My Films

Thursday, May 29, 2008

June 25: Refusenik at the Refugee Film Festival

The schedule for the Refugee Film festival has been announced! The documentary film that I worked on Refusenik will be screened on the 25th of June at the Instituto Cervantes de Tokio at 7:30 pm. I will be speaking in the Q&A after the screening, so please come and support me and this amazing documentary about a people's movement that spanned thirty years to bring freedom to the Soviet Jews. Also let me not forget to mention this screening and all other films as part of the Refugee Film fest is absolutely FREE!

Just to represent this information in easily retainable way:

What: Refusenik
When: Wed, June 25, 2008 at 19:30
How much: FREE!!!
Where: Instituto Cervantes de Tokio
2-9, Rokubancho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0085
Phone: 03 5210-1800
Directions: Nearest Station: Koujimachi Station. Subway Yurakcho Line
(3 minutes walk from Exit B5 towards Ichigaya)
Other stations: Ichigaya Station. JR Sobu Line, Subway Yurakcho Line, Namboku Line, Shinjuku Line (6 minute walk) Yotsuya Station. JR Chuo Line, JR Sobu Line, Subway Namboku Line, Shinjuku Line (7 minute walk)

There are also some other great films that I am really keen on seeing such as War/Dance, New Year Baby, NKBA Palestine 1984 and many others, so check out the schedule below.

Also, since this entire film festival is a free and open to the public, there will be a fundraiser pre-party at Seco Lounge on the 18th of June.
Refugee Film festival PreParty

Date: June 18th [Wed]

Time: 7pm to 11pm

Place: Seco Lounge, 03-6418-8141

Price: ¥1500 [does not include drink]

Live: Chaos Theory
Rhythm Droid
West African performers to be announced

Painting: Amadou Tounkara (Senegal)

Visuals: M.M.M

Come, come, come!! xox

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thesis Summary: How new media contributes to peacebuilding

For those of you who have expressed an interest in reading my thesis, instead of making you suffer through 111 pages, I suggest reading this summary:

New Media Technology: The Next Platform in Peacebuildling Dialgoue


Nishikura, Megumi

In today's modern industrialized world, it is nearly impossible for one to go through the day with out watching television, hearing the radio, or getting an email with latest viral video attached from a friend. Media is pervasive; people today live in a society where they are plugged and receiving information seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. With the development of global news media giants such as CNN over the last twenty years, news reports are up to the minute and can be delivered to your latest mobile device. Since the development of the Internet, more and more people are tuning to it for their sources of information. With the click of a button one has thousands of sources of information on the same topic. The Internet also allows anyone to participate in public discourse on issues and influence policies and political decisions.

Media is ultimately a tool that conveys information. It can be used both for good and for ill. It can fan the flames of the conflict or aid in conflict prevention and resolution. Radio transmitters and television stations have been used to induce conflict. The most famous example of this is the “Hate Radio” in Rwanda in 1994. Radio Mille Collines ignited the Rwanda Genocide- nearly a million people were killed in the span of 100 days. However, media has been used to bring people together instead of dividing them. In the 1980's a new form of communication emerged. It brought people together from across the globe and allowed them to exchange their feelings, concerns and thoughts. This technology was the satellite television exchange called Spacebridges. During the height of the Cold War, Spacebridges brought everyday Americans and Soviets together, bypassing their heads of state, to have a conversation with the "other" side.

Today's technology, the Internet and the increasingly ease of posting videos on-line is allowing for a new break through in communication. The social networking aspect of web 2.0 is allowing more people to interact and dialogue with each other than ever before. Add peacebuilding media that addresses some of humanity's most pressing global issues, and people gain knowledge, begin to question and dialogue—the basis of any significant social change. The growth of Internet has also allowed for alternative media to contribute and increase the diversity and perspectives of information.

Media for conflict resolution and peacebuilding is a relatively new field. Much of the research that has been done thus far has focused on media democracy, information communication technology, peace journalism, and peace-building media in developing nations. The focus of my thesis is a case study on a media organization that is taking advantage of this new media technology to dialogue between people from opposite sides of a conflict.

Chat the Planet, a New York based media organization, has being using media as tool to bring young people from around the world together. The programs Chat the Planet produces connects young people to talk about “everything from politics, prejudices and war to sex, music and life in general” (, 2008). Since its beginning in 2002, Chat has evolved along with new media technology to provide the latest cutting-edge way of communication and dialogue between youth beyond the borders of nations, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Using satellite and ISDN video link-up technology, Chat the Planet connected groups of young people in studio settings from opposite sides of the world to have conversations with each other.

Their latest project, Hometown Baghdad is a documentary web-series which follows the lives of three 20-some-year-old Iraqis, capturing their every day lives intimately as they live under the US occupation in Baghdad, Iraq. Originally, Chat the Planet aimed to have the Hometown Baghdad air as a television program and approached the major networks for funding and distribution. However, they were turned down time and time again. The networks reasoned that the American public was over-saturated with news from Iraq and that audiences would find the show boring. With limited budget and time constraints, Chat the Planet began uploading the documentary videos to YouTube on the fourth anniversary of the War on Iraq.

Hometown Baghdad succeeded in building bridges between youth of the opposite sides of the US- Iraq war by providing a virtual space where they could dialogue, debate and build friendships with each other. Chat the Planet choose upper-middle class English speaking non-devout Muslims to resonate with US viewers. The participants selected for Hometown Baghdad were Adel, an aspiring rock star, Ausama, a 20 year old medical student, and Saif, a 23 year old recent college graduate in dentistry. The stories of these three young men were told through webisodes-short vignettes of about two to three minutes.

Chat the Planet's objectives for Hometown Baghdad were to: Humanize the people of Iraq for a global young adult audience ages 18-34, thereby changing attitudes and stereotypes of negativity and fear; educate through storytelling of what young people are all about in Iraq; demonstrate through storytelling that we all have far more in common than different; leverage media and technology to foster dialogue amongst young adults around the world, showcasing the topic of everyday life in a war zone. The videos were uploaded three times a week to and various other video-sharing sites. Chat discovered that by creating weekly compelling video content they were able to build a dedicated viewership. The video-sharing websites provided a count the number of views. The comments function of Youtube allowed the audience to give feedback on the content of the show and provided qualitative data of the show's impact. The results show that the Hometown Baghdad videos have been viewed about 3 Million times and hundreds of comments left on the Hometown Baghdad blog and various websites.

Through the 38 episodes, Hometown Baghdad addressed hard topics such as US troops, safety and security, and democracy and liberation. The day to day challenges such as lack of electricity, garbage disposal, and transportation were also shown. Chat the Planet, knowing how to best reach young people, also covered issues such as dating, student life, and smoking shisha. The two to three minute length of each webisode played a key role in getting viewers to leave comments and participate in dialogue with the cast as viewers are more likely to leave comments after watching a two to three minute video than getting bored watching a longer video and moving on to something else.

Through analyzing the comments left on, I found that Chat the Planet was able to reach its objectives. It generated conversations in the mainstream media as well as in the blogosphere. Viewers began to dialogue with each other on the blog by writing comments and asking questions. The three cast members, Adel, Ausama and Saif and other Iraqi participants responded to their inquiries. As a result, friendships, new understanding, and changes in attitudes occurred. The success Chat the Planet received both quantitatively and qualitatively resulted in television networks knocking on their door. After distributing their content online for free, they successfully sold a one-hour version of Hometown Baghdad to the Sundance Channel and National Geographic Channel. Hometown Baghdad has also recently won three Webby Awards- the Academy Awards equivalent of the Internet awards. Chat is planning to continue this dialogue and distribution model in upcoming productions of Hometown Tehran and Hometown Jerusalem.

So how does new media technology contribute to peacebuilding? Through the tools of new media- blogging, streaming-video, and social networking- people are connecting around common interests regardless of geographic location. When applied to the context of people from opposite sides of conflict, several things occur. First, alternative perspective and new information unavailable in mainstream media is presented. Second, previously held stereotypes are broken down and the parties are humanized. Thirdly, transformation in attitudes can occur. Fourthly, in some cases apologies and condolences are offered- a vital step in reconciliation of conflict. And finally, through ongoing conversations between the two sides friendships are formed.

New media does not offer a panacea to conflict. Once again it is merely a tool that can be use for good or for ill. It also is not with out its limitations- this particular case can not replace face to face mediated dialogue between two parties and is only beneficiary to those who speak English and have a fast internet connection. However, it is incredibly encouraging to see the potential that it holds. It is my hope that Hometown Baghdad will serve as model for future opportunities to connect people around the world in the name of peace.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tokyo: Support the victims of Cyclon Nargis

Two huge natural disasters have rocked our planet earth over the past couple of weeks. With death tolls in the tens to hundreds of thousands, it's easy to feel either overwhelmed and helpless or completely unaffected by something so far away. However, theres is something that we can all do to help. In particular for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Burma, this weekend in Tokyo, Parties 4 Peace is partnering with Sounds of Sunday Party and organizing an organic vegetarian BBQ this Sunday, May 25th.

The funds raised will go to support Save the Children
Save the Children currently operates programs in all five of the most-affected regions and has worked in Myanmar (Burma) since 1995. As one of the largest nongovernmental organizations at work in Burma, the agency implements programs focused on early childhood care and development, child survival and child protection.

"Our staff in Burma are doing lifesaving work, but we could reach more children and families if we had the supplies that they so desperately need. Indeed, if aid continues to be restricted, the condition for thousands of children will rapidly deteriorate. Alarmingly, food prices have already risen, which means that hunger might become a problem for some families. Public health conditions could also get worse as people live close together in shelters and water supplies remain limited. Without immediate and wide-scale assistance, the situation for children looks likely to get worse before it improves."

今週の日曜日「SOUNDS on SUNDAYS」 & パーティーフォーピースKitchen

P4P - Parties 4 Peace & S.O.S
Presents: S.O.S. - Sounds On Sunday

5.25 [SUNDAY]
@ Oath in Shibuya [ 4 pm - 11pm ] 1000 YEN

Techno / Minimal / Electro Beats

Anthony Mansfield (Hector Works - San Francisco)
Groove Patrol [Two Dogs]
Radarboy (Radarpop)

Tazzy [Rhythm Odyssey]
Keisho Kikuchi [Kamui Recordings]
Jasmine Jordan [ABCDGCDB]

BBQ Provided by Alishan Foods & Second Harvest
*all Organic and Vegetarian Foods*

Oath in Aoyama

Come and enjoy some yummy veggie kabob.
(Photo courtesy of Parties 4 Peace)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Report from the Global Article 9 conference!

The Global Article 9 Conference was held at Makuhari Messe (just outside of Tokyo) on May 4-6th. Over 10,000 people turned up for the opening ceremony. 1100 people from Hiroshima, 2500 from Sendai, and 8000 people from Osaka participated in the event locally in their respective cities. There were also 150 people from 40 countries in attendance. In total, there were 30,000 participants over the three days! On the opening day, the main event hall reached its capacity while a line stretched out the door and people had to be turned away. What an amazing turn out. In my peace activism career I have been to many workshops and conferences before but this event by far blew the rest out of the water. WTG Peace Boat!

I unfortunately could not stay for the entire three-day event due to the impending thesis deadline of May 15th. I did try to get some footage of the opening remarks and various workshops which I hope to use in a film I'm planning to make this summer. I'll be updaiting with more clips over the next couple of months now that my graduate studies are winding down.

Here's a short clip of Yoshiyoka Tatsuya, Peace Boat Director, as he opens the conference. (In Japanese) Enjoy!

To give you a quick translation (my first real attempt):

"Welcome to the Article 9 conference. It's amazing to see this many people, in fact there are still many people standing outside waiting. All these people coming here for the Article 9 Conference... this is a truly historic event at this moment in time. As the co-chair for the Global Article 9 conference and of Peace Boat, I am here to give opening remarks. First though I want to respond to that, even at this time, there are many people because of war, conflict, disaster, sickness who are losing their lives. I believe that there are huge numbers of people from World War II and the conflicts before that were lost and as a result, from the desires of not just Japanese people but the victims of all of Asia--from these wars and colonization--that Article 9 was born.

I have met many people from around the world and have spoken to them about Article 9. And every time I speak about the spirit of Article 9, that it will really abolish war, that it will really abolish military... that spirit is in fact a desire of most people in the world. They deeply feel for it and desire it. Particularly, the people who have been affected by conflict like the Palestinians, the Kosovars, Africans or those from East Timor. People around the world want to create a world without war and without military as soon as possible. They truly desire this. Those people from around the world have come to this conference today. Please welcome them..."

(please message me if I've incorrectly translated anything)

Anyways here are some links to English press coverage:

Japan Today (Kyodo): Thousands convene for int'l Article 9 conference

AP: Thousands rally for Japan constitution

Japan Times: Nobel Peace Prize winner hits moves to change Article 9

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pangaea Day

Last night at two in the morning, fifty people gathered at the United Nations University's Media Lab to participate in Pangaea Day. Pangaea Day was a world-wide internet-streaming film event in which 24 films were shared over the course of four hours in the name of global awareness and cultural understanding. Broadcast live across the globe, Japan had the lucky fortune of receiving the internet stream at 3 am and I came fully prepared with a sleeping bag to enjoy the cinematic spectacle.

The brains behind this event, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (producer of the documentary film Control Room) won the TED Prize of $100,000 for her idea that would change the world. The idea, Pangaea day, was a mix of films, music, and speakers who focused on our common humanity while celebrating our diversities. I particularly liked that the event started with planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, reminding us of the wonder and amazement that we as human beings have come to be on a tiny pale blue dot in the vast sea of the universe. Some of the other highlights included an Israeli mother,whose son was killed by a Palestinian sniper, read a letter of reconciliation she wrote to the sniper's mother; artist and computer scientist Jonathan Harris who created the website "We feel fine" which aggregates human emotions by scanning people's blogs and photos for how they are feeling; and former child soldier Ishmael Beah.

While it's certainly possible to call elements of the event bordering on cheesy and not one particular film stood out in my mind in being outstanding (I admit I did nap a little, so I may have missed somethings), what is incredible about this event is how many of us were able to come together to simultaneous share this movie-going experience. Thousands if not millions of people gathered in front of their computers or attended one of the major event spaces in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro.

Here we see technology as the grand facilitator of this global gathering. While using satellite television is not new, (ie. Spacebridges during the Height of the Cold War), today's streaming video capabilities brought this event into our internet-equipped private homes at an unprecedented scale. When the Laughter Yoga founder, Dr Madan Kataria asked everyone to stand and join him in laughter, all of us at the UNU media lab stood up and laughed. Can you visualize thousands of people around the world standing and laughing together at the same time? This is the power of technology. As I have witnessed over the past year through the cases of Dropping Knowledge and Hometown Baghdad, I see this event as just one more example of how technology can connects us in new and deeper ways, creating awareness of our unity as one world, and allowing us to join in conversation with one another.

It's not too late to watch the event and to continue the conversation online. Just go to .

Here's a clip of our Tokyo event:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hometown Baghdad wins 3 Webby awards!

Hey, I just found out the exciting news that Hometown Baghdad, the case study for my thesis, has just won three Webby awards! The Webbys are considered the Oscars of the Internet, so this is a huge recognition of a show that used the web as platform to create dialogue between young Iraqis and the rest of the world! HB won in the categories of Best Reality, Best News and Politics: Series and Best Public Service and Activism.

Congrats to the Chat the Planet the producers of Hometown Baghdad!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Forum: The Power of Peace Network

(courtesy of

This August, from the 7th through the 9th, The Power of Peace Network will be holding an international forum at the University of Waterloo. The Power of Peace Network is about utilizing the power of media- traditional TV and radio to online digital media- to influence and support peacebuilding.

The first Power of Peace forum was held in Bali, Indonesia in January 2007. There, "Recognized thinkers and practitioners from the public and private sectors met to strategize how best to harness the power of the media and ICTs in a practical and effective way for the purpose of building awareness, dialogue, harmony, and peace." (Power of Peace Report)

The 2008 forum will focus on : "the potential of new media as a means of encouraging cultural engagement and interaction, issues of education as it fits into the digital world, where the world of digital technology is going, how universities might participate in the creation of a global peace network."

Sounds a lot like my thesis, doesn't it? (Oh by the way which is due in a week!)

I'm very keen to attend this event and I've sent in my application, so wish me luck so that I get accepted.
xox, Megumi