclusion, I’d like to say that it was a really wonderful experience for me, personally, facilitating these workshops and, even more so, being welcomed into the Mediavision family. All the people who work at Mediavision, as faculty, administrators, and support staff, are truly kind, talented, and dedicated individuals. And the workshop participants were so incredibly enthusiastic, both about learning new professional skills, as well as crafting their own creative works. Having had such a positive experience, I know that Bent Marble will return to Uganda in the future, and I know that we will work with Mediavision again and continue this fruitful partnership.

The entire Mediavision family of staff and students from our workshops.
The entire Mediavision family of staff and students from our workshops.


Interestingly, this also marks the very first time that Bent Marble has ever returned to teach in a country. And one hundred percent of the credit for making this return voyage happen goes to Robert Nkambo, for keeping in touch with us on social media over the last year, and truly being persistent in pursuing this amazing collaboration.

What can I say, the man’s got vision. Mediavision!

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Tumaini la Maisha

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This past August we facilitated an inspirational workshop that in many ways broke the mold for Bent Marble. For starters, we worked with participants much younger than we normally do… children actually… and as young as 5 years of age! The works they made also were not limited to the genre of documentary. For in addition to conducting interviews, they also composed and directed a series of skits, that while based on their life experiences, were acted out. A final thing that made this workshop different was that the participants were not just any group of kids, but patients receiving life-saving treatment in the children’s cancer ward at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

For this project we partnered with the Tanzanian-based NGO, Tumaini la Maisha, which means “Hope for Life” in Swahili. TLM’s goal is both simple and profound: to provide ready, local access to high quality treatments to all children with cancer in Tanzania. Importantly, TLM understands that a successful treatment program doesn’t just involve the medical components, but also the psychological and social ones. For that reason they provide ample educational, recreational, and even artistic services and activities to their patients, who often reside in the children’s ward for up to a year while receiving treatment. And this is where Bent Marble and our documentary-“ish” workshops fit in.

Let’s now take a moment to hear from Tumaini la Maisha Psychosocial Program Manager, Beatrice Millinga, who talks about the benefits of these extracurricular programs, as well as of the impact that our filmmaking workshops specifically had on the kids.


As previously mentioned the films the children made in the workshops were a combination of both documentary and fiction. In the documentary portions, the students interviewed each other on personal themes ranging from friendship, to social pressure they face as young people, to life in the hospital. And in these conversations their strength, humor, and love and support for one another really shined through. The fictional skits they made touched on equally significant topics. One highlighted the risks of child marriage (still a common practice in certain parts of the country) and the associated risk of dropping out of school. Another addresses the dreams that each child holds for the future. And their final film, entitled Maisha ya Muhimbili (or “Life in Muhimbili Hospital), portrayed the journey of two families taking their sick child through the process of entry and treatment in the national hospital, itself.

This film turned out to be an particularly poignant piece, as it provides a strong example of how a population facing great challenges can express their experiences, hopes, and fears in a creative way that empowers them, as well as potentially helps countless future patients and families like their own. Indeed, TLM plans to use this film as part of their orientation process for new families admitting their sick children to the cancer ward. For who better to let you know what to expect, than the very people who have been through it themselves!

So let’s take a look now at the amazing pieces produced by these young filmmakers:

Ndoto Yangu

Maisha ya Muhimbili

(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



In addition to playing all the roles in their skits (from patients, to parents, to nurses and doctors), it is so important to note that the children, themselves, also performed all aspects of their films’ pre-production, production, and post-production. They came up with the ideas and scenarios, rehearsed the scenes in their free time, directed and performed the videography on shoot days, selected which takes would make the final cut, and created the titles and credits for the finished films.

It has been said that filmmaking is “a team sport”, in the sense that it typically requires the coordinated efforts of many individuals, each playing their part, in order to succeed. And with Tumaini la Maisha, it really was the case, and as never before in our program’s history. Even the parents and guardians of the patients, who often live full-time in the ward along with their sick children, got involved.

Let’s take a look now at a photo album from our Facebook page that captures this amazing team effort throughout the workshop series.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



I would like to offer a HUGE thanks to pediatric oncologist and TLM Director, Dr. Trish Scanlan, for having the foresight to see how Bent Marble’s workshops could potentially benefit TLM’s kids, and for encouraging us to “break the mold” and get involved. Indeed, “Dr. Trish”, as TLM staff and patients affectionately call her, has played a critical role over the years in ensuring the continuity and success of the children’s cancer treatment program. And I encourage all of you to learn more about what Tumaini la Maisha does, by checking out (and “Liking”) their Facebook page, We Are TLM.

TLM Psychosocial Manager, Beatrice Millinga (center), and TLM Program Director, Dr. Trish Scanlan (right), enjoying watching the films with the students.
TLM Psychosocial Manager, Beatrice Millinga (center), and TLM Program Director, Dr. Trish Scanlan (right), enjoying watching the films with the students.


I’d also like to extend my gratitude to TLM Psychosocial Manager, Beatrice Millinga, and TLM volunteer, Alice Frank, for being our co-facilitators, translators, and overall partners-in-crime throughout the workshops. Nothing would have gotten done on the ground without them, and they were indeed the “glue” between myself, the patients, and their families.

TLM volunteer, Alice Frank, helps the participants prepare to film an interview.
TLM volunteer, Alice Frank, helps the participants prepare to film an interview.


I am left thinking of a phrase, from the field of education, about how we often learn more from our students than they from us, as teachers. This is certainly the case for me in regards to the workshops with these inspirational young individuals. Each time I think about my experiences with them, tears well up in my eyes for the strength, resilience, innocence, and joy they showed, while face to face with a fight against a life-threatening illness. And each time the enormity of this indescribable lesson gives me pause for reflection on the precious value of each of our lives.

But beyond what they did for me on a personal level, they also made Bent Marble something different, and something more than it was before. They catalyzed a methodological metamorphosis, to include fictional and dramatized elements in Bent Marble projects, as a way to strengthen and expand the documentary’s narrative argument. And they opened our eyes to the possibility of working with populations much younger and more (for lack of a better term) “at-risk” than we ever would have dared to in the past. So in a very real way, they have breathed new life into Bent Marble, itself.

So with love, respect, and great gratitude we wish each and every one of these inspirational young filmmakers a complete recovery, and a life full of many more stories to share!

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Shared Space

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This past August we facilitated a truly fantastic workshop series at Nafasi Art Space in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. One of the premiere centers for contemporary art in the country, Nafasi Art Space hosts a myriad of art-related events, including exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, performances, artist “hangouts”, professional trainings, and workshops, like our own. In addition, their impressive campus houses over 32 studios, utilized by more than 60 member artists. These workspaces, most of which are actually made from huge, metal, freight containers, are arranged in a roughly semi-circular formation around the campus. This configuration, along with the collaborative ethos of the organization, itself, creates a unique feeling of shared space at Nafasi, where artists can constantly be found interacting, sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, and also socializing together.

nafasiartspace_panorama
A panorama of the beautiful Nafasi Art Space campus in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


The cohort of participants that we had in this workshop series was unusual in that the vast majority already had a high level of experience in media making. Indeed, some were already professional filmmakers and videographers, while the rest were largely university students, studying film, graphic design, or multi media. The group was also unusual in that it was very large, consisting of around 18 individuals (normally in our workshops we have 10-12 participants). Knowing that it would be a challenge to work with a group this size, I immediately sought out the assistance of two of Nafasi’s member artists, who work as professionals in the field of film and video production, Abdallah Mambia and Nkumi Mtingwa.

abdallah_storyboarding
Facilitator, Abdallah Mambia, draws an example storyboard on day two of the workshops.

On the first day of the workshops, where students choose, discuss, and refine the topics for their documentaries, we broke the class into two groups, with one facilitated by myself, and the other by Abdallah, who really saved the day. On the second day of the workshops, Abdallah continued his strong contribution by doing a presentation on storyboarding, a key component of pre-production. Storyboarding is a way to plan, organize, and truly “pre-visualize” a film, by drawing a sequence of cells representing the various shots that will appear in your intended motion picture. The resultant storyboard looks much like a rudimentary comic book, and serves as a blueprint for the filmmaker as she/he approaches their shoots.

Coming more, myself, from a tradition of observational cinema (in which one lets the story, more or less, unfold naturally before the camera), storyboarding was not one of my strengths. Yet I have come to find that developing this skill can be extremely beneficial, and especially to beginning documentary filmmakers, to help ensure that they go about their first projects with a clear, and visual, plan. For this reason it was wonderful to collaborate with Abdallah, whose capacities complemented my deficiencies. And based on what I’ve learned from him, I plan to introduce and utilize the concept of storyboarding in future Bent Marble workshops. Let’s hear now from Abdallah, himself, as he talks not only about the importance of storyboarding, but also about that of documentary filmmaking, as well as his overall experience of the workshops.



In a subsequent workshop, another Nafasi member artist, Nkumi Mtingwa, who specializes in animation and visual effects for film, did an outstanding presentation on using motion graphics to “add value” to one’s documentary productions. This included specific techniques to add motion to photos and titles, as well as methods of “branding” one’s film, through designing custom motion graphic elements. What was intended to be a mere one-hour lesson, was so captivating and relevant for this class of advanced learners, that Nkumi ended up teaching for the entire three-hour session! And the footprints of the professional concepts that Nkumi taught can be seen in the students’ final films. So let’s hear from Nkumi, in his own words, as he elaborates on the benefits of using motion graphics, as well as discusses the recent growth of the documentary genre in Tanzania.



Notably, as the workshops progressed, several of the participants, themselves, also stepped to the plate (or the laptop in this case), to share what they knew on topics ranging from cinematic depth of field, to color correction, to audio noise reduction. All in all, there was probably more sharing of knowledge, and indeed of the very role of instructor, in this workshop series, than in any other to date. And I strongly feel, because of this particular cohort’s high level of media making experience, that this practice served to maximize learning and intellectual engagement for all.

Unsurprisingly the films made by this talented, mutually-supportive group are truly outstanding, executed with high production value, and covering fascinating topics ranging from the struggles of a motorcycle taxi driver, to how foreigners are perceived in Tanzania, to an aspiring hip hop artist turned lawyer, to the hard life of a vegetable vendor. So without further ado, I’d like to share with you these amazing stories:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)


As an interesting side note, my living arrangements in Dar es Salaam also had a significant impact on the workshops. In order to keep Bent Marble’s costs down, we now ask that our organizational partners provide us with housing for the duration of our workshops. Nafasi Art Space graciously put me up in their guesthouse, which is located in the nearby neighborhood of Mwenge. There, my roommates were Nafasi Program Assistant, Nicholas Kimaro, and South African visiting artist-in-residence, Francois Knoetze. Living with them was a great opportunity to have some immediate friends in this giant megalopolis, as well as people with whom to share meals and spend free time. Interestingly, both of my flatmates ended up playing an important role in the workshops too, as Nico (as Nicholas prefers to be called) made sure our projector and incredibly heavy sound system were setup and functioning each class day. And Francois, himself a talented video artist (in addition to costumer designer and performance artist), presented one of his abstract, yet documentary-esque, pieces to the class, to help expand their minds as to what constitutes a documentary. So once again, the sharing of space led to kindly collaboration and fruitful results in Dar es Salaam.

Have a look now through a photo gallery from our Facebook page that captures and conveys the entire process of these workshops… from day one, to the countless contributions of our co-facilitators, to the successful public screening event and awarding of certificates.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Before signing off I’d like to offer a big, BIG thanks to Nafasi Art Space Managing Director, Rebecca Corey, Administration Manager, Maria Kessi, and their wonderful support staff and interns, for finding and enrolling an amazing group of participants, organizing and promoting our workshops and final screening event, giving us a cozy place to stay and lunch every day, and inviting us to come back again next year (hint, hint!!:). It was a really wonderful experience, with many, many new friends made from throughout the Nafasi community.

And as a final thought, as a budding student of Swahili, Tanzania’s national language, I have recently come to understand that the word, nafasi, actually means “space” or “opportunity”. And it is clear to me that by sharing space, in so many ways, this past August, we also had an amazing shared opportunity to learn from each other and grow, as teachers, as filmmakers, and, speaking for Bent Marble, as an organization as well. So with all this in heart and mind, I’d humbly like to say,

Asante sana, Nafasi!!

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Crash Course

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This past July we had the unique opportunity to take our documentary filmmaking workshops to the Zanzibar International Film Festival, the premiere film festival in East Africa, held annually on the picturesque island of Zanzibar, just off the coast of mainland Tanzania. As the festival itself spanned only nine days, and we were included as just a part of its vast programming, our typically three-week workshop had to be condensed into just five days, making it a true crash course!

Taking on this unique challenge, our group of participants was an interesting mix, ranging in age from early twenties to mid-sixties, and in experience from award-winning filmmakers to total novices. Thankfully the seasoned filmmakers, across the board, were extremely generous, by sharing what they knew, as well as sharing their filmmaking equipment, and even teaming up with those with less experience on their filmmaking projects.

Kinyanjui David assists his filmmaking group members in the sound mix of their film, Mwalimu Hassan.
Kinyanjui David (right) supervises his filmmaking group members during the sound mix of their short film, Mwalimu Hassan.

Of particular note was Kenyan filmmaker, Kinyanjui David, who both won the award at ZIFF this year for best short film, as well as did the sound mixing on the film that won this year in the best feature category. Considered by many to be the number one location sound recordist in Kenya, he naturally became a co-facilitator in the workshop, by teaching the unit on sound recording. And along with two beginning filmmakers, he also shot and directed a documentary in the workshop itself, Mwalimu Hassan, that stands as one of the very best films every made in our course… and in only five days!

Another key contributor in our workshops was Tanzanian photographer and filmmaker, Alfredy Jackson. While starting off as a participant, Alfredy soon also became a co-facilitator, by helping several groups with the editing of their projects, as well as by providing much-needed assistance with translation. Let’s now hear directly from Alfredy and other participants about their experience of the workshops:

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Besides being much, much shorter than our typical courses, our workshops with ZIFF also marked the first time that our head facilitator, Steve Clack, taught in a region where he did not speak the native language… Swahili in this case. While many students, luckily, were proficient in English, a good portion of the class was not. For this reason we had an English-Swahili translator, Malik Kiki, on the first days of our workshops. And when Malik could no longer attend, participants like Kinyanjui David, Alfredy Jackson, and Tanzanian director, Jackson Fute, stepped up to make sure that everyone stayed up to speed with the material covered. It was truly amazing how well things functioned, under this impromptu teamwork. And it opened our eyes to the potential of bringing our workshops to ANY world region… no longer limiting ourselves by the few languages that we speak.

At the conclusion of the workshops, ZIFF truly gifted us all with a fantastic finale, by letting us premiere our films on the big screen on the final night of the festival to a capacity audience. The main stage, of note, is situated in an amphitheater inside an enormous, ancient, stone-walled fort by the sea. It was truly a magical, momentous, and unforgettable experience for us all. And we’d like to share with you now, as well, the experience of watching these fine films for the first time:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



And to give you a better idea of the entire process of our workshops and time at ZIFF, have a look now through this photo gallery from our Facebook page:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



In conclusion we’d like to thank Zanzibar International Film Festival President and CEO, Dr. Martin Mhando, for inviting us, ZIFF Workshops Coordinator, Edima Otuokon, for providing us support on the ground, the Double Tree Hotel in Stone Town, Zanzibar, for providing us the space to teach our workshops, and the entire ZIFF community, for welcoming us into their family and helping our budding filmmakers realize their dreams!

Having had such a wonderful experience, we truly hope to return and offer another documentary crash course next year at ZIFF, which will notably mark the festival’s 20th anniversary. Indeed, several of this year’s participants mentioned that they’d be interested in taking the workshops again, to learn more about documentary filmmaking and to make another film… but that they also wouldn’t mind having just a bit more time to do it. 🙂

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Library Life

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This past November and December we had the opportunity to work with a talented and amicable group of adult employees from the Parque Biblioteca (public library park) in San Javier, Medellín, Colombia. This neighborhood sprawls along the hillside in Comuna 13, in the western-central part of the city. The slope of this area is so steep, in fact, that the district is served by a public cable car system! But sharp slopes, unfortunately, aren’t its only challenges, as San Javier also has had the reputation of being among the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellín.

Fortunately, Medellín’s system of library parks, stunning architectural complexes that combine library buildings with ample green space around them, were created to address the need for more cultural and education space and public services in such less affluent neighborhoods. And the cohort of workshop participants that we worked with at the Parque Biblioteca San Javier are the very individuals charged with developing and providing these crucial programs.

The films this group produced varied greatly in terms of the cinematic techniques they employed, ranging from time-lapse, to photo essay, to archival material-based, to highly impressionistic and abstract. Thematically, however, they were much more consistent, being mostly about the library park and its programs. Interestingly, this marked the first time that our workshops were largely employed to empower the personnel of an organization with new skills with which they can serve their institution. But importantly, each piece was also made in a strong personal voice and style that made it all the more compelling and entertaining. So without further ado, have a look now at these intimate and “institutional” works:

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While we typically have worked with youth in our courses, more and more we have also been facilitating workshops with adult populations… and we absolutely love it! Overall, the degree of creativity and discipline shown by our older students has been highly impressive, giving the younger folks a real “run for their money”. And truly the technologies that our curriculum is based around, like the public libraries themselves, are for everyone, and should be shared as such.

In this workshop series we also had the pleasure of collaborating with two talented facilitators from Medellín, Cristina Abad and Luis Felipe Quintana. Cristina, a seasoned freelance photographer with a strong background in documentary, imparted her great knowledge of composition, exposure, lighting, and working with subjects on a captivated audience of participants. Luis Felipe, a filmmaker and employee of the library park itself, shared his ample understanding of composition and editing, as well as assisted greatly with translational assistance in Spanish. So let’s have a listen now to what these two teaching artists had to say about their experience of the workshops:

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Along with disciplined students, and fantastic facilitators, the library also afforded us great facilities, including an impressive on-site theatre where we held our final screening event, as part of the library’s year-end community open-house extravaganza. This provided our blossoming filmmakers both a large audience and deluge of positive feedback on their new works. Have a peek now at a photo gallery from our Facebook page which highlights the entire process of this workshop series, from the initial formation of film ideas to their final presentation:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



And finally I’d like to offer our great gratitude to Nathalia Miranda Ortiz, from the Alcaldia de Medellín, and Eliana Maldonado, Director of the Parque Biblioteca San Javier, for believing in Bent Marble and giving us the space, students, and support to realize all this great work. We really rely whole-heartedly on our organizational partners, and sincerely hope to return and expand upon the programs we offer in the library parks and in this great city, as our experience here has truly breathed new life into Bent Marble.

¡Viva la biblioteca! ¡Viva Medellín! Let’s keep this marble rolling!

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Lessons from the Street

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This past November and December, through our partnership with the Alcaldia (mayor’s office) of Medellín, I had the privilege of working with an exceptional group of adult students from Comuna 11, a neighborhood in the western-central zone of the city. Working both individually and in small groups they produced an extraordinary set of films, most of which were about different aspects of street culture. Their specific topics ranged from street musicians and performers, to caring for strays and other animals, to the bicycling community. Have a look now at some of their impressive works:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



This cohort, consisting of university students, artists, civil servants, and professionals in various fields, was probably the most diverse group, demographically and personality-wise, that I have ever worked with. And I was extremely impressed with how well they “gelled”, quickly forming new friendships and helping one another with their projects, both in and out of the classroom. By the end of the course more than one participant had commented privately to me how much they enjoyed meeting their classmates, and how they felt they wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for the workshops. And importantly, this marked a significant, real-world lesson for Bent Marble as well.

While we, as an organization, are primarily concerned with promoting cross-cultural understanding and friendship between countries and continents, this most recent observation demonstrates that we can also do this, to an extent, WITHIN the workshops as well. And bridging cultural and “subcultural” divides within a community is equally important, and perhaps even more directly impactful. So with this in mind, moving forward we will definitely seek to have greater diversity represented within our workshops and public screening events.

Take a gander now at an image gallery from our Facebook page that shows this diverse group in action, in class and at their successful screening events:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



A second lesson learned from our experience in Medellín expands on Bent Marble’s value of using resources that already exist in the community. While most of our past students have been first-time filmmakers, as of late, we have also been encountering more and more who have made films before, or who have academic or professional backgrounds in visual communications or multimedia. During the workshop series in Comuna 11, the first one I’ve taught in Spanish without the “safety net” of an assistant for translation, I was still, at times, graciously assisted by a few of the students. For instance, participant and now workshop co-facilitator, John Álvarez, was experienced with Adobe Premiere video editing software. And when I drastically needed to rest my language cortex, he was there to explain in his mother tongue some of the most complicated things on our plate!

On a similar note, other participants, with ample understanding of camerawork and photography, were able to benefit the class by sharing what they knew as well. In this manner we formed a unique environment in which multiple individuals were empowered to contribute to the best of their abilities, and to the educational benefit of all. This second pedagogical point gleamed from our workshops, the concept of capitalizing on the experience and expertise that already exists in each group of participants, felt so important, in fact, that we added it to our official educational philosophy!

And now lets hear from some of the co-facilitators and participants themselves, as they comment on their experience of the workshops:

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Before signing off I’d also like to offer my sincere gratitude to Natalie Montoya Montaño and Catalina Gaviria of the Alcaldia of Medellín for all their help in finding a group of talented participants, arranging the physical space for the workshops, and organizing two highly successful screening events (one private and one very public). I know it meant a lot to our new filmmakers to share their works, hot-off-the-press, with such a large and appreciative audience. And it is experiences like these that will further inspire them to continue making films, and share their unique perspectives on Medellín’s city streets… and the world!

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Movies in Manizales

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This past September we took our free workshops to the picturesque mountain city of Manizales, Colombia. While stunningly beautiful, this region has also been plagued in the past by violence, due to guerilla and paramilitary activity, as well as poverty in certain neighborhoods. In Manizales we had the good fortune to partner with CINDE, la Fundación Centro Internacional de Educación y Desarollo Humano (the International Foundation for Education and Human Development). And with the assistance of their gracious staff, we offered workshops to participants in two CINDE affiliate programs that focus on peace-building through educating at-risk youth and young adults, Constructores de Paz (Builders of Peace) and Huellas de Vida (Footprints of Life). But rather than tell you how the workshops went, why don’t we hear this time from some of the participants themselves:


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And here are the fine finished films they produced, covering a wide variety of topics, including street art, community-building, sports, and the environment:


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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



And last, but not least, here are some photos from our FaceBook page that show these new filmmakers in action:

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Admittedly it has been a while since our last blogpost. But in recent months we’ve actually been very busy in the country of Colombia, and will have lots more to report very soon. So stay tuned!

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Happy Anniversary!!

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Well we made it! Twelve months! Four seasons! 365 and ¼ days! And what a busy and productive time it’s been. In the past year we’ve taught ten workshops on three continents and in two archipelagos. We’ve also given guest lectures and master classes at six schools and universities. Every step of the way we’ve partnered with wonderful local organizations (including English language institutes, universities, community centers for arts and education, film schools, and nonprofits) that have been critical to our success in the communities in which we’ve served. And most importantly, through our workshops we’ve inspired many, many new filmmakers, whose creativity, motivation, talent, and stories-shared have inspired us even more in return.

And our successes continue. Last week we ran another campaign on Facebook to increase awareness about Bent Marble. Through it we amazingly doubled our following, and now have more than 10,000 fans from around the world! This marks a significant milestone for our organization, and it feels wonderful to be getting the word out about who we are and what we do.

Now if you are among our more than 5,000 new Facebook fans, we would first like to offer you a warm, warm welcome to the Bent Marble community. And if you’re perhaps still a bit unclear on what exactly it is that we do, in a nutshell, Bent Marble teaches people to make their own documentaries, using the filmmaking tools (cameras, smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) they already possess, and then share their stories with the world! This is done through offering FREE filmmaking workshops internationally, so that anyone, anywhere, regardless of their means, can take part and share a story. Our past participants have ranged in age from children to seniors, and typically have had no previous filmmaking experience. But they have consistently impressed us, and themselves, with the amazing works they learn to produce in a relatively short period of time.

After the workshops, participants’ films are posted on our YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/bentmarble, so the rest of the Bent Marble community (and the rest of the world) can watch, learn, comment, and share. And we invite you to do so as well. For your convenience, we’ve also put together a selection of films that highlights the diversity of what our students have created during our first year of workshops. And if you like what you see, please support us by subscribing to our channel.

Bent Marble First Year Highlights

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



And to further illustrate how we’ve been busy this past year, here’s a gallery of photos from our Facebook page that highlights our workshops, events, and students in action:

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As you may guess, we have big plans for our second year as well. First and foremost we are eager to continue traveling and offering our free workshops. Our next stops will be in North and South America, where we are currently setting up organizational partnerships. With this in mind, if any of you know of a school, community center, nonprofit, or other organization in the Americas that might be interested in hosting one of our documentary filmmaking workshops, we would love for you to put us in touch.

Secondly, as we continue to grow, we are also looking more than ever to find other media professionals and teaching artists, whose values resonate well with our mission, beliefs and educational philosophy, to become co-facilitators in our workshops. Indeed we have found that having a diversity of both local and foreign instructors adds greatly to our students’ experience. So if you know of, or are, such an individual, we encourage you to get in contact with us.

Inquiries regarding any of this can be sent to info@bentmarble.com.

And finally, we will soon be launching an online crowdfunding campaign to raise the fundamental funds we need to keep doing what we do into our second year of operation. Our first twelve months of travel and teaching was actually entirely self-funded. And as our own financial resources are now drying up, we need your support more than ever. So stay tuned and get your cyber wallets ready 😉


All in all, we can’t thank you enough for your interest, participation, and support over the last year, and are also so thrilled to have so many new friends traveling with us here. We look forward to growing our creative community of friendship, and sharing many more stories, together with you, in the year to come.

With so much to be thankful for, this is truly a happy, happy anniversary!!

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Livity Africa

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Livity Africa is a South African youth media agency that develops multi-platform content for young people, all produced by young people aged 18 to 25. In addition to creating their own content, this organization is also highly committed to educating the next generation of media makers. Indeed, individuals accepted into Livity’s internship programs are mentored by a team of industry professionals, taught valuable digital media and marketing skills, given a solid sense of the working world, and assisted in securing jobs in the media industry. Specific areas in which they receive training include journalism, design, video, photography, marketing, and PR.

This past month I had the opportunity to facilitate one of Bent Marble’s documentary workshop series with an extremely bright group of interns at Livity’s offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. In addition to their already hectic schedule of trainings and projects, they now also had the opportunity to learn key documentary filmmaking skills, as well as to make their own short films.

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Some of the talented interns we got to work with at Livity Africa.

Now while in the “agency world”, media makers are often inclined to use the best filmmaking equipment money can buy (or rent), and to create messages that suit their client’s objectives, in our workshops, as always, we placed emphasis on using whatever filmmaking tools are readily available (however humble they may be), and telling real-life stories from a personal perspective.

I interviewed a couple of these talented interns at the end of the workshops, and it was fascinating to hear what they had to say about the advantages of these very practices. One of them, Fatima, spoke candidly on the issue of using simple tools to shoot and edit a documentary:

Another intern, Lwazi, commented eloquently on the benefits of sharing stories rooted in your own world of experience:

And here’s a sampling of the finished films made by participants in our workshop series at Livity Africa:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)


Well remarkably, as of this point we have been on the road offering our free documentary workshops for a full year! And we look forward now to returning home to the US for a bit of R&R, and to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past 12 months. We are also greatly excited to power up for the year ahead, in which we plan to take our programs and services to the next level. But more on that after a power nap 😉

Stay tuned!

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Sofari

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Although the principal purpose of my travels is facilitating documentary filmmaking workshops, I also typically take a bit of time to explore the land after my teaching responsibilities are fulfilled. The highlight of this travel period while in Uganda was unquestionably a three-day safari trip to Murchison Falls National Park, in the Northwest of the country. While I have traveled quite a bit over the years, this was the first time I had been on an actual safari, and was exposed to such great numbers of large animal life in the wild.

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Notably, before setting out into the wilderness, a couple of my students in Kampala had challenged me to make a documentary short of my own. And after all I had just put them through in the workshops, it only seemed fair. My time at Murchison was a virtual feast for the camera, as we were constantly surrounded by natural beauty, in many wondrous forms. It was almost like being behind the lens of a National Geographic documentary… perhaps despite the fact that the safari experience was actually a highly managed package tour 🙂

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Now while we typically think of documentaries as being about something “actual”, from the outer world around us, in my workshops I also strongly encourage the participants to consider sharing something from their inner worlds as well. This includes making more personally-voiced “video essays” about concepts, thoughts, and feelings that they have. My latest Clackumentary, Sofari, indeed took this form, reflecting not only on the exotic wildlife I encountered in Murchison, but also on the more general significance of what it means to journey in strange lands and have encounters with the “other”… and how that, in turn, can equally impact one’s view of self and home.

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So take a guided gaze now, through my lens of experience, as we travel in Sofari: