My Films

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bangladesh Report back

Our World 2.0 recently published the videos I co-produced while in Bangladesh. Here they are the accompanying article:

Original article

Both inland and by the shore, today’s changing climate is impacting the daily lives of the people of Bangladesh. Out of necessity, Bangladeshis are beginning to adapt by implementing traditional knowledge and practices, through self innovation and with the help of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations.

Worldwide, to varying degrees, we are all in the process of learning how to adapt to environmental changes. The front-line experience of Bangladesh will provide useful insight into the many challenges that will affect more and more places in the future.

This week, in honour of Bangladesh National Day (March 26), we bring to you a series of three video briefs that showcase the resilient Bangladeshi spirit in coping with these potentially devastating changes. These stories also provide a glimpse of how the United Nations University is working with NGOs to create a platform of knowledge sharing for climate change adaptation.

At-risk Bangladesh

On our warming planet, Bangladesh is considered to be one of the 12 highest climate-risk countries in the world. It regularly faces all of the five main identified threats that arise from climate change: droughts, floods, storms, rising sea levels, and greater uncertainty in agriculture. In particular, Bangladesh tops the list in flood disasters because it is situated in the low-lying Ganges–Brahmaputra River Delta that is formed by the confluence of three rivers and their respective tributaries, which include run-offs from the melting Himalayan glaciers.

Bangladesh — and many of the other countries on the high-risk list — are increasingly facing such hazards, despite the fact that their contribution to the world’s carbon emissions is minuscule, even in comparison to many developing nations.

On top of these climate impacts, Bangladesh is one of the most population dense countries in the world and ranks 147 out of 179 on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (PDF). The list assesses a country’s achievement in terms of human development in areas like health, education and gender equality, and not just GDP growth.

The effects of climate change are exacerbating Bangladesh’s existing problems — health, poverty, land erosion and natural disasters. At sea, the waters are getting rougher and the frequency of tropical cyclones is increasing. On land, the rain patterns are erratic, day and night temperatures fluctuate dramatically, and the country is plagued by both drought and flood.

While 80% of Bangladeshis live in rural areas and 54% work in agriculture, more and more farmers can no longer make ends meet and have begun to migrate to the bigger cities and other countries in search of a better life.

However, the Bangladeshis are not resigned to climate change doom, but instead have become active leaders in adaptation. In 2008, the national government published a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (PDF).

The country has already begun to prepare for the inevitable and irreplaceable effects of climate change. In some communities, education and awareness-raising has begun in schools. For those who live along the coast, homes are built to withstand 100 km typhoon winds and sit upon raised foundations to stave off rising waters during flooding. In addition, farmers are planting saline resistant crops that can withstand the salt water floods that plague their lands.

Ultimately, adaptation is not the longer-term solution for climate change. It has its limitations. A focus on reducing our green house gas emissions must be prioritized. In the mean time, as we’ll see in this video brief series, the people of Bangladesh are doing all they can to adapt.

Coping with rougher seas

In our first video brief, embedded at top of this page, fishermen in the Ganges-Brahmaputra River Delta are suffering some of the consequences of global climate change. For hundreds of years their traditional boats have been strong enough to fish in the Bay of Bengal.

However, today, this is no longer true. Fishermen are increasingly faced with stronger storms and rougher seas. Every time they set out to the sea to fish, they gamble with their own lives.

We met with Mohammed Illias, who has fished the waters of Magna River since he was 12. To better support his family, he saved money to purchase his own boat. However, in 2008, he and 10 other fishermen were caught in a terrible storm. The boat was badly damaged and began to sink. Luckily, all of the fisherman on-board survived.

With the help of local and international NGOs, Mohammed was able to restore his boat. By reinforcing the foundation with steel bars, his boat was made stronger. He feels confident that his boat will now be able to withstand the rough waves. As an added result, the boat now allows him travel further out into the sea and increase his catch.

In this, the second of our special three-part series in honour of Bangladesh National Day, we track how Bangladeshis are struggling to tackle local problems, such as increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns.

The changing climate is making it difficult for peasants in Bangladesh to harvest enough food from their land. Based on traditional knowledge, Bangladeshis used to be able to accurately predict when the rains would fall. They could then sow seeds in accordance to these patterns in order to yield the crops upon which they relied for survival. But rains are no longer following such a predictable schedule and the people must do their best to adjust to this new climate reality.

United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace Researcher Chun Knee Tan has been working with the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to address the growing challenges the region faces and empower local people to deal with the changes in their environment.

In partnership the two organizations have created a project designed to involve the people affected into the machinations of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, such as the Convention of Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This Community-based Implementation and Compliance of Multilateral Environment Agreements project aims to better communicate to communities on the issues surrounding such agreements and get their input and help in implementing relevant national strategies and action plans.

Kohinor, the woman in this video brief, and her husband have suffered the consequences of the unpredictable climate. The number of fish, once abundant in their water beel (wetland or pond), has dropped significantly. Due to the extreme temperature fluctuations, friends and family are catching colds more frequently and there have also been outbreaks of pests that affect their fruit and vegetables.

Through the CICMEA project, IUCN organizes community workshops like the one for the women from Fullbaria village that is shown in the video. Kohinor participated in this workshop at which she and her fellow participants mapped out the landscape of their ward, noting the changes in the area over the past 20 years and listing the resources the community possesses that can help to deal with their challenges. Through this process the group was able to determine what support they will ultimately need to receive from the government and NGOs.

In the third and final video brief of this special series on climate change in Bangladesh, we find out how school children are beginning to learn about the changes they are experiencing in their environment.

Not only are they learning about what is already happening, they are also acquiring the knowledge and skills to deal with these changes.

As part of one educational project, 14-year-old Titu Illias, who attends Obaidulla Memorial High School in Noahkali, participated in an awareness-raising play. Entitled “Let’s Hear Rana Bhai” (or “Let’s Hear from Brother Frog” in English), the play teaches children and adults some of the ways they can cope in certain climate change related situations.

For example, the children are told that when a cyclone is approaching, they should listen for the cyclone warning signal and go to the cyclone shelter immediately; or, that farmers should plant saline resilient seeds so that their crops will survive even if flooding occurs.

Titu, known for his exceptional voice, is one of the lead performers in this play, which has been a huge success and has travelled to other school districts. Titu is now keenly aware of the consequences of climate change and that we all have responsibilities in addressing it.

“I hope that my message will be conveyed to children all over the world and people will come together to help each other and reduce the climate change,” he says.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Indigenous Voices of Climate Change Film Festival @ COP15

Goddag! I am writing to you from Copenhagen, Denmark--home to the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference- which begins tomorrow. I'm here to support my colleague Citt Williams who for the past year has been tirelessly making films in some of the most remote parts of the world for the Indigenous Voices on Climate Change film festival which we have organized at the National Museum of Denmark.

The film festival which kicks off on Wednesday is a collection of not only UNU Media Studio produced documentaries, but stories form around the world on how local and indigenous people's are feeling the effects of changing climate. A short version of my most recently produced documentary on climate change adaptation strategies taking place in Bangladesh will be screened at this film festival.

Here are the basic details of the film festival or you can go straight to the Our World site for more info.

Indigenous voices on Climate Change Film Festival

9th – 13th Dec
16.00 – 18.00
Free Admission

Fifteen of the films screened at the festival can be viewed in the customized youtube play-list below. Use the button second from the left to scroll through the films.

If you happen to catch this post and are in Copehagen, please do stop by and check out the films. Otherwise, follow my twitter feed for more regular posts on COP15 and the film festival.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A step backwards for marriage

One particular subject that I have not blogged upon thus far is something that is actually quite dear to me. It is the right for same-sex marriage.

The reason why it's important to me is because it is an issue that affects some of my dearest friends.

My best friend once told me that as a little girl she envisioned herself walking down the aisle to marry the love of her life. Today, that person waiting for her at the alter happens to be of the same sex. When I hear that people are willing to deny her that happiness, as Maine did this past Wednesday, it breaks my heart to no end.

While it is a great disappointment and it shows the many challenges the movement still faces, it was even more shocking to learn on October 15 that a Louisianan Justice of the Peace denied a marriage license to an interracial couple.

As I've blogged about before, the right for interracial marriage was won in 1967 with Loving vs. Virgina case. So it's alarming that in a day in age where we are fighting for the next level of civil rights that such an incident occurred.

Luckily, this justice of the peace resigned -sending a clear signal that he overstepped the law in favor for his personal opinion/ignorance.

For me, much of the ignorance and the arguments against same-sex marriage today are the same arguments that were used against interracial marriage back in the day.

I produced the 2009 Loving Day Flagship Celebration video partly in celebration of my own multi-racial/cultural heritage but also in part to show how such an injustice can be overcome and to give hope to the challenges we are facing now. Please watch the video and pass it on to your friends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Off to Bangladesh!

On Monday, I'm headed to Bangladesh for two weeks to do a story about how the local people are affected by climate change. On our warming planet, Bangladesh is considered to be one of the 12 highest climate-risk countries. It has all of the five main threats that arise from climate change: droughts, floods, storms, rising sea levels, and greater uncertainty in agriculture. (World Bank) In particular, Bangladesh will lead in flood disasters due to its geography: ie. situated between Himalayan glaciers which are melting and the sea of Bengal.

It's sad to hear that Bangladesh, and many of the other countries on the high-risk list, is increasingly facing such threats when its contribution to the world wide carbon emissions is miniscule. On top of these climate impacts, Bangladesh is one of the most population dense countries in the world and ranks 147 out of 179 on UNDP's Human Development Index. A list which asses a countries achievement in terms of human development, ie. prosperity. 

The Bangladeshis, however, have not resigned to climate change doom but have become an active leader in trying to make adaptations both at home and abroad. In 2008, the Government of Bangladesh published the "Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan"

I have to admit that while it's very exciting to be going on this mission, I'm also a bit nervous about what I'm about to experience. Seeing and documenting the diminishing drift-ice in Hokkaido (see bottom video) is starting to feel small in comparison to meeting the men and women of Bangladesh who's homes have washed away and livelihoods destroyed to crop salination. While there, we will be working with UNU Researcher Tan Chun Knee and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature,
to document some of the efforts to create awareness and to help Bangladeshis adapt to the increasing environmental changes. 

Anyways, looking forward to my return to Tokyo and sharing my experiences with you. 'Till then.~<3

Monday, October 12, 2009

"The Cove" @ Tokyo International Film Festival

October certainly seems like the month of film festivals. With the always excellent UNHCR refugee film festival out of the way, Tokyoites now have the Tokyo International Film Festival to look forward to. Last year TIFF went eco-friendly: laying out a green carpet, using green energy for screenings, and holding a symposium on environmental issues. Adding on to that, this year, TIFF has started the Green Carpet Club, of which you can become a member:

I'll be away for most the entire duration of the film festival :( but I have one particularly film that I want to encourage you wholeheartedly to see- "The Cove."

While I feel this trailer speaks for itself, I have to say of all the amazing films I have seen recently (Burma VJ, Heart of Jenin, Age of Stupid) this by far trumps them all. 

"The Cove" is an inspirational story about an individual giving everything in order to bring awareness to not only the plight of this dolphin slaughter but the many issues related, such as mercury poisoning and the selling dolphin meat disguised as whale. Ric O'Barry, once the dolphin trainer of the beloved American TV show Flipper, now sees it as his mission to curb the ever expanding dolphin industry.  

While protecting dolphins is not necessarily my number one priority, the shear passion that Ric O'Barry emits is earth-shatteringly inspiring. I was shaking when I had the opportunity to meet him after the screening of the film at the Foreign Correspondent's Press Club in Tokyo.

The screening of the film at TIFF is on Wendesday the 21st at 10:50am. Pre-sale tickets are already sold out but if you line up early ( I would get there by 8, but Im just a film freak) I'm sure you can get a chance to catch this controversial yet well produced and incredibly moving story.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2009 UNHCR Refugee Film Festival

I apologize for the lateness of this post but the 2009 UNHCR Refugee Film Festival  is underway. Please visit the home page for the line up.

I feel this year's selection is particularly outstanding and the festival organizers purposely choose to only screen 2o films this year, allowing them to bring the many of the  filmmakers over for Q & A sessions.

Of the films selected, I have already had the great pleasure of watching two of them. The highly anticipated Burma VJ which tells the stories of the courageous Burmese video journalists who risked everything to share the stories of the 2007 Saffron Revolution. Through clever and well placed reenactments, the raw footage is woven together to give one a very real picture of the incidents that occurred that Fall. 

The second film Heart of Jenin, tells the incredible journey of a Palestinian father makes a remarkable decision when his 11 year old son Ahmed is shot by Israeli soldiers. Ismahel (the father) decides to offer his son's organs to 6 israelis, giving a second chance to children while challenging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a personal level for some of the families.   

The film festival is on until this Friday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hafu Japanese project

Since returning to Japan nearly three years ago, I've been re-exploring my Japanese and "hafu" identity. This has manifested in my collaboration with the Loving Day project and now with a projected called the Hafu/Half Japanese project by Marcia Yumi Lise and Natalie Willier.

The Hafu Japanese project examines both the physical features and identities of individuals who are of mixed Japanese decent. Thus far Marcia and Natalie (also hafus) have been photographing and interviewing hafus living in both the UK and in Japan.

Next Saturday evening, (September 19th) Marcia will be leading a talk event in which she will present her project and explore the many facets of what it means to be a hafu living in Japan.

Venue: Las Chicas in Aoyama (
Nearest station: Omotesando Exit B2 (5 mins walk)
Date: 19th of September 2009, Saturday
Time: Talk event 6pm ~, Networking Party 8pm~

6pm- Talk and In Conversation

Marcia Yumi Lise (Co-founder of the Hafu Project)
An increasing number of people are migrating between countries, which is intrinsically related to the process of globalisation. It is safe to say that most of the so called "Hafus" are the offspring of such a process. The event deals with the ways in which Hafus see the world in modern-day world, and explore their position in society using data and some theoretical framework. Inviting two guest speakers including Kota and Henry we will discuss topics related to nation, nationality, race, culture and gender.

Kota (Special guest speaker and music performance)
Kota is a musician, writer and a sports commentator. Being a transgender, "kuota" (quarter Japanese) and brought up outside of Japan, Kota has been making enquiries into her identity and gives public talks extensively. Check out her blog and professional profile.

Henry McDonald (Guest speaker)
Henry was born between a Japanese mother and a British father. Having graduated an international school in Japan, he decided to study at Birmingham University in the UK. Currently a graduate student at
Hitotsubashi University.

8pm- Networking party
A special music performance by Kota and
DJ performance by DJ No'n.

Public talk & Party
3000 yen (3500 yen at door)

Party only
2000 yen (2500 yen at door)